Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

I had touched my first glacier in Peru, but my stints with glaciers didn’t end there…(foreshadowing)

After months of solo adventuring (accepting my travels with Katy), it was incredibly wonderful to fly into the tiny airport in Wichita, Ks and hear my Aunt’s voice on the phone as she came to pick me up. I moved back into her house and the loving arms of my family. It was so nice to be surrounded by a network. I ended up lingering quite a while at my Aunties house, basking in the orderly happiness that her family existed in and indulging in her fabulous cooking. I had vague ideas of what I wanted to do next, but I felt sort of lost.

After another few weeks in Kansas, I decided to go through Wisconsin up into Marquette to see my old friends and then hitch a ride with a friend South to visit my folks. First, I headed to Kansas City with my cousin Kyle. We stopped at a tasty brewery and park before he dropped me off at the house I would be staying at for a couple of days. I had found the house owned by a woman named Hailey on AirBnb and through that site, we had worked out a deal. I jumpstart her garden and she would give me a free place to stay for a few nights. Little did I know, one of my sisters good friends lived just down the road, and I could have stayed there for nothing at all. Hailey and I ended up becoming such good friends, though, that I have no regrets. And putting together her garden was a great use of my afternoon, not to mention the fun we had going to the garden store and flirting with the cute “garden expert.”

Kansas City is a really cool mid-western city, with lots of tasty restaurants and eco-friendly choices, as well as the awesome breweries on every corner. I had a lot of fun prowling around the downtown, or hanging out in parks with my sisters friends Max and Ana. I will definitely return and spend more time there in the future.

I caught a bus out and into Madison, Wisconsin. There, a bit of hitchhiking led me to a rendezvous in Stevens Point, Wisconsin with my good friend, Jamie. Stevens Point isn’t a town on many maps, but the cute homey feel with family style diners as well as the traveler friendly attitude makes this town appealing to people who lead lives on the road.

After a few days, my friend Jamie and I headed up to Marquette, Michigan to visit our old haunts and good friends. It had been a very rough winter for everyone (not me, I was in Peru. Suckers!), and they were all just stretching out their hibernating bodies and trying to pull them back into the  energetic pursuits of spring.

I fell right into my old habits of that town, drinking lots of beer and going out to the various events going on in town. A week of hiking, climbing, and many many board games later and I was heading south on 75 towards my Ma and Pa’s house with a slightly better idea of where my summer would head.

I helped clear the debris from our yard that a hard storm had brought. I worked with my Dad to build a compost tumbler. I went on hikes with my mom at the nearby recreation center. And I applied for a job working as a sled dog handler on a glacier. What, I’m sorry, did something in that list stand out?

Here’s some pictures from my trip home. Next post, my journey West (again) and more on this bit about a glacier.

wpid-20140520_200537.jpg

 

Carnival! Cusco and Huaraz

I was in Cusco in time for carnival! I was walking down the street to play some music downtown, but we didn’t make it very far. Young boys and men crowded the streets with water balloons, buckets of water, and aerosol cans of silly string or colored soap spraying any and all who dared exit their hostels and homes. We bought some of our own to fight back against the onslaught, getting covered in the process. It was a free fun for all event, city wide! I would no sooner wipe the soap from my eyes, then be blinded all over again. I have never laughed so hard or had so much fun just walking down the streets. After hours of play in the streets, tourists asked to take pictures of our battle torn group where we sat taking shelter beneath one of the stone walls.

I had so much fun getting to be a part of this local festivity that was adapted from the original carnival, where young men could spray colors on young women they found attractive.

I stayed in Cusco for about a week, playing music with old and new friends before getting my ticket to head to Huaraz. In Huaraz, I enjoyed watching the festivities in the streets. There were parades and parties all night in the town square. In the mornings, I took tours, seeing the waterfalls and deep blue mountain lakes, hiking to glaciers, and even visiting a town washed away by a mudslide.

I made a good amount of friends at the hostel where I stayed, but with my cold and the rainy weather there, I was ready to head back to the US of A. After a week and a half enjoying the glacier surrounded city, I took my final Peruvian bus ride to Lima for my flight home.

