Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Whirlwind Tour of the Cordillera Blanca

We are almost finished with our very fast and very exciting tour of the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra mountain ranges in Peru. We have taken more than 1,000 photos in 5 days!! We will try to get some time to post a few of our best pictures in the next day or so.

Today we return to Lima, and tomorrow we are booked on an overnight bus to Arequipa, Peru (south down the coast from Lima).
At 6/30/2009 1:38 AM (utc) our position was 09°31.84'S 077°31.43'W

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Cordillera Blanca - Day 2 - Huaraz to Chavin de Huantar

On day 2 our goal was to get to the ruins at Chavin de Huantar. But it took us nearly all day of exploring the small towns along the way to get there.

We stopped at the small town of Recuay, where there was a 'barbecue' going on to raise money for the church. Of course, we had to help out. Pretty small town, nice square, nice church.

We turned left at Catac, another small town and headed up into the mountains.

Our next stop was a beautiful lake. (Querococha) Here we paid 2 kids about 50 cents to hold their lambs and pose for the camera.

We also had a little 'Mate de Coca' (Coca Tea), to help rev us up for the altitude. The cutest little girl was hanging out with her mom, who was selling the coca tea.

By early afternoon we passed through the Tunel Kawish, at the crest of the mountain at 4512 meters (14,660 feet). At 14,660 feet, the oxygen is thin and we all got a little woozy. But fortunately we were headed back down the mountain.

We were amazed at the terraced farming going on all over the mountains.

When we arrived in Chavin, we found it a pretty little town. Not much there for tourists except the ruins. We stayed at Hotel Inca, right on the tiny square. The square was beautiful--filled with flowers.

The only restaurant in town that was open was called Restaurant Turistico (Tourist Restaurant). They were serving Cuy, or stewed guinea pig. It is a traditional Peruvian dish. I tried it. It was OK, but I wouldn't go out of my way to find it again.

We spent the late afternoon wandering around town. (It took all of about 15 minutes to see the whole town).

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cordillera Blanca - Day 1 - Lima to Huaraz

We set out from Lima about 10am in Edy's nice 4WD SUV, the 4 of us, plus the Darcourt's bodyguard/driver Carlos.

The first few hours we were on a good road, 4 lane, nicely paved, cruising through mostly dry desert conditions along the coast.

Huge Sand Dunes, One Part of The Incredible Peruvian Landscape

A Glimpse of the Ocean

It was about 2pm when we arrived at the turnoff in the town of Casma. We thought the next segment, from Casma to Huaraz would only take about 2-3 hours. But it turned out that that timing was based on taking the other better road. The route via Casma is an 'adventure route'. Twisty dirt road, going up and up. The GPS said it was only 53 miles, as the crow flies. But we finally arrived in Huaraz just as it got dark, about 7pm!

The hotel, Albergue Churup, turned out to be a very nice place. Great decor, great common room, good beds, hot water, good sightseeing and hiking info. We met some travelers that had been there for 2 weeks!

The Mountain Bus (and Freight) System

The Terraced Mountainside

Passing Through a Small Village

Our Hotel in Huaraz, Churup (very nice!)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Cordillera Blanca, Peru

We are starting tomorrow on a 5 day trip up to the Cordillera Blanca area of Peru with our Peruvian friends, Edy and Ani Darcourt.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Headed for Peru

Well, Soggy Paws is stripped down to the fiberglass and drying out in the nice cool dry air at Puerto Lucia.

So we are headed off to see some of Peru. We are starting in Lima, with our friends Eduardo and Anamarie. If Edy can take the time off work, we are hoping we can go together to visit the Huarez area of Peru. If now is not a good time for Edy, Dave and I will head off on our own to see Cuzco and the surrounding area.

We don't have a real concrete plan on this trip. Unlike our trip to Chile, where we almost had the entire 7 weeks planned out day-by-day. But Dave has been to Peru twice before, and we've got lots of notes from several cruising friends who've visted Peru recentl, plus the Lonely Planet. We also have the Bolivia section of the LP South America guide.. if we get a chance, we'll try to hit the high spots of Bolivia on this trip as well.

For a compact summary of where we went and where we stayed on our travels within Peru, see our Travel Peru page on the website.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

On the Hard in Puerto Lucia

Clearance in La Libertad

The clearance here was easy, but expensive. PLYC arranged for all the officials to be here. We had 5 guys in our cockpit... 4 officials and an agent. We only had to pay $13 for 'Reception', but the agent gave us a 'bill' that we will have to pay on clearing out, for the following additional costs:

Zarpe: $43.50
Immigration: $15
Agent Fee $185

This is just for clearance from Bahia de Caraquez, and our clearance back to Bahia. Coming in from somewhere else, would cost a little more, I think. We DIDN'T have to pay a 'lights and bouys' fee, which we had already paid in Bahia (and could show a receipt for).

