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Archive for March, 2010

While I’ve been plugging away at my quest to make an online income, someone else has been keeping themself busy with a pretty cool online project.  Lou’s sister Amy just launched her online erotic boutique Pomegranite, and it looks fantastic!  She’s got a history in website design and business management, so I was always confident that she would knock it out of the park, but it was still great to recieve her email today telling friends and family that her website is now live!

I suggest you all go over to the online boutique now to check it out.  Here’s a message from the LadyBoss herself:

Hello hello,

I’m so pleased to say that Pomegranate is now online, ready, open, trading, good to go … However you want to say it, Pomegranate Is Open.

We combine the best products on the market with a responsible attitude; our products are beautiful to look at, fantastic to enjoy (alone or together) and delivered with a little surprise.

To enjoy a 10% introductory offer, copy launch10 into the discount code box during checkout(valid until April 30th).

Or, sign up to our newsletter (delivered either monthly or quarterly) for more news, features, articles, offers and competitions.

http://pomegranateboutique.co.uk

Happy shopping and do let us know any feedback.

Amy and all at Pomegranate.

Congratulations to Amy on this great milestone, I’m sure we’ll see the order books filling up in no time!

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Paradise Found

Following my comments a month or so ago for my lust for the ocean, I’ve taken the bait sooner than expected.  With a pause in progress with the work with COCLA while they tidy up the business plan that I’ve helped with and do the run-around for funding, I’ve made a dash for the seaside.

Huanchaco

Passing through Trujillo via a Couchsurfing stopover, I quickly discovered that I could live within a stone’s throw of the water in Huanchaco.  A 30 minute commute to Trujillo to teach English would sustain my ailing financial situation.  Within a week of arriving, I’d scored a job, found a place to live and aquired a wetsuit.

Huanchaco

Room and board (harhar)

Life in Huanchaco is slow.  Nobody moves fast unless they’ve just hooked a fish off the pier, and the town moves in a steady ebb and flow of tourist pedestrians and surfers entering and leaving the water.  A four block walk from my house is the little local market where I can buy fish that was pulled out of the sea next door on the same day, or I can just get up early and buy it stright off the fisherman as they come in on their boats.  If I’ve got time in one of my busy afternoons, I might wander out to the pier with my aging Spanish housemate Eugenio and catch my own with one of the lines left over from my time in Belize.

Fishin'

Fishin' with Eugenio

It’s looking like a 3 month minimum stretch here while I chip away at my online earning strategy and surf every day (should be easy enough, as the waves apparently break every day here).  I think life here is going to be good.

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I’ve finally invested in a new digital camera following the robbery of the last one about a year ago.  I want to get better at using it but intead of reading a book decided that a more entertaining approach would be to post some of my choice photos using the new camera on a photo blog.  My Dad, who’s got a ton of photography experience, can then give me feedback on the photos via the comments, thus allowing me to learn by corrections.

From the couple of photos that I’ve posted, I’m already getting into the process; it’s a lot of fun!  You can view the blog here, and see all the complete selection of photos from my travels on my Flickr photostream.  If you can’t be bothered to check loads of sites, don’t fret; I’ll continue to post select photos relating to posts from Flickr on this blog.

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I’ve just had my first Couchsurfing experience!  What is this?  I hear you ask.  Well…

Couchsurfing calls itself a social project.  It’s a non-profit website that allows travellers to find people who will let them stay in their house for free (actually sleeping on their couch in most cases, using the luxury of a bed in others)

As you’d expect with a fairly high-trust arrangement like this, there’s a real comunity feel to the website and people are encouraged to participate as actively as possible to boost the confidence levels of all involved.

My experience, staying with Juan Carlos Olivo in Trujillo, was superb.  He’s a fairly busy guy chained to his laptop coordinating volunteer projects that he runs in Trujillo and Cusco so I didn’t see him much, but it did mean that when we had the chance to talk or hang out he had a really good network of people that he knew locally and had lots of good chat, advice and stories to tell.

I’ll definately be Couchsurfing again, more than anything else for the people it brings me into contact with and the perspective that I get on the places I visit, often introduced to somewhere by a local than blundering around it with a bunch of tourists from the same hostel.  It’s also nice to get some freebie accomodation…

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Well, it seems that my not-so-grand plan to make money online is heading in the right direction!  After a very promising meeting with Lou’s yoga buddy’s friend from Cusco (the joys of networking eh?), I’m under orders to write a couple of articles a week about all things Latin American for the jolly nice travel agency Escaped to Latin America!

Never one to hang around, director Gary has already put up a couple of articles on coca and altitude that I’ve written which I’ll be spreading around the internet like sweet, sticky jam in the next week or so.  Onwards and upwards to a mobile income!

