Elina Koivula Herrera, photo©Juan Martin Cabrejos
I am pleased to present this week's Entrepreneuring Expats interview with Elina Koivula Herrera.Elina comes from Finland and lives in the mountain region of Huaraz, in north-central Peru, 420 kms from Lima. She came to Peru in 2009 to study geography in Lima and lived some years in-between Finland and Peru, before finally settling down in Huaraz in 2012 with her Peruvian husband, mountain guide and climber Aldo Herrera Rodríguez.Huaraz is known for winter and adventure sports, and that is also Elina's business: together with her husband and her brother-in-law Marco Herrera Rodríguez, she runs a travel agency called Galaxia Expeditions, and they also offer accomodation in their hostel, Aldo's Guest House. Galaxia Expeditions offers various treks, mountain-, ice- and rock climbing expeditions.
"We organize treks of various lenghts, from one to ten days. Treks are our main activity, but we also organize mountain biking tours, and we have 20 bikes to rent" says Elina, who is charge of communication, planning and coordination. "We sell services to groups and individual travellers, but we also have partner travel agencies in many countries, and they sell our packages to their clients."
Ice climbing at Taulliraju mountain, photo ©Galaxia Expeditions
How does Elina find the working culture in Peru?
"I have been very surprised how hard working people are in Peru. There may be regional differences, of course, but at least in Huaraz people wake up very early in the morning, start working and they carry on their duties until late in the night. I find them also very entrepreneuring."
"As for difficulties, I would say that bureaucracy is far more complicated than in Finland. You need to seek for all kind of permissions, which takes lots of time and can be discouraging in the beginning."
Elina and her husband Aldo at the top of the Urus mountain, photo ©Galaxia Expeditions
What advice would you give to travellers who come to Huaraz?"Don't walk around with your Lonely Planet as if it was a Bible. Try to find some local, small places that are not necessarily in guide books. Try some foods that are popular among the locals. For example, at the center of Huaraz, in front of the La Soledad church there is a lady who sells picarones [doughnut-like fried pastries] and they are delicious. Or try a frozen drink called raspadilla [ice with syrup made from real fruits] and you can find it in many flavours: passion fruit, chicha morada [purple corn]...They sell them at the Plaza de Armas in Huaraz. This is very typical for the region, and they say that the first ones were made with the ice brought from the mountain tops."(To find out about other typical food products of the region, read here what Elina brought me from Huaraz...)
Taulliraju trek, photo ©Galaxia Expeditions
Rainbow at Jahuacocha camping site, photo ©Galaxia Expeditions
If you want to know more about the services of Galaxia Expeditions, click to their website,or make yourself a fan in Facebook, to get all the latest updates!
Guests of Galaxia Expeditions, photo©Galaxia Expeditions
I have already previously written about different beaches located near Lima: Asia, Punta Hermosa, Chilca, Pulpos, Pucusana...This weekend I went to San Antonio beach, located at the km79 on Panamericana Sur. It is a private beach that belongs to Lima's Regata's Club: the access is only for members and their guests. Apart from the beach, the location has a few swimming pools, restaurants, sport facilities, water park for kids, gym...I had been there many times before, but usually just for a day. This time we were there to celebrate a birthday and we stayed two nights (the club offers different kind of housing options and there is even a camping area).
It's already autumn here, so the weather was unpredictable: on Saturday, it was sunny until lunch time and we could take advantage of the beach and the pool...
But then, the afternoon looked like this:
We did not let the changing weather conditions to ruin the party!
It's the off-season now, so San Antonio's restaurants were mostly closed. The birthday lunch was therefore a picnic style BBQ with homemade fish ceviche as a starter...
...lots of meat from the grill: lomo, chorizos...
...and salads, including an exotic combination of potato and peach (not bad!)...
I had made this cake with bananas, Brazil nuts and rhum, with Nigella Lawson's recipe (I left out raisins and frosting with chocolate chips was my own addition. It's called Forgiving Banana Cake, because it forgives you for modifying the recipe!):
Sunday was mostly cloudy, but it did not matter. It was nice to walk at the beach and watch the (big!) waves -and we even saw some dolphins!
One of the most beautiful places I visited in the Peruvian highland jungle was the Blue Lagoon, Laguna Azul (La Laguna del Sauce). The name is slightly misleading, as there is no white sand, turquoise water and half-naked Brooke Shields running around with Christopher Atkins.