The agent fee is for a commercial agent to do all our in/out paperwork. (In Bahia, an agent is also required when entering or leaving, but Puerto Amistad acts as the agent and charges no fee).

I am not sure who bore the cost of getting the officials here... in Bahia you pay $60 taxi fare to taxi the officials from Manta. This fee is likely either the 'Reception' fee, or embedded in the Agent Fee.

We discussed with the Customs official, the one who has been making cruisers lives miserable here, our plans to stay at Puerto Lucia for about 2 months. This is the guy who has been using a rule not intended to apply to sailing vessels, to limit the boat stay to 6 months. (which, of course, can be extended if you jump through the right hoops). He agreed that we could stay 2 months (which would make our stay 'in country' over 6 months), and said that if we needed more time, we'd just need to write a letter explaining that we were still working on the boat. We won't know how this will all turn out until we leave, but we're not too worried about it.


Costs to Haul Out, for our 44' Boat are as follows:

Travel Lift: $445.76 (does not include pressure wash)
Monthly Fee: $663.04 / mo (gets a little cheaper months 3+)
Liveaboard fee: $5/day
Water: Metered at $3/250 gallons
Elec: Metered at .25/Kwh

The 'Liveaboard Fee' only applies when we are actually on the boat. It seems high when added on top of Water, Electricity, and the monthly cost for the boat, but what it does is give us access to the BEAUTIFUL club facilities here.

I think dockage is the same as the 'on the hard' fee. And right now there are plenty of slips available. The prices are high for Ecuador, but the facility is first class. Is a great place to leave the boat safely.

Puerto Lucia Yacht Club

Wow, what a nice place. This is a full 'yacht club' complex, including about 10 hotel rooms, 2 restaurants, 2 pools, a sauna, 3 tennis courts, a fully-equipped gym, a computer room with internet access, a 24x7 gate guard and foot patrols. The $5/day liveaboard fee (which is NOT optional, if you are here), pays for access to all that.

There is a big mall right down the street, complete with 8-screen movie theater, food court, and a big 'Hypermart', which is somewhat like a Super Walmart... Ace Hardware, clothing store, and big grocery store in one.

We haven't yet had time to explore the town of La Libertad, but I know there is a great market there, where we can get fresh veggies and seafood for really good prices. It's a 35-cent bus ride from here, or a $1 taxi ride. And the beach town of Salinas is about the same distance in the other direction.

The Weather and Working Conditions

We have never had such a nice environment for working on the boat. Or living on the boat for that matter. The temp is a fairly constant 75F during the day, and a little cooler at night. There's usually a 10kt breeze. It is dry, no thunderstorms, or the hot muggy weather that's in Costa Rica, Panama and Colombia right now.

Stewart Yacht Services

Run by Canadian ex-pat, George Stewart, and his Ecuadorian wife, Marisol, Stewart Yacht Services is a do-all yacht services company that works out of PLYC. He comes highly recommended by other cruisers. We have George and his guys stripping Soggy Paws down to bare fiberglass, addressing blister issues, and then building it back up with a barrier coat and bottom paint.

So far we have found George very helpful and knowledgable, and his 'guys' very hard workers. We are paying George for good, experienced workers at the rate of $60/day, plus materials. George regularly ships stuff from the U.S. into Ecuador, and also knows all the local contacts for things like galvinizing chain, bottom paint, etc.

Immigration Issues

We were really sweating the 3-month tourist visa limitation, when we found we didn't get 'reset' on re-entry to Ecuador a few weeks ago. But since then, we know of one cruiser here at PLYC who successfully extended himself another 6 months (in Guayaquil). He documented the process for us, and we plan to follow his lead and do our own extension when the time comes.

Diesel Fuel

Getting diesel fuel has been a bit of a problem in Ecuador in the last few years. The problem is, they sell fuel to the people of Ecuador at nationally subsidized prices (the price is currently around $1/gallon ). Apparently some boats (maybe not cruisers, but fishing boats) were coming to Ecuador and filling up, and then going elsewhere and selling Ecuadorian fuel at a huge profit. So Ecuador made a law that prohibited selling fuel to foreigners. Of course, that was a great inconvenience for visiting sailboats, and there has been much said about the problem in the SSCA newsletters and online forums.

Now, 2 years later, things have settled out a little. Puerto Lucia has a permit, that they say cost them $100,000 in fees and surveys, to sell fuel to foreigners. The cost for 'foreign fuel' is around $2/gal right now. Double what the locals pay, but still substantially cheaper than surrounding countries.

Bahia WAS selling fuel under a temporary permit, for $1.50/gal when we arrived in Feb. But recently, they became 'unpermitted' (don't ask, we don't know). Tripp Martin at Puerto Amistad is working feverishly on formalizing an official permit. In the meantime, there is a 'workaround' so cruising boats coming to Bahia can get diesel when needed.