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Colca Canyon Walkin'

A bleary 5pm wakeup call kept us well clear of ascending the 3km sides of the Colca Canyon under the blazing heat of morning.  We soon discovered hat, despite our enthusiasm, there was no need for our headtorches.  The moon shone brightly from above and we could pick our way up the trail with no more difficulty than in the daytime (all the standard clumsiness from Lou accounted for, naturally).

Colca Canyon

In true boot camp fashion I bullied Lou up the track, giving her promise of the birthday presents that I’d carried secretly in my pack since leaving Chivay the day before.  We made good progress and within an hour and a half via seemingly endless switchbacks saw the maize fields at the top of the Canyon glowing in the light of the early morning.  A short walk with aching legs (mercifully along the flat) took us to the nearby town of Camanaconda where we devoured what must have been the least exciting birthday breakfast ever.  I almost managed to produce a sense of occasion by putting a lit candle into a bread roll, but it was a stretch.

Colca Canyon Walkin'

Feeling our legs begin to stiffen up rapidly, we hopped on a bus to head to the five-star hotel in which Lou’s friend Leander had managed to get us all a ridiculously good deal.  On the way we stopped off at the renowned viewing point of Cruz del Condor (Condor’s Cross) where between the strangely specific hours of 6am and 11am the birds would pass the tourist hoardes, permitting extensive photography.  We showed up a little late and sat on the wall overlooking a fairly sheer drop into the Canyon’s rocky bottom making jokes about condors waiting around the corner smoking and placing bets on who would be the next to do te “tourist fly-by” but our banter stuck in our throats when, out of nowhere, a condor rose from the depths of the gorge.

Condors

The bird was absolutely vast.  I couldn’t begin to speculate on it’s size apart from ´bloody big´.  Gliding effortlessly on its huge wingspan, the bird silently slid past the lookout point severel times, feathers angling in the wind.  Despite its size, it gave a sense of complete control and incredible power.  I was very, very glad not to be a smaller bird or lizard at that point.

Apparently growing tired of the lack of easily-presented food, the condor disappeared as soon as it arrived, and we caught the next bus from teh dusty lookout, heading via a winding walk to the Cocla Lodge where we compensated for our early exhertions by lazing around drinking beer in the hotel’s thermal pools next to the rushing river.  By Lou’s admission, it was certainly a unique birthday.

At Colca Lodge

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For Lou’s birthday we decided to split from Cusco and head over to Arequipa to trek the famous Colca Canyon.   Reputedly the deepest in the world (I reckon someone has been stacking stones at the top  to get an extra few feet on that one), it’s a famous hangout for the  definative  Andean bird, the condor.

Arequipa and beyond

Our plans became steadily less plan-like as we got further from Cusco.  Strolling around in the heat of the morning in the centre of Arequipa (we couldn’t understand why it wasn’t raining), the decision was made not to buy a tour from one of the many agencies, and try and sort one out in the nearest town to the Canyon, Chivay.  On arrival to Chivay, we decided to try and speak to a local to arrange a private tour guide.  This quickly changed into a decision to just sort of show up and try and do it ourselves.  Which is obviously what we ended up doing.

P3070107

Standing at the brink of the yawning drop after being dropped off at the side of a dusty track by a clanking bus the next morning, I realised that I’d left the bag of food for the day that we’d purchased in the bus station…in the bus station.  Any feelings of profound stupidity were soon dispersed however, when a group of hikers showed up with their guide to exactly the same spot.  We’d made it here for free and, by the looks of the well carved trail that wound around the sheer faces of the canyon dropping down into its distant bottom, these guys had spent some fairly unneccesary monery.

Colca Canyon Walkin'

We began our descent ahead of the group, an incredible route baked by the heat of the morning sun that grew as we got further down, dropping about 3km.  Towards the start of the route, we ran into a Peruvian bouncing happily up the final section of the uphill climb.  We exchanged a few pleasentries and he continued on his way.  “He wasn’t even breaking a sweat!” Lou exclaimed when he was out of earshot.  General predictions for our physical state for the same climb the next morning were not as optimistic.

Colca Canyon Walkin'

We had lunch in a community in the bottom of the canyon and began a process of climbing and traversing across to Oasis, a welcome sight in a strangely green tucked away corner of the canyon base.  Looking down from our vantage point we could see crystal blue swimming pools nestling between wooden huts.

Colca Canyon Walkin'

A short descent and river crossing later and we found ourselves easing our tired legs in one of the pools and drinking a celebratory beer or two.  We even managed to see a double rainbow arching over the canyon before night fell and we were forced to retreat from beneath the speckled starscape and bed down in one of the huts before an early morning start to climb out of the Canyon.

Colca Canyon Walkin'

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