Monday, March 30, 2009

A Walk Through the Andes: Part 2

The idea of air drying clothes strongly relies on the notion of a dry, sunny day. This is especially true if your time is limited. Our time was limited.

We awoke to our second day trekking to Machu Picchu with the previous day's wardrobe still drenching wet and now smelling of mold and mosquito infestation. The lines stretched from tree to tree in the back of our dorm style hostel were barely visible underneath our group of fifteen's clothes. And now the rope sagged even closer to the ground than the night before with clothes' new found morning dew.

As we packed up our gear, wrapping the wet pants, wet shirts, and wet socks in plastic backs, raincoats and ponchos, we began to feel the bites from the local mosquito and flies. So, underneath our final remaining clean batch of clothes, we lathered up with ninety-eight percent deet to prepare for our nine hour hike through the Andes.

We ate our breakfast of eggs and mate de coca and mumbled to ourselves and one another of how our feet were sore, if not wet, and how soggy clothes pulled down on our backpacks. After we finished, we begrudgingly scuttled back into our backpack straps and tried to let the caffeine and coca take effect, but the early hour of 6 am seemed to be stronger.

From breakfast, we started our hike from Santa Maria to Santa Teresa. The hike winded through the Andes Mountains underneath the heavy growth of trees and up the peaks via steep, extensive switchbacks. The ascents were long and hard up tall stone steps or mud pilings still dripping from the previous day's rain. As we huffed and puffed up the sides of the lush, wet mountains, it was hard to anticipate the next leg of our journey with the trees looming low with moisture and our eyes firmly fixed on the ground to avoid a slip.

Near the top of our climb, the foliage began to show some light and revealed the Camino de Inca, or Incan trail used by chaski's (messengers) during the height Incan Empire. The stone and slate steps seemed to be cut into mountain range like a scar. From a distance, the tan and brown path, stuck in the dark green, ran on forever, dodging between tops and underneath trees.

The three foot wide stairs left you wondering the sanity and mortality rate of the Incan messengers that previously ran this path. While hugging the mountain well, nails scrapping loose stones, the view of other beautiful mountains and the steep drop off littered with cactus and sharp stones to break your fall. As members of our group snake down steps sliding on their backsides or breaking to let their heart stop racing, it was hard to sort their the feelings of fear and awe.

We walked on, over the passes that were carved into mountain sides, down back to the Urabamba River, over bridges of rotted lumber and rusted nails; through small, half abandoned towns and past Peruvians that seem to appear out of nowhere with sodas, water, and necklaces for sale.

Spaghetti with red sauce and chicken was served for lunch in a lost restaurant. With no town or village or house in sight, this place sat amongst the trees and chickens that seemed to roam free while waiting to be turned to a meal. Our feet were free from our shoes taking a break from the march and we ate proudly talking about what just ensued, picking out chicken toes and feet from the pasta.

After two more hours of hiking, the eight hour journey was behind us and we were prematurely shedding our sacks before reaching our beds to rest our bones before dinner. Our new clothes wet with sweat and the jungle's humidity, and our bodies, bones, and minds sore with the experience and the idea of another six hours the day to follow.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Walk Through the Andes: Part 1

Upon reaching Cusco, the air about the city is that of Incan history; of great architecture and great lore. It was hard to be in this once capital of the Incan Empire and not think about the eventual visit to Machu Picchu. It was, after all, the great South American experience and demanded nothing less than the extravagant. So we decided to walk.

Well, mostly walk it. The first day of our journey we mounted our "brand new" bikes and headed down the ridges of the Andes Mountains. As the rain poured down, our brakes squealing as a result, we hydroplaned around and around the peaks with our rickety bicycles threatening to fall apart.

Racing down, our pedals served no purpose other than foot rests and our raincoats and water resistant hiking boots were nothing more than resistance training devices for when we do this dry. Gravity pulled us faster and faster closer to sea level and we tried to avoid its easy solution of a steep drop off on one side side of the road.

Zipping down at, sometimes, uncomfortable speeds, wearing our water drenched clothes due to the unstoppable, blinding rain, rain the size of watermelons or cantaloupes, we passed through rapids pouring down the mountain eating away at the landscapes. The torrent of water that splashed us struggled to find a dry place to soak.