Ecuador is a great place, I can't believe there aren't more cruisers here. Even with the changing regulations and the high agent fee in Puerto Lucia, it's still a great place.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Bahia de Caraquez to Salinas (Puerto Lucia Yacht Club)

On exiting Bahia de Caraquez at high tide in the evening, the weather did not look very good. It was overcast and blowing about 12-15 knots on our nose. The exit was slow going out against the wind and the waves... we were only making 2 knots!

It was a little scary doing the exit... we had Carlos aboard to pilot us out, but waves breaking on either side and the depth going to 8'. We knew that once we went out, we wouldn't be able to go back in, if we thought the conditions were too bad.

Though the wind was fresh enough that we could have cracked off and sailed (t-t-t-acked!), we were on a schedule and so just put the reefed main up and motorsailed. Fortunately as we got offshore a little ways, the wind eased some, and it wasn't straight on our nose. So it wasn't too bad.

Through the night, as we navigated our way around numerous poorly lit small fishing boats, the conditions gradually got better. The afternoon winds eventually lay down and it became the nighttime calms. By our second watch, after we had rounded Cabo San Lorenzo and headed south, we were making good time, and the off watch person was able to sleep well.

The dawn revealed one of the fishing boats we'd been watching in the night... a shrimper. We'd been dodging them all night.

We also got a spectacular show from a couple of whales that were jumping out of the water. It's mating season and I think this guy was showing off.

By about 3pm, we were at our anchorage for the night, Ayanque (or Ayangue, depending on which chart you look at). 01*59.01’ S / 80*45.25’ W

It wasn't great, but probably better than anchoring along the beach in the open. When the wind was blowing, the waves were coming directly in the opening. Since our bow was to the swell it wasn't bad. But during the night, the wind quit/switched, and we ended up sideways to the entrance. But it was a gentle roll, nothing like the rockin and rollin we experienced at Cocos.

The next morning (June 11), we got going early, to get into Puerto Lucia early enough to get cleared in and get hauled out on the late afternoon high tide.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Slight Change in Plans

We are leaving Bahia de Caraquez this afternoon on the high tide... moving about 120 miles south to the Salinas area. By Thursday we should be at Puerto Lucia Yacht Club in La Libertad (a tiny town next to Salinas).

Why the change in plans?? We were surprised when we re-entered Ecuador by air, that we weren't granted a new 90-day tourist visa. What they did was look up our records in the computer, and just continued our 'clock' from when we entered in February. As of June 2, we officially have 68 days left. Our understanding is that the automatic tourist visa is only good for 90 days per year.

We do believe there is a legal way to extend our visa for at least another 90 days. But just to be on the safe side, we figured we should hustle down to Puerto Lucia to get our haulout out of the way. That way, if we CAN'T renew, we'll at least have our bottom job taken care of for next 2-3 years. We understand we cannot apply for the extension until our current visa is about to run out.

So we are scheduled to haul at Puerto Lucia on Thursday afternoon. We'll stay there for a few days and get things settled, and then I think we'll take off for another trip while we let the bottom dry out. This time our target is Northern Peru.

We hope to return to Bahia in about 2 months when we're finished with the boat work in Puerto Lucia.
At 6/4/2009 9:20 PM (utc) our position was 00°36.38'S 080°25.37'W

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Back in Ecuador!

Well, after 2 months in Chile and Argentina, and another month in the U.S., we are headed back to Soggy Paws today.

In our travels in the U.S., we flew 4500 miles and drove another 3000 miles, and visited people in 4 states. Dave managed to fit in 4 days of golf, and Sherry managed one race on her old racing boat, Fast Lane. We made at least 6 trips to Walmat, a few to West Marine, and several to Lowes, Home Depot, and Ace Hardware. We're carrying about 150 lbs of 'stuff' back to the boat with us.

The trip back sounds like a nightmare, but it really was a pretty easy flight. We flew Spirit Airlines from Orlando to Ft. Lauderdale and then to Bogota, Colombia. From there we took an Avianca flight to Guayaquil, Ecuador. All our luggage arrived intact.

The only hitch was that when we presented our paid e-Ticket at the Avianca counter for the flight into Ecuador, they wanted to see our return ticket. No amount of discussing would change the agent's mind. But she personally took us to the Avianca reservations counter, and made us a reservation for a return ticket... but it was only a reservation... not a paid ticket. (Note: never asked for when we arrived in Ecuador).

We spent 2 nights here in Guayaquil at the Manso Boutique Hotel, right on the Malecon. Though we had a list of recommended cheap hotels from other cruisers, we got this one off Trip Advisor and booked it via HostelWorld.com. Carrying so much luggage, we didn't want to arrive with no reservation. It is $40/night and in a GREAT location.

We take a bus this morning to Bahia de Caraquez, so we should be back on Soggy Paws by 5pm. We are so looking forward to getting 'home'!