I had seen every corner of this country and had loved the freedom that came from being a solo traveler, if it was sometimes lonely. I had learned that I was more capable than I had ever known. I had felt the humid stones of Liman parks,  wriggled my toes in the deserts of Ica, wandered the cobbled steps of San Blas in Cusco, trailed my fingers through the icy waters of Lake Titicaca, hiked the rocky stretches of the Colca Canyon, and touched the blueish ice of an ancient glacier.

We all have mind maps of what a place is like, this trip reminds me that so often we are wrong. Give everywhere a chance, most likely it will end up being so much more beautiful than you thought.

Arequipa

Whenever I say the name of this city I can’t help but roll the R, so it comes out more like Arrrequipa.

In this city, Katy and I decided to go out, get drunk, and cut loose. We walked down the fancy side of town and popped into a few bars, before deciding on the Che Guevara bar, where we were able to sit next to the life size replica, crazy hair and all. The next day, Katy would be leaving Peru for her jungle trek in Ecuador and I would be working at the hostel where we were staying for free room and board. We spent the night playing music in the room we had all to ourselves, making up silly songs about our coming separation. I would miss her.

The next day, she got up early and left to see a bit of the city before flying away. I began my work for the hostel as a painter! I painted a quote board on one wall with popular travelers phrasings translated into Spanish. Then climbing the stairs to the rooftop terrace and breakfast lounge, I painted inspiring quotes in English. I became really good friends with some of the employees here and went and got lunch daily, learning where the tasty cheap food was available.

I went on the Arequipa, free walking tour, making it my third walking tour. I love these tours! Any time you get a chance to do it, do, and tip your tour guide well. I ran into a French couple that we had met in Sagallay and hung out with them in the city. I spent a lot of time at the chocolate museum, which was a hip frequented place. I had a lot of fun there, playing music on the porch or chatting with one of the workers. They were all really cool. One guy was planning to walk back to his home town in California after leaving, the whole journey on foot. From him, I learned about a local waterfall in a small village called, Sogay. It was an incredibly cheap bus ride away. I made two friends and we made plans to take the bus out there the next day.

I had painted and tasted my way through my stay in Arequipa. I had tried almost every bit of the local cuisine and had completely knocked out my guides, “have to try” section. And let me tell you, it was way worth it: mazamorra, empanadas de pollo, chicharrones, chifa, lomo saltado, alfajores, palta a la jardinera, tres leches, rocoto relleno, papa rellena, and not to forget my first dining experience in Peru, Cerviche pescado.I can still taste it and see the plates, some in fancy touristy restaurants, but most on cheap mismatched plates sitting on the wooden benches of the markets. The tastes of Peru are as much an important sensory experience and carry the same flavor as the ruins and the scenery I witnessed.

So, this waterfall trek was my last full day in Arequipa. That evening, I had planned to hop on an overnight bus back to Cusco as a stepping stone for Huaraz. The best laid plans, so often go awry, though, And what a wonderful last day and night it was.

We got up early popped over to the market for breakfast and to pack some empanadas for lunch, also having a glass of juice from the fruit stands that cover the streets. A policeman helped direct us to the correct bus for the trip to Sogay, so we crowded ourselves onto the little red bus and took off for the cataratas. After a short taxi ride we arrived at the tiny town and were dropped off right in front of the tourism office. The man who ran this office was adorable and sweet, giving us thorough directions for the way to reach the waterfalls.

We walked through beautiful farm country, passing historic plaque, written in Spanish and English. We started to wonder if we were going the right way and asked some cheery farmers. A little girl with rosy cheeks nodded and pointed to the trail that began a hundred yards farther.

“Cataratas? Si, alla.”

A mile into the trail we accidentally set off the alarm, hoards of dogs came from a broken down stone building, growling and barking at us. A dirty woman dressed in rags came from the building to watch us pass from slitted eyes. Maybe the village maniac, or the local “witch doctor,” willing to help with the sacrifices that many Peruvians still felt necessary before any life change.

We kept hiking and came to a place where the trail met the river, winding alongside it with beautiful flowers and tracks from animal life. The sounds of rushing water increased as we finally came to the spot with the waterfall. It was short and little, beautiful, but hardly worth the trek. But, then from behind a rock wall a few Peruvians came trekking. A short rock wall scale led to a more impressive waterfall, that roared down the canyon. We ate our lunch here, basking in the mist.

