Elevation 3600, 21km trekking and Wonderful People

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
Trip End Aug 14, 2009

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Where I stayed
Koala Hostal

Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, July 26, 2009

My first boarder crossing was a success.  From Vilcabamba at 4:30 am in the morning I walked from my hostel about 30 minutes to the bus stop to catch a 5:15am bus to Loja.  From Loja the bus left at 7am to Piura, Peru.  Strangely enough the lady at the ticket counter in Loja didn’t have change.  It is pretty standard for people not to have change for large bills, but to need exact change was weird.  But the bus left relatively on time.  Here if the bus leaves within an 1 hour of the time it was suppose to leave I consider it on time.  I noticed some other foreigners getting on the bus, but it wasn’t until the half way point that we ended up talking, Stephen from Germany and Joelle from Quebec. We all passed our Swine Flu inspection at the border and were granted access to Peru.  It was nice that the bus company dropped us off at the border to do our paperwork and waited for us to walk across the bridge to the Peru side and do our paperwork there.  Then we could get back on the bus and continue on to Piura.  Sometimes at the crossings it is necessary to take a taxi across and get a different bus on the otherside.  I am sure I could navigate that as well, but the small luxury was nice.  Almost immediately after crossing the boarder there were these green tree.  I don’t just mean trees with green leaves.  These trees had green bark and were massive.

When we got to Piura, there was no central bus terminal so it was necessary to choose a bus company to take a taxi to.  I decided a while back that for safety purposes that I would be taking Cruz del Sur for my long trips through Peru.  It is probably the most expensive company, but also the safest.  It simply a piece of mind thing to take Cruz del Sur for me.  We all decided to take the same bus onto Lima.  It was a big day for bus riding, 25 hours total.  It was nice to lay down for a short while once we got to Lima.

Lima is huge, really huge.  Once we got into the city it took us another hour just with traffic to get to the Cruz del Sur station and then another 30 minutes by taxi to the hostel in Miraflores that we stayed at.  Stephen continued on to Bolivia from Lima, glad I wasn’t doing that.  Joelle and I decided to take it easy and just stay in the Miraflores area that day.  We walked to the ocean to see the coastline.  There were parasailers there and I thought it looked fun, but turned out to be expensive for a very short adventure.  We went to see Harry Potter that evening, I enjoyed it.  Sadly, I missed Kristina, my friend Jessie’s sister that day.  But we got together the next evening for some sweet vendor food and my first Pisco Sour.

Day 2 in Lima was full of pre-Inca ruins, lots of walking and Chifa.  We started with the ruins called Huaca Pucllana.  They are ruins of the Lima people who came before the Inca’s.  It was very interesting to learn about the culture and how they built their walls.  They have adobe bricks and the walls are called bookshelve style.  Within the wall structure are trapazoid formations, in the picture it is hard to see.  They do this because adobe is good in earthquakes and the form of a trapezoid also holds up well during a quake.  I found that very smart, those of us living on the fault line might take a lesson or two from them.  Also at the ruins were some dogs that are native to Peru.  They are hairless and pretty funny looking.  It is believed that the dogs have healing powers if you hold them because they are particularly warm.  I learned that in Peru there are many different types of potatoes, 400 seems to ring a bell, but I can’t remember for sure.  Also there are different colors of cotton grown here, not just white.  It was very informative first part of the day.

We continued on, trying to reach another ruin site near Central Lima.  We were up for walking and didn’t think is was going to be that far.  An hour later we decided a bus was a better idea.  I asked someone if we needed to take a particular bus and he pointed us in the right direction.  Buses that I haven’t taken before, especially in foreign countries, can be particularly daunting.  Getting help to which bus is easy, but once you are on the bus and thinking it is going to go one route and then takes another it is hard not to want to jump off and start again.  But even though this particular bus made many turns down one street and then another in the opposite direction of the way we were going and then made some u-turns, we got to where we wanted to go.  A while back we decided that another ruins wasn’t something we actually wanted to see so we headed instead towards what was suppose to be a botanical garden.  A medical facility was there instead.  Slightly disappointed and tired of walking we headed towards Chinatown since it was nearby and we could use some lunch.

Chinatown was mainly just Chinese retaurants, serving Chifa.  I don't know that I saw a single Asian person there.  I did see a man sleeping on some rope that was holding together to Dolly's.  It seem like a pretty precarious spot for a nap.  I liked it though.  After our luch of Chifa which was not exactly what I was expecting, but pretty good we headed off to the central plaza and then to the plaza where the statue is evdidence of one word meaning two things.  Apparently, the word flame in Spanish also means llama.  The statue of the lady was suppose to have a flame around her head.  But without any clarification the statue maker put a little llama on her head.  It was the best part of the day, I found it hilarious.  Also spotted near the statue was the narliest police dog I have ever seen, he deserved a picture.  We took the bus back to Miraflores for some R and R and then I was able to meet up with Kristina for dinner.  The next day I navigated my way to the cheaper bus option to go to Huacachina.  By six I made it to my next hostel, which was pretty sweet with its pool and poolside bar.