As the sheets washed down from the clouds five feet above our head, the ground beneath our feet was feeling soggier and looser. Then there was the landslides; giant masses of earth displaced from it's home somewhere up the mountain now occupying the entire width of our path to somewhere dry. With cars stopped and their drivers scratching their heads and slipping on their poncho's, we test the structural integrity of our bikes over used shocks. The mud lifts itself to our boots and splatters and dots the cuffs of our jeans, but does little to change our heavy our legs feel.

After two hours of fruit-sized rain, landscape changing landslides and bicycles unfit for use as spare parts, we found ourselves upon a roadside tienda. A one-woman shop with a tarp as a roof. Underneath the the wapping of water hit the tarp from above, we, the insane group, sat on waterlogged wooden benches with our tea, coffee and warm beer. Not a dry spot in site. Maybe it was the conditions of nature or conditions of mind, but our manual travel was done for the day. The bus would carry us the rest of the way to Santa Theresa for a warm meal, warm bed, and a line for our wet clothes.

To Be Continued...

Travel tip: When embarking on a tour, ask about the weather for the duration of the trip and about the availability of food and water. It can get cold and tiendas are sparse in the jungle!

Friday, March 27, 2009

And We´re Back

Sorry for the hiatus, but Mel and I have been hiking through the Andes in search of the wonderful Machu Picchu. It was a tremendous four day journey starting in Cusco, ending in the Incan city and we had an amazing time.

Besides the two hour bike ride through torrential downpour down hill on the edge of a cliff, or slipping in bathroom and crushing my shin (no serious injuries ensued). The trip was flawless.

Hours of walking down three-feet-wide Incan steps down the Andean Mountains, 4 am wake up calls...climbing another four thousand stairs to be the first 400 in Machu Picchu so we can climb ANOTHER more ELITE mountain Huayna Picchu, and the food... The food was amazing.

Anyway, Mel and I should be back on Monday with regular updates again. We should have one up on Monday on our trek through the Andes and one on Wedndsay about Cusco. And after we finish our the taxes the Uncle Sam so dearly wants us to do, we will be off to either northern Peru then Ecuador and Colombia, or down to Argentina and Chile. We will be sure to keep everyone posted.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Global Recession vs Peru

With the world economy in the throws of a recession, Peru seemed to be coming out as one of the countries that seem to be thriving. Early this month the Economist even went as far to say that Peru could be "recession proof", however now this idea may be called into question as the Peruvian government has reported only a 3.1% year-to-year growth in March. This comes after it reported a 9.8% growth in 2008.

With the economy starting to slow due to external reasons, President Alan Garcia has a tough job ahead of him to insue continued growth, keeping in mind his already low approval rating and the upcoming 2011 elections. (Statistics from the AP Press, Reuters, and the Economist)

See the Reuters report below:

"LIMA, March 17 (Reuters) - Peruvian President Alan Garcia lashed out at bureaucrats on Tuesday, telling them to show their "patriotism" by working harder to implement an economic stimulus package as a slowdown hits the Andean country.

Garcia's comments came a day after Peru was stung by its weakest monthly economic data in nearly five years, which could hurt Garcia's approval rating, now at 34 percent.
Peru, which had been one of Latin America's fastest growing economies, grew just 3.14 percent in January from the same month a year earlier, well below the 9.8 percent rate of 2008, which was a 14-year high.

"We need more patriotic spirit to approve public works," Garcia said at a road opening ceremony in Tarapoto, a town in northern Peru.

"There are hundreds of public works that are stalled because Peru has bad bureaucrats who are scared of implementing them and putting the country first," he said.

The president also told his cabinet, provincial leaders, and mayors to act "urgently" to create jobs and build infrastructure projects.

Garcia has unveiled a stimulus package that includes about $3.1 billion in investments in its first phase, but critics have said its effectiveness may be undermined by a slow-moving bureaucracy and a reliance on provincial governments.

The government says the stimulus package will help keep economic growth at 5.0 percent this year, but the Lima Chamber of Commerce said expansion could be as little as 2.8 percent, and Morgan Stanley has cut its projection to 0.9 percent. (Reporting by Marco Aquino and Terry Wade)"

For Further Reading: AOL News

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, sits between the border of Peru and Bolivia; its Peruvian gateway being the half built city of Puno. On our two day, one night tour of this huge wonder, we were able to explore the Uros Floating Islands, Amantani Island, and Taquile Island.

Besides the one hour delay due to our boat breaking down two hours from the next shore, this adventure surely let us experience some of the lakes antique society ranging from typical food from our "host family" to a party with authentic music and clothes.