The walk back found us too late for the last collectivo, but the man from the tourism office walked us to the nest town over. Only a mile walk. The farming country was beautiful, with our new friend trying to tell us all about the area, despite our broken Spanish. Catching a taxi from there was cramped, but it led us to where the first bus had dropped us off, making the cheap bus ride home was easy. I laughed while my two much taller companions tried to fold themselves into the tiny spaces left us.

I arrived back at the hostel with my friends to find everyone there wasted! It was one of my friends last day of employment, and she was partying to celebrate. We played some beer pong with them, getting drunk before heading out on the city.

The power went out halfway through the night in most of West Peru and we were left wandering around in the dark looking for something to eat. It was fun to see the streets flooded with people, looking for something to do. They were selling flashlights in the streets along with glow sticks, so the people were lit up.

Long story short, I ended up spending most of that night out drinking with friends and therefore never made it out of the city. The next day, though found me sober and ready to go. My plan was to return to Cusco before Huaraz, So, me and a new friend bought our tickets together and got on the bus that night.

Colca Canyon

It is dificult to get into Colca Canyon from anywhere, but Arequipa. This is a design of the tour companies who want you to pay them to take you there. We decided to find our own way there. We took a local bus bound for Arequipa, but rather than going all the way there, we got off in a small creepy border inspection town called Canagua. It was incredibly windy and cold there. My eyelids were constanctly welling with tears. The cops who were checking vehicles for hidden cocaine laughed at us thinking we were crazy to stop there. Finally after an hour of waiting we get a bus to stop that’s heading for Chivay. I ask the price and then am about to get on when I realize something that at first terrifies me. There is no one else on this bus. We consider leaving and trying to find another ride, but the cold wind behind and the sweet reasurance from the man convinces us to go ahead.

It is a beautiful ride through the mountains and we get the whole bus to ourselves. The driver stops off at a popular volcanic site, where five Quechuan women are selling their wares. We help them to load their goods onto the bus beofre heading off again. They are greatful for help from tourists, but still try to get us to buy a hat or two before closing up their packs. It is all so heavy, I’m astounded to imagine Quechuan women carrying this much weight in the traditional bag wrapped in a blanket over their backs.

We are rounding a bend, when we come across a pulled over truck that has broken down in a precarious place on the mountain roads. our driver decides he wants to help them and drives us to the bottom of the hill before leaving us there. So Katy and I were two white women stranded in the middle of nowhere with five quechuan women. A wrinkled shepard came apon us with her four stray dogs. She laughed when she saw us, confused how we came to be there. They asked me to play music on my ukelele. I did my best, but my fingers were so cold it was difficult to strum. Finally we see a bus, Katy and I flag it down and we are on our way in Chivay.

There wasn’t much to this town, it was really just an expensive jumping off point into the canyon. The next morning we got up very early, like 3 am early, and took a local bus on our way to the cruz del condor. Almost on the dot at 8 am the condors started coming from cracks in the canyon and dancing on the warm currents of air. They had about the wingspan of me, and made massive shadows against the just risen sun. One swooped low over our heads, if i’d jumped my fingertips would have ruffled its feathers. It was amazing to listen to the whooshing of their feathers, like how I’d imagine dragons sound. We were standing and looking out over a canyon twice as deep as the American grand canyon. It was difficult even to fathom the deep pinks and purples of the creases leading all the way down.

When the last of the condors had left to find his breakfast, my stomach also began to rumble. We caught a combe with several Quechuan women into Cobanaconde. Here we stayed at a hip hostel called Pachamama full of fit, tan, backpackers. We had come for the descent into Sagallay, a well-known colca oasis.

The dusty trail down, left us dreaming of the cool green fields of Chinchero, or the icy waters of Lake Titicaca, but we kept on sliding and coughing our way. Two Quechuan men stopped us on the trail leading their burros and drained most of my water bottle, smiling a toothless grin in thanks that grossed me out.

Our legs were shaking when we walked the last few steps to the green grassses and deep pools of Sagallay. There were tropical plants, stone huts, and man-made waterfalls all through this oasis. We immediately bee-lined for the pools and swam until our parched limbs had cooled down. Then we saw about a hut for the night. We ended up in a stone hut that reminded us of a princess locked away in a tower. We loved it.

IMG_6819

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We finished up our canyon trip by making some trips to the hotsprings and doing the inglorious hike out of the canyon. We were bound for Arequipa.