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The Final Stretch in Peru November 2, 2006

Posted by danaslone in Uncategorized.
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So much has gone on, where to begin…Chile was finished out in Santiago where I toured the Casablanca Valley for a wine story and met some fantastic, young winemakers thanks to the help of Brian Pearson. He is a resident of Santiago with a tour company and passion for Chielan wine, and in a strange coincidence, he and his wife once lived in Portland.

Then to San Pedro de Atacama, the dusty tourist pueblo, gateway to Bolivia and home to vast, lunar landscapes, brilliant blue skies, blistering heat, giant sand dunes, jagged cliffs, ancient history and modern astromony centers. An interesting place indeed and we saw much if it. Yet I am glad to be gone from the dust. Valle de Luna and Muerte Valle (Valley of the Moon and Death Valley) were worth the trip and it was a fine way to end in Chile. The altiplanos lagunas are a surreal wash of blues and greens. And, yes there are salt flats and pink flamingos… and not outside a trailer park either.

I have given up on posting photos from here, but when I get home in less than 15 days, I will get it all sorted out.

I am now in Peru. Wow wow wow and a wild adventure so far not just getting here but getting around. The terrain is unreal and surreal in many parts in the South. I took a bus from San Pedro to Arica (then Tacna, Peru via collectivo) via the Cruz del Sur bus company. They videotape the bus passengers before each trip. I asked an older lady why, in Spanish…for terrorists or robberies, and she said eh, nooo not really….accidentes. To indentify the bodies. The landscape, roads and driver were crazy and I kept thinking well if they want to help with the whole accident thing, maybe not go screwing around the corners at 70 miles an hour when the roads have no edges and inclines of 45 degree angles. They have seat belts…like that would help. Whew. I looked out the window the whole time, it was not for meak. But it was the newest, cleanset freshest smelling bus complete with a woman attendant in a Peruvian themed uniform and movies.

Getting out of Chile was interesting too on a crappy overnight bus but fun conversation with a 68 year old man from Peru who smelled of booze, had a few teeth, and slept on me. He turned out to be quite a dear and I have his name and phone number to look up his family when I get to Cusco. At first, I was mad to be scrunched in with him as he took up half my seat too. Bad me.

I have spoken more of my bad style Spanish now that I am traveling alone. Kevin is in Bolvia now and while I preferred to travel with him, going solo is important too. Though not half as fun. Back to Spanish, the accent here is more understandable than Chile. And Peru is very different from Chile and Argentina, more of an indigenous culture is dominant than the Eurofied version elsewhere. Many people dress in traditional styles of the hats and the skirts, all mixed in with the new and modern. The people I have met are all so friendly…and generally speaking, also kind of short as a population goes when you look around. I feel at home…actually I feel a bit statuesque.

I have such a nice room in a old Spanish style mansion, an oasis of a hostel in busy Arequipa, the Tambo Veijo. Stay here if you ever go, for 10 bucks a night more or less. I met two Irish girls on the bus and we have been hanging out for our stay in Arequipa, gateway to Colca Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. The Canyon is surrounded by seven volcanoes, the highest at 6850 meters, do the math. The highest I have been here so far was at an altitude of 4950 meters and ow, my head hurt for bit on the way down later. Colca Canyon is also the site of sprawling and ancient Inca pueblos, home of Chivay and Yanque, terraced agricultural marvels, llamas, burros, alpacacas, condors…yes I saw the giant condor fly. People come from all over the world for Condor del Cruz, but I admit, I had not heard of it prior.

I cannot do the place justice without photos. It is vast, so vast, steep and complicated, beautiful and breathtaking, from the derelict towns to the hot springs to the mountains. We signed up for a two day tour and when time, I will tell all the funny stories that happened to me. The short story, on our little bus from hell was a delightful, adventurous couple still in love in their late 60s from the Netherlands (when I grow up I want to be just like them), two thirtysomething married couples, one from Austrailia, one from England, two funny Peruvian women from Lima, my Irish buds and me, and the young Jolanda and Freddie, tour guide and driver respectively.

As it turned out within an hour, I wound up being recruited by Jolanda as Tour Guide Number Two to help bridge the English and Spanish gap that existed. She spoke good English of what she knew but often had trouble understanding the questions or comments from others and would ask me in Spanish or would sturggle for an English word. And the Peruvian ladies enlisted my services to communicate to the English. Like when they wanted to tell the English guy they thought he looked like actor Matthew Perry from Friends. He was not happy.

So we would converse in Spanish or English, and come up with the answer or vice versa be it tour or pleasure. It was an absolutely fascinating opportunity to learn Spanish for me and English for her and the ladies. We had a blast and made a great team. Our crew was a strange family of 13 for two days together. And I now know more about Colca Canyon and the history of the Incas and Spanish there as well as the indigenous peoples, gods, plants and animals before them than I could have ever paid for.  Just ask me.

I have eaten llama in Chile and now alpaca in Peru. Sometimes you cannot choose the food, you know and sometimes you want to try. But it has been good. Yum. I like meat. Now I have two more. They do not eat llama in Peru as it is their sacred cow, the but the alpaca is fair game. No, I will not try cuy.

We awoke to a breakfast that includes a bowl of cocoa leaves at every table. Munched on those the way up and down the Canyon for two days. It does help the altitude a bit but really just tastes like tea leaves. I have cocoa candy in a toffee and caramel form. More my style. Chewy.

Much more to tell but tomorrow I head to Puno for three days to see Lake Titicaca and the Uros Islands, then to Cusco for Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley for five, then Lima for one and home.

I consider this entire 70 plus something days of traveling my practice run. Many ideas are percolating but if I was confused before I left, I am more so now. In a good way. More to come.

Many apologies for the lack of proper punctuation, but the keyboard here is not offerng me the same choices.

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Comments»

1. Justin - November 2, 2006

Sounds fantastic Sloney… absolutely amazing. I’m happy to hear you have enjoyed yourself, but must admit I am curious as to where you may be seeing yourself in a few years. Whether this good confusion will equal you leaving us for good. Hopefully not, but then again – it would give me and Aim an excuse to globetrot (by boat of course…) and come visit!

Miss you 🙂

2. marco polo - November 5, 2006

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quiestest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”


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