The floating island of Uros. Over 2000 people inhabit these man-made islands.

The women and children of one of the floating Islands of Uros wave to the tourtist boats as they pass.

The floating islands are made of blocks of soil held together with root systems and tied together with rope and pegs. They then pile these reeds on top as the islands´ floor.

The view of the Pachatata (Father Earth) Temple, from the Pachamama (Mother Earth) Temple, on Amantani Island. Both hills are about a 40 minute hike from the Plaza de Armas of the island.

Staying with a family on Amantani Island was an interesting experience. The family had additional bedrooms for guests, an outhouse, a little kitchen complete with wood burning caldron, a huge garden and sheep.

At night, they dressed us up in traditional garb for the peña, a party with Andean music. We danced and drank beer until 10...a late night for these folks.

The next day, this little girl, probably 7-years-old, marches her clan of sheep across Taquile Island using a sprig of flower as her whip.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Colca Valley Photo Update

Since we´ve had limited internet access in the past week, you´ve missed some amazing sites from the Colca Valley. Enjoy...we did!

Starting in the top left corner: A local shepard in Chivay, Peru. A lady with her pet llama walk in front of the commercial center of Chivay. This mud hut shop, located at the basin of the Colca Canyon, served everything from Snickers to beer (of course not cold, since this community was without electricity). This little girl wth her baby llama boarded the bus with her parents in the middle of the drive to Chivay. The road to the hot springs just outside of Chivay was a beautiful hike. A street scene from Chivay. And ¡n the center, a local street artist sells her wears.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Cabaconde and Sanguille Oasis

Bumping along the Rio de Colca through the majestic Andes mountains, there are many towns along the way- little villages that appear to be dwarf siblings to Chivay. As the bus moves through these pueblos, the dirt roads searching for the vehicle’s tires, the people come out to their Plaza de Armas and get ready to board. They bring upon their colored nylon sacks filled with who-knows-what. They carry on their children, alpacas, or store tied up sheep in the storage compartment below. The crowded bus changes in population many times by shrinking and growing from people standing in the narrow aisle to an abundance of seats available before we reach our final destination of Cabanaconde.

This little place seems to be situated at the end of the world, or maybe at the center on its own high-rise post with nothing but clouds surrounding it. It has found a convenient location in the Andes Mountains that lets you look at the world from high above. For this reason, it has become a haven for hikers. Here, deep within the range and along the Rio de Colca, it is possible to hike for days around and over the river and canyon taking in all the natural beauty and observing the amazing condors.

One particular hike, the one I can speak of since it was the one we chose to tackle, leads down, straight down, the mountain to Sanguille Oasis. The path starts at the edge of town, through the local crop fields, before it begins its steep descent into the canyon. The drop is harsh and unyielding. Large loose rocks cover the three-foot wide trail acting as ball bearings beneath our feet. Always to one side of us is the cliff that is dotted with tall cacti and jagged rocks. The other, a sharp stonewall.

The path continues to fall quite steeply, zig-zagging in and out in a tight pattern. Condors pass overhead as our legs burn deep trying to keep our bodies from sliding down the mountain. The sun burns bright with midday heat, while, from up above, the oasis shows two blue dots that promise to be cool pools.

As we move further down, sometimes losing sight of our prize and wondering if we have taken a wrong turn, locals from the above town move past us. As we huff and puff for air, these workers run by guiding mules and carrying shovels and sledge hammers for work down below. They wear nothing but sandals on their feet and move at twice our pace...with ease. Strange, vaguely marked graves pop up ever so often.

After four hours of trudging and thinking of our poor, neglected lungs, we arrive at the oasis. We found one of the guides that assist in maintaining this interesting paradise. Surrounded by palm trees and cacti, he directs us to our mud hut, one of maybe thirty. We cool off in the promised pool and dip our feet in the raging river. The entire place is without electricity and at night we eat dinner by candle light with fellow backpackers and hikers while sharing stories of our adventures. The huge full moon is high enough in the sky now to light the way back to our bungalow. Here we attempt to rest our sore muscles and achy bones on the reed mattress as we prepare for our march up the next day.

Opting to allow a beast of burden to carry our backpacks up the mountain for a minimal fee, we set off at 6:30 am to avoid the midday sun. The climb is as if we were living the previous day in rewind without the weight on our backs and the scorching heat. Although we have a couple of advantages on our side, we’re still fighting gravity and sore muscles. Our legs still burn and our feet continue to scream, but after the final step, four hours later, our minds are at rest and we feel accomplished.