Huacachina was a place recommended to me by Verena in Baņos.  I sure am glad that I went there, it has been one of the more adrenaline filled places I have been on my trip and one of the more fun places I have been in Peru so far.  Not only was the place jam packed with Europeans looking for a party, but the sadboarding and sandbuggy trip was a blast.

The hostel did a BBQ and a 2 hr free drink thing each night, I figured why not start the experince off with a bang and signed myself up.  It was a very fun night, made possible by my friend the bartender.  I met some great guys from the states who had studied in Costa Rica together and were out traveling again together.  We all then met two Canadian girls who had been traveling for 6 months.  As the evening continued it was suggested to go to Ica for some dancing at a club.  We all headed that way and I got another chance to enjoy some more great dancing with the locals.  Man the music and dancing culture is so wonderful here.  The night ended at 5am, it was a great first night.

Earlier in the evening of my first night I met a girl named Alison who was also from SF and in the exact same boat that I am in, regarding employment and traveling.  She had mentioned that she was going sand boarding at 4pm the next day and we should go together.  I spent the early part of the day laying around in the sun and then headed off for the sand boarding adventure.  A 2 hour long adrenaline rush was what the sand boarding was like.  The buggy driver was crazy and I think the whole buggy full of beautiful screaming girls only encouraged the crazy driving.  I took a video while we were driving around, hopefully it makes you laugh.  There were two ways to sand board, on your feet or on your stomach.  I thought on your stomach was more fun.  There was this guy Frank who was really good at "riding the ply" as he put it.  Sand boards consist of laminated plywood that have velcro straps for your feet.  He made sand boarding on your feet look easy, it really isn't.  I thought going straight down with your face 6 inches from the sand was way more thrilling.

My 2nd and last night in Huacachina was full of a good party, this time with different people.  2 Irish girls, some English guys and I danced around to the music in the bar at the hostel. Later I got to talking with some volunteers helping to restore a nearby town and Frank.  When 3 am rolled around I decided it was time for bed as I needed to wake up realatively early to get my bus ticket to Arequipa.

I wasn't able to get a luxury bus to Arequipa, but I made it there safe and sound at 10am the next morning.  I had just gotten to the hostal and put my stuff down when I met a girl, DJ who was off to walk around the city.  Better to walk around and site see with someone I thought, so we headed out together.  DJ is awesome, she had been traveling for 5 months and is nearing the end of her journey.  We walked around the city, saw the plaza and the cathedral.  We happened along what turned out to be a great place for lunch.  DJ had a very cool mixed seafood dish.  During lunch however, we had a very close call with theivery.  A man came up selling some sort of trinket and noticed that DJ's camera was on the table.  For some reason I was looking down and notice his piece of paper and hand on top of her camera.  Immediately, I put my hand on his and puttled the camera out with my other hand.  I was pretty rattling to say the least, but I sure am glad that I was looking down and that she still has her camera.  After a little rest we went back out for dinner and cake.  We had great conversations all day long and plan to meet up again in Cusco since we will be there at the same time.

My main reason to go to Arequipa is the chance to climb down into the world's 2nd deepest canyon, Caņon del Colca.  I booked my trek my 2nd day in Arequipa and the plan was for me to be picked up between 3 and 3:30am that morning for a 3 day trek.  At 3:45 am I was worriend they weren't going to show, but at 4 am they arrived.  Tired and a little irritated I plopped down into my seat and went back to sleep.  2 hours later I woke up freezing and numb.  I did my best to get my jacket from my backpack without hitting the guy next to me and it helped some, but it was seriously cold.  We arrived at our first stop Mirador Cruz del Condor.  A Condor is a very large bird that is pretty much just like a big Vulture, it eats dead animals.  But their wingspan gets up to 4 meters, that is very large.  I got a couple good photos and a short video.  They fly so fast it is pretty tough to get them.  We were given 40 minutes to look at the Condors.  I hadnīt kept really good track for time, because no one else really seems to. Apparently I was late and our guide had to come get me.  The conductor screamed at me about being late and if I could understand Spanish and could read a watch why was I 10 minutes late.  Sadly, I canīt think quickly enough in Spanish to turn around and say, "You were 30 minutes late getting me this morning donīt give me attitude for 10 minutes."  But instead I just smiled and shrugged.  I was pretty pissed though.  We made our way to Cobanaconde the town where we would eat lunch and begin our trek.  The best part about getting there was when we were told that we had an 1hr to wait for lunch and in the meantime we could look around the town.  I thought breifly, what were you yelling at me about time for.  But I took the time to see the cute little town and relax in the sun reading my new book, Shantaram.  I exhanged my old book with one of the Irish girls I met in Huachachina.  I love the new book.