Instead, there is a peaceful lakeshore surrounded by jungle vegetation, perfect for swimming, fishing or kayaking under clear, blue sky. And if you are lucky enough to see a rainbow over the lagoon like we did, you will soon forget about false promises of Shields and Atkins.
To access Blue Lagoon, you will most likely pass by a small town called Sauce. A Macondo type of place where you feel like the time has stopped existing, and which alone is worth visiting. You can arrive by car (there are taxis) from Tarapoto, and switch to a mototaxi in Sauce -the whole travel will take about 40 minutes. Life is at the street here, and inhabitants take their time to observe the visitors. Men walk around with their rolled up t-shirts, displaying proudly their round bellies -perceived as a sign of prosperity in the jungle. Women selling chupetes de aguaje -plastic tubes filled with frozen juice of aguaje fruit - and children carry around their pet monkeys. On the street, horses and hens mix with pedestrials and mototaxis.
When you arrive from Tarapoto, you need to cross the river Huallaga, which is part of the Amazon basin. When I saw the wooden ferry boat in the turbulent river water, I had my doubts about ever reaching the other side. Alive, I mean.
Our transport to Sauce
Turned out that the ferry was rather solid, and four cars were easily carried to the other side. The service on board was excellent: they served coconuts, fruits and pastries, for just in case that someone gets hungry on that two minute journey. I immediately bought myself a machete opened coconut and enjoyed the ride with a beautiful scenery. Sooner than it took me to finish the coconut we were already on the other side.
Driving through Sauce to our destination at Laguna Azul, to a bungalow place called La Cabaña de Lago, turned out that our driver Yoni was quite a storyteller. We share the car with a couple of other passengers, and they were asking him to tell the story of the lagoon. "Ok" agreed Yoni, and turned down the volume of the tunes of Lambada. "There is a mermaid living in the lagoon" he said. "Unlike other mermaids in the world, she actually has legs. She looks exactly like a human and she is a beautiful woman. Only when you take a look at her feet, you notice that the feet are tied together, and it is in fact a fishtail."
"This mermaid loves to lure men into the lagoon. In the night she appears and she looks so attractive that men want to follow her. But she takes them deep down at the bottom, and they never appear again."
"There is one thing though" Yoni said, enjoying the attention of his listeners. "The mermaid only likes single young men. For this reason, no women or married men have ever drowned in the lagoon." "You see, she does not want to get in troubles with married men" he added, with a look that suggested he knew a thing or two about extra-marital relationships.
Laguna Azul, Sauce, Peru
Laguna Azul seen from a hill in Sauce
Many people, including Keiko and Makoto, are stunned by Lima sunsets. For me, the best place to admire them is from the boat deck, preferably with a cold chilcano in hand.These photos are from a boat trip a couple of weeks ago, when out friend Aldo invited us to sail on Lima's coast, Costa Verde, from Callao to Minka Mar beach. Just that short moment before the sunset.
HAVE A NICE WEEKEND!
Here are some more photos from the recent trip to Tarapoto and its nearby regions - I don't want my readers to think that the Peruvian jungle is only a one big Christmas theme park!In fact, Tarapoto is a city of 118 000 inhabitants. The airport is located near the city (15 minutes ride with a mototaxi), so if you are visiting Peruvian Selva Alta, the highland jungle, you are most likely to start your trip from here, or at least stop by. The center of Tarapoto is busy and noisy with its shops, salesmen, mototaxis, bars and restaurants. But if you want to escape the rhythms of Oppa Gangnam Style you can walk only few blocks away from the center and you will already find more peaceful quarters with local residents' houses and the typical jungle vegetation in their gardens and back yards.This photos were taken in San Roque de Cumbaza (about one hour ride from Tarapoto), from a hiking route from the river Cumbaza to an ecological mirador up in the mountains.
The whales appeared in groups of three or four.
Every now and then a small fountain appeared in the ocean, as a sign of their presence.
I don't know how close you get to whales when you actually take a boat tour, but for us, seeing the whales even from this distance was quite an experience and could not have asked for more.
Pocitas beach is about half an hour walk along the beach line to Máncora. Unfortunately, I did not get more photos of the whales, but here are some photos from along the way.