Although this journey was the only one we chose to do, there are many more that are much longer in duration- there are other towns to walk to and sights to be seen. A week can be spent hiking around this mind-blowing area seeing plenty of amazing scenery, wildlife and people.

Travel tips:
1. Take the local bus instead of a guided tour to get to Colca Canyon. A guided tour ranges from $10-25, where as the local bus company, Milagros Tourismo, is less than $1. The guides rush you through various lookout points and pueblos, where as you can relax, take it in and spend a lot less with this bus.

2. Consider this: The “canyon entrance fee” is s/35 (about $11), but the only place we saw and heard of them collecting it was at the Cruz del Condor, a heavily touristy spot just before Cabanaconde. Once we hiked in and around Cabanaconde, we saw plenty of condors and didn’t pay any sort of fee. The fee is rumored to be a scam by some.

3. Just a thought: We packed a bit too much to carry up and down the mountain and successfully left our extra goods at the local hostel overnight for about sixty cents. Upon our return the next day, everything was intact.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Chivay: Entrance to Colca Canyon

We peered down upon Chivay from high up in the Andes, winding down a narrow dirt road through the mountains in our bus from Arequipa. Up to this point, the road had been riddled with potholes and lined with cacti and stone sculptures that looked like a hobby for a lonely mountain dweller. The structures weren’t much- smaller rocks stacked on bigger rocks stacked on even bigger rocks. It passed time for the Peruvian builder, and passed time for the American admirer.

As we crept up the mountain reaching the highest point of our trek, Patapampa, the landscape vaguely resembled an arid desert: cactus and sand, and dry air. As the wind picked up, our bus was pelted by the dust and stones and cacti remnants. Then green. The desert turned into lush grass and wildlife. The volcanoes snowy peaks played hide and go seek with us as we veered and turned around and around the mountains. Sheep farms, llama farms, and cattle started to appear in the distance both up and down the steep slope of the Andes.

Four hours later, Chivay appeared, as if someone was in the process of building a lego model of a town, but kept running away when they saw the bus. The town from so far up seemed too small to house humans. It was spread out and flat, dotted with tin roofs on the mountainside; aluminum foil crumpled and laid out to catch the sun.

As we rolled down, avoiding tumbling over the edge, the town began to grow in size but never in complexity. There was the bus terminal with its three wheeled, motorized rickshaws lined up ready for action. Buzzing in and away from the buses carrying tourists or locals to their not so far destination, these rickshaws could have been wound up as much as they could have been fuelled.

Chivay is no more than its Plaza de Armas. A small, simple place hidden within the hills, it’s about ten square blocks of a romanticized Peru. The women, descendents of women that have been there for hundreds of years, wear their typical garb rich in color and alive with heritage. They carry around their children on their back in bright papooses of purple, blue and green. Men, long given up their old time clothes, sport their jean jackets and cowboy hats as they herd their animals in the nearby farms.

The roads here are cobblestone at the town center and dirt everywhere else. Small houses, or rather abodes, clutter around the plaza and market as small playground and soccer field guards the entrance from the mountains. This place is simple, sleepy, and, for the most part, undisturbed.

Backpackers and hikers flock to this small village to begin their journey through Colca Canyon, so sometimes English is heard more than Spanish at the local restaurants. These adventures huddle in and around the towns handful of hostels as they plan and prepare for the rest of their journey here in Colca. Down the road they join locals in a set of pools heated by the nearby volcanoes. A relaxing start to a getaway sure to be filled with plenty of hiking and breathtaking views.

Although Chivay is must while in Colca, with eyes fixated towards the heavens trying to understand where it is you stand, it is not a place to linger for more than a day or two. It is put away and disconnected, and, besides a hike to the pools, there is little to do. Move on to Cruz de Condor for the birds, or far down the road to Cabanaconde for views to send you back shivering.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Arequipa at a Glance

The airport of Arequipa may lead to an assumption of a small, insignificant city. From Lima, the plane careens to a stop on a petite tarmac allowing passengers to walk across to the terminal and get their first glimpse of the highlands. After a fifteen minute taxi ride, you arrive at La Plaza de Almas in the city center. Here colonial Arequipa comes to life and that idea of insignificance washes away.