Cobanaconde is at 3600 meters.  I could feel it.  Breathing was hard and walking was laboring.  I was slightly worried about how the trek was going to go.  But we started out after lunch and since we were just walking on flat ground it wasn't too bad.  We were informed about the volcanoes in the area.  One of which is named for the fact that it looks like the collar bone area right at the base of the next.  We also learned about the different crops that are grown in the area.  I thought the farmers were just perfect.  The canyon isn't exactly what I thought it was going to be.  The fact that I have seen the Grand Canyon, I just thoguth this would resemble more of a hole in the ground like the Grand Canyon.  It is still very beautiful and impressive place. The contrast between the snow capped mountains and the desert of the surrounding area is great.  The walk down was 7 km with the switchbacks and it was a 1000 meter decline in elevation.  The path itself is a rocky slippery path.  My shoes treated me well though throughout the entire trek.  I am thankful for that because I was getting worried with all the people and their special hiking shoes.  By the end of the day my left knee was very tired and giving me a bit of trouble.  My hip was okay, not perfect but okay.  I was happy when we got to the bridge at the bottom and got to go up for a little while.  Roy, our guide, told us all sort os interesting info but it was hard to remember because of the fact that I was exercising.  But I do remember learning about a plant in the marijuana family that helps with altitude problems and stomach problems.  I love how much of the plant life is used for medicine.  So far my experience with Matica, a plant that helps with mosquito bites and has antibacteria qualities has been nothing but positive.

After our small hike up, we reached the place we were going to stay for the evening. It was a very nice setting.  I was happy to just hang out and rest until it was time for dinner, we ate dinner in the building that had its roof recently repaired by its owner.  After a good nights sleep we headed out for our second day up to the village of Tapay.  Frequently during our hike were crosses that during a particular time of year are decorated with colorful flowers.  This is probably sacreligious, but I think the crosses resemble scarecrows.  In fact, the first time I saw one I thought it was a scarecrow, but I kept that little tidbit to myself until now.  There were lots of stairs to Tapay.  Pretty much 1 hour and 30 minutes of stairs, I just kept reminding myself to engange my abs and glutes.  We were rewarded by a very nice view of the church with the mountains in the background, very pretty.

After Tapay we headed down to the Oais.  Our walk down included some great view points along the way.  We also learned that the cacti in the area not only provide fruit and protection, but there is an insect that lives on them that is used in make-up and face paint.  When you smush them their blood is a very pretty maroon color.  Originally people would get lots of money for the insect, but now since they have cleared and mass planted the cacti they insects arenīt worth as much . Previously while on the farm in Vilcabamba it was mentioned that it is difficult to get peopel to understand that it is better to have a variety of crops, because cash crops are only good for a short while.  Hearing about the cacti insect reminded me of this comment.  We continued walking down and crossed the river once again at another cool hanging bridge. This one was barely tall enough for me to walk through.  We got to the Oais shortly after, there was a pool and grass to lie on.  It was nice.  I enjoyed the sun while it lasted and then enjoyed a good dinner and bon fire.  The next morning was a 5 am wake-up so I headed off to bed pretty early.

At 6am we were ready to leave and headed off for our uphill hike.  The hike was going pretty good because there were no stairs in the beginning.  Once the stairs kicked in everything go a bit more difficult for me.  The hike was definitely a lesson in having patience with myself.  I had a few moment where I was very frustrated, but once I just let my group go on ahead, it was much better.  I didn't feel like I was being waited on.  We reached a point about 1 hour in and Roy said we were halfway.  That made me feel a bit better because the hike was suppose to take 3 to 3.5 hours, which meant we were going fast.  About 3/4 of the way Roy offered his walking poles to me.  It made things a little easier so I was thankful. 2 hours and 15 minutes from the start we made it to the top.

After the top we had a flat 20 minute walk to Cobanaconde where we were served breakfast.  Oh yeah I didnīt mention that we were doing that climb on Mate de Coca and Oreos.  Not exactly the breakfast of champions.  I was thankful for my almonds, raisins and apple that I brought along. We had time to relax after breakfast before the bus ride home.  There was a cute little boy that was very intrigued by my camera.  And I ran into some guys from Holland that I met in Huacachina.  It was a tough climb, but definitely worth it.

I spent the night in Arequipa and ended up meeting Bernd who was very interesting to talk with and we share many things in common.  He spent 7 months riding his bike though many different countries, I am inspired to have my next travel adventure be by bike. Kim are you up for that? I love how many people that you meet while traveling, sometimes you come across people who you just connect with so well it is great.

I caught an 8:30pm bus to Cusco and arrived safely at 6am this morning.  The plan is to study an sight see around Cusco for a week and then go on the 5 day trek to Machu Picchu.  After Cusco I will head to Puno, get a visa for Bolivia and explore Lake Titicaca.  Last stop is La Paz to see the city and my flight out is Aug 13 arriving in SFO
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