In late September, whales migrate from Ecuador to the Peruvian coast. The possibility of seeing some of these huge sea mammals was one but not only motivation to travel to Máncora just before my trip to Europe. If you have already been following this blog for a while, you may have read some previous posts about the beaches in Northern Peru. I am not a big fan of the town of Máncora itself due to the way how it has been shaped by rapidly growing tourism. Other beaches nearby are much more charming, such as Vichayito or Órganos. On this latest trip we tried a beach called Pocitas and it turned out to be a good choice. I can't say better than the other because all of them had their own special character. Our hotel was called Peña Linda. More rustic and cosy than fancy and bling bling, but it was right at the beach and had an infinity pool with an ocean view.
And yes! There were horses there, and I love horses (see this post). Last time in Máncora I wanted to ride at the beach at the sunset, but unfortunately all the attempted appointements with the horse men (or boys, as none of them seemed to be older than 10 years old) failed and thus this fantasy never became reality.
Wiser this time, we booked the horses early enough and got to ride...if not to the sunset but at least at the beach. Back and forth, and then posing for some photos until it was a bedtime for those horses and they had to go home.
We stayed at the beach -without horses. But the whales were still to come...
On my first trip to Peru, back in 1999, I visited Paracas, from where we took a boat trip to Ballestas islands, Islas Ballestas. These islands are known for the interesting marine fauna: you can spot varieties of seals, penguins and birds. It is one of the ecotourism musts in Peru. Those who are interested in culture and history appreciate also 'El Candelabro', a mystic geolyph sign on the rock. Its purpose is to date unknown.
EDIT: There WAS El Candelabro...I just learned that it does not exist anymore, it was destroyed at the 2007 earthquake.
But, if you are in Lima, you can also spot sea lions much closer to the city. The other weekend we went sailing on a friend's sailboat around San Lorenzo and Palomino islands on the coast of Lima, and there were plenty of noisy sea lions enjoying the sun. They may look cute and cuddly, but they make a hell of a noise and are apparently pretty agressive! Keep your distance...
Here are some photos from Pucusana, beachtown and a traditional fishing village on the Central Peruvian Pacific cost, 60 kms south of Lima.
During the holiday weekend of 28th July (Peruvian independence day known as Fiestas Patrias) we stopped shortly here, to eat some seafood and even ended up making a little improvised fishing trip I was the first one to catch fish! But it was too small, a little fish called borracha, "drunk fish", so it was liberated. More than fish, we saw giant, jelly medusas floating at the surface of the water!
Once back at the harbour, we saw a professional fishing boat arriving after two weeks out on the sea. Boat full of swordfish, biggest ones weighted 190 kgs.
As July is winter time in Peru, the town was rather quiet. But supposedly it is a very busy spot during the summer season.
Peruvian Paso horse in Pisac, Sacred Valley
Today I read about a photo exhibition called "Andares" by a Peruvian photographer Ana María García Montero. She has taken beautiful pictures of Peruvian Paso horses: by clicking this link you can see some of her work.
This reminded me of my encounter with these very noble creatures in Pisac, in the Valley of Urubamba, about a month ago.It was our last day in Pisac and we went for a little walk. Suddenly I saw a horse in front of a café/restaurant. Went to take a closer look and turned out it was a paso horse, owned by a local gentleman who breeds them. What is special with paso horses is that they have a gait called "champagne walk". It means that the horse steps so smoothly that the rider should be able to sit at the back and hold a tray of champagne without dropping any of the drink. Champagne walk! How classy is that? I love all kind of horses, but this one is clearly my favorite!
We were invited to go inside to the horse stall (or actually, it was a back yard of a hotel-in-construction) to see more horses. There was even one baby:
Another paso horse in Pisac
Baby paso horse
Then...I asked the owner how much would a paso horse cost me. For 10 000 US dollars it would be mine, was the answer. Hmmm...let me still think about it. One hour riding tour -more tempting option -would have been available for 20 dollars, but it was our last hours in Pisac and there were no more time for it.
Well, bye bye then, dear horse friends: I hope to see you soon again!
No, but actually, at the end I did get myself a horse from Pisac. Ok, it's not a real one, but I love it, and it now decorates my working space. (I had to first clean my desk to take this picture...)