Although Arequipa is Peru´s second largest city with a population of over one million, it remains to have that small city feel. Here at the gorgeous plaza (recently restored after being ravaged by fires and earthquakes) the tallest building in sight is La Compaña, a grand cathedral to the north. Arequipeñas move through the beautifully manicured plaza and the nearby streets shopping and talking and stopping for food, while the influx of Gringos fumble with their guides and maps bumping into one another while admiring the architecture.

And the architecture is stunning. Made from volcanic sillar- giving the city its nickname of ¨La Ciudad Blanca¨, or white city- the buildings are a reminder of the colonial era. Now tiendas, stores, and restaurants have been built into these fort-like structures. The buisnesses lay nestled into their own caves with elegant, low vaulted ceilings with white sillar brick on all sides. Sets of three of four bars, or competing travel agencies, can be found in neat little tambos or cloisters with fresh paint of orange or blue or green chipping off to show the white underneath.

Besides enjoying the architecture, eating at the wonderful restaurants that litter the area around the plaza, and counting all the other tourists (which is many since Arequipa is a gateway to Colca Canyon), there are a few other sites to be seen.

As with any city, there are churches. La Compaña, which has been mentioned before, consumes one whole side of La Plaza de Alma. This Jesuit church, built in the 17th century, is elegantly carved on its front facade, while beautiful sculptures line the massive interior that seems to glow yellow with the odd, yet perfect, choice of paint.

The prize catherdral, however, is Monastario de Santa Cantalenia. This monestary more resembles that of a small village than a church or cathedral. It contains three cloisters, six streets, eighty housing units, a square, an art gallery, a cemetary, and thirty cloistered nuns, although this number was closer to 200 before the monostary was opened to tourism in 1972.

Arequipa is also home to one of the world´s most important anthropological and archelogical discoveries: Juanita. Discovered by Johan Rhinand, Jaunita has offered brilliant insight into the Incan civilization. Its nearly preserved body can be found at Museo Santuarious Andinos.

Finally, there are those volcanoes; three in total, Misti being the most famous. Misti can be seen from many places in Arequipa- which looses translates to "near the mountain" most likely reffering to Misti- and can be easily distinguised by its snow capped top. Although it is visible from many places, one of the best views is from Puenta Grau, a bridge that connects the city center to the more residential parts of Arequipa. From here, it is easy to spot the huge peak as it peers down on the city at its feet.

Overall, Arequipa could be seen in two days, however, it is best to try and enjoy this grand place in closer to four. There is alot to see, and alot of walking. With the thinner air, rest is a must, so take your time to take it all in.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Travelers Worst Enemy

A terrible thing is arriving at your much-anticipated destination only to arrive sick. Whether it’s a fever, an upset stomach, or headache, the idea that you trip is going to start off on the wrong foot is a distressful one. In order to avoid this situation, or make the most of it, there are a few things you can do.

First and foremost, try not to travel if you are already sick. This may seem obvious, but it can be quite hard to do, especially if you have already procured tickets and made arrangements. However, there is nothing more troublesome than beginning a trip while being ill. Traveling via air can be excessively uncomfortable if you are fighting a bout with a fever or upset stomach, not to mention traveling with these symptoms on a bumpy bus ride or a long car ride.

As I said before, postponing traveling until a time where everything is roses and ice cream can be difficult, if not impossible. Therefore, the second thing to do is go prepared. Even if everyone in the group is as healthy as can be, it’s always in your best interest to travel with an arsenal of your favorite and personally effective medicines. When going to other countries, it maybe difficult to apprehend similar aids due to regulations or translations issues, so it is always best to bring what you can. This should include cold medicine, allergy medicine (antihistamines or decongestants), Imodium as well as any other supplies you may personally see yourself needing.

Thirdly, as Sun Tzu famously said, know your enemy. Knowing what your getting into in terms of food issues, water issues, altitude or worse, any outbreaks, is one of your greatest lines of defense. In most areas of South America, it is strongly recommended that you stay as far away from the tap water as possible. By not doing so you may run the risk of diarrhea or severe stomach cramping. A good resource for finding out any outbreaks or disease concern is the Center for Disease Control at, which provides a list of necessary vaccines for individual countries as well as update information on any other health concerns in that particular area.

