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
One of the blogs I frequently follow is Florence -based Alla Fiorentina, so I was very pleased to say 'yes' when its author Krista asked me to contribute to her 'Travel Tuesdays' series. I decided to share my Brazil travel experiences, you can read it here.
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...
I was removing some old photos from my equally old cell phone, and found these photos I took in Paris last year.
My cell phone is an old Nokia, model N82, and I have kept it because of its camera function for which I have not found its equal in more recent models. That said, I have to add that I am not a techonology geek and do not change phones all the time when a new model comes out. Therefore, this is not a comprehensive comparative study of cell phone qualities, just a banal observation of an average user.
However, Paris is also very photogenic city, don't you think?
It was raining heavily on our first night in Cusco.
Rainy evening in Cusco
Yet, we left the comfort of our room to find something for dinner and hit the town.
The city of Cusco -or Qosqo, as it's called in quechua language - is located in southeastern Peru, in the altitude of about 3 400 meters above the sea level. Unless you are a professional athlete who frequently trains in the altitude or a local with native American origins, you will most probably feel the effects of the height in your lungs when climbing up some of the numerous stairs of this city.
Despite all the obstacles that Mother Nature, Pachamama, was placing on our way ( = the rain, the altitude and the general laziness of human being) we were well motivated to go and explore the city.
Streets had gone all quiet when it was raining. It had been 12 years since my first and last visit to Cusco, so I was curious to see how different it would look like now.
More shops, more restaurants, more tourists. More of everything, in fact, including that now there was a double-decker red buses for sight-seeing, like in any tourist destination in the world.
But the city still had its charm. Cusco has been the capital of the Inca empire, it has hosted the Spanish conquistadors and today it has a very international vibe.
The Andean Trilogy: Puma, Snake and Condor
After enough of walking in the rain it was time to get something for dinner. But where to get something quick, cheap and cheerful, when most of the restaurants were already closing their doors?
From my first trip to Cusco I remember that the solution most often was small hamburger stands that were to be found in basically every street corner.
Chicken shawarma on Drug Street, Cusco
So what would be a typical cusceño snack today?
Today, almost every street corner in Cusco seemed to host a shawarma/falafel restaurant. Yet another example of the Andean synchretism and capacity to adapt to foreign influences!
Cusco Cathedral, built by Spaniards on the foundations of an Inca temple
Tel Aviv? Nope, Cusco!
We ended up eating in a small place on the Drug Street.
Why it's called Drug Street? I don't know. I can only guess.
20 hours bus ride sounds insane, but actually it went quite fast. There was a wifi in the bus, although the connection went off time to time. They showed movies on television and we had the front row places at the second floor with an excellent view and more space for legs.
Dinner at Oltursa bus
Meals were included in the price of the ticket, and I was curious to get my first ever bus meal. Here on the left side you see le plat du jour chez Oltursa: beef with potatos and rice. This time I did not ask for a vegetarian plate, so not sure what it would have been.
I hardly could wait to see what was in the little dessert jar: There was....arroz con leche, milky rice pudding with cinnamon on top. Quite tasty, but I would have added some sugar. Summa summarum, seems like rice is an ingredient that particularly inspires the Oltursa chef at the moment.
Making myself comfortable at Oltursa bus
After dinner, it was time to lift my legs up, make myself comfortable and try to catch some sleep.
The aircondition was quite strong and I regretted at some point that I did not bring socks. The blanket they provided was warm though. Otherwise I have not much to complain about that bus ride and I would certainly travel with the same company again.
Came morning, it was breakfast time.
For breakfast we got a bun with ham and cheese inside, an industrial orange cake called 'Kékon' and peach juice (apple was the other option).
And coffee (Nescafé, what else?) or tea.
breakfast at Oltursa bus
The best part of the trip was the scenery when the sun was shining and we started to approach the destination.
More about that in my next post!
After some unexpected delay, finally sitting in a bus heading to the North.
The transport of choice became Oltursa bus company. I am expecting a 19-20 hours bus ride. It sounds like a long trip -it is a long trip - but we decided to travel by land. By plane, it would take about an hour.
So why bus? First of all, it is an ecological choice, and "eco" is going to be the theme of this trip (you will find out later why...).
Second reason is the price. LAN has good offers on flights in Peru -but only for Peruvians. Foreigners pay more than a double.
Third, the bus is a very comfortable choice. Lots of space for your legs, tv, wifi, blankets and pillows for sleeping and meals included (what kind of meals I don't know yet...but I guess anything can beat economy class inflight meals).
And last but least, as they say, you see so much more when you travel by land. We have not even left Lima yet and I have already seen a pickpocket in action, trying to snatch a woman't purse and then running away and shortly after that a truck full of sand hit our bus. Now we are stuck at the gas station waiting while the bus driver is solving things out with the truck driver.
Now, hopefully we'll be soon on the road!
No matter how much I try to pack light, I always end up looking like an ekeko.
Bolivian ekeko. Photo: Wikipedia
Ekeko is an ancient god of good luck and prosperity in Andean Aymara culture.
Not more about that now, just using it for a metaphore for my packing methods.
I have to go now, off to some secret hotspots in Northern Peru.
Will report later, when the holiday is over (instead of blogging first and then trying to force my holiday to go as blogged -it never works).
Chau chau until then!!!