Knowing your destinations altitude also may save you from some discomfort due to a common ailment of altitude sickness. Usually the onset of altitude sickness is instant with symptom such as lethargy, loss of appetite, and nausea or upset stomach. Since these symptoms can be quite severe, you may end up losing the first day or two to adjusting to the new height. It’s recommended that for the first day to avoid alcohol and to eat lightly. It is also possible to avert some, if not all, the symptoms by using local remedies comprised of ground coca leaves. The most common of these remedies is a tea, but my personal favorite are the cookies that remind me of Nilla Wafers. There are other variations such as toffee or chocolates or even pure ground coca that can be mixed with yogurt or put in juice. All these can be found at local grocery stores when arriving in the area.

So, next time you are planning the next great journey, remember to plan for the worst. Being stuck in a foreign place and being sick can be a daunting task, especially if the language is new and the hostel is shotty. Bring you favorite LEGAL drugs and know what you are getting into. Even if you or anyone in your party gets sick, at least you have piece of mind.
And, if you are wondering, Mel and I have been quite sick a few times thus far from both the water and altitude sickness. You could follow the trail of broken toilets to our hotel room.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The National Drink: Pisco Sour

Every region and every country has their drink; their personal poison that the people celebrate with. Here in Peru, the drink of choice is Pisco. And if you have the patience and the courage, the real treat is the Pisco Sour.

Pisco (from the Quecha word pisqu meaning little bird) is a liquor distilled from grapes originally in the town that bears its same name located on the central coast of Peru. This regional brandy was created as an attempt to mimic a similar Spanish brandy, Orujo. Pisco continues to be distilled in this area, as well as other designated areas of Peru and Chile. Chilean Pisco, however, is quite different in many aspects and there is very long and interesting dispute over the rights to distill and distribute.

Onwards to the Pisco Sour.

The Pisco Sour seems, as with the Pisco, to have a dispute on its origins based on Peruvian and Chilean history. Peru states that the drink was invented by an American in Lima as a variation of the whiskey sour, while Chile says the beverage was was a successful experiment by an Englishman in a Chilean port city. The name sour came from the lime he used. But the lost origin is understandable after drinking a few. For obvious reasons, stories get blurred and memories are bound to get mixed up. As they say, "Pisco Sours start in your stomach, and end in your head." Although, the next morning, it may exit from various places.

So "Para arriba, para abajo, para centro, a dentro!"

Pisco Sour:
  • 2 fl oz (8 part) Pisco
  • 1 fl oz (4 part) Lime juice
  • 3/4 fl oz (3 part) Simple Syrup
  • 1 Egg White
  • 1 dash Bitters Shake all ingredients together (excpet bitters) with ice. Dash the bitters on top.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Strays of Lima

Living in Lima, it's very hard not to notice the animals, or rather, the strays. They roam almost every street in almost every neighborhood. They nap in any available shady patch of sidewalk or road and stalk outside tiendas and restaurants.

These dogs, and the occasional feline, sit humbly on street corners not stirring at the human action going on around them, unless of course there is the promise of food. If this is the case, they quietly and delicately follow and beg modestly, as if they have taken lessons from cute overload, for whatever rations you can spare. If you can't spare any food, the calm beasts continue to accompany you either for companionship or to instill a bit of guilt, or maybe a bit of both.

Even the most intimidating looking of callejero, as they are called in Peru meaning street creature, provide nothing more than atmosphere to the avenues here in Lima. They criss-cross the streets, sometimes in motley packs of two or three comprised of different breeds and sizes, as if some sort of living landmark of this South American city. The sleeping dogs lie in the parks, roads, and in front of doorsteps unknowingly acting as one of the cities many attractions.

Although the callejeros are mostly passive, like any starving and lost critter, they can get feisty. Only on one occasion did we encounter such a dog. Walking home from the local bodega, we passed a pup that we pass every day; a stray that sleeps and roams in the area around the block from my cousins abode. This dog is normally of the calmest demeanor, as are all the dogs and cats in the all the neighborhoods and roads. Perhaps we passed during a day it wasn't fed, or perhaps he had gotten in a fight with another stray, but this particular dog on this particular day wasn't happy and it showed. He snapped up from his afternoon seista, began his barking and gave a half-hearted start to a chase. He was quite successful in shooting both of our blood pressures up. Although, this was just a warning, a "hey, don't mess with me today, 'cause I'm grouchy," it was a good reminder that here in an alien land. Don't get to comfortable; always stay aware. And perhaps give a second thought to that rabies shot.