We begin our drive into the Colca Canyon. The guide warned everyone to take the elevation pills and we would be stopping at a small stop to drink some coca leaf tea. I was pretty worried so I drank two just to be safe and bought every damn thing in the store that had coca leaves – from cookies to candy to leaves themselves. We began our climb into the mountains on the tour bus. The views were just desolate land and a road that seemed like it never ended. I took some shots from the front of the bus with the dramatic sky and the surprisingly fairly well kept roads. We kept winding our way through the mountain. The sky began to dramatically change and the temperature began to quickly fall. I was used to the 70+ in Lima I now had to be ready for 30 degree F. With Llamas and bushels of grass covering the entire plane it seemed like we were in the wild west but where horses or buffalo would roam in the states – instead there were llama everywhere just wandering. I was a little surprised thinking if this were the US these animals would be turning a profit for some company or simply be food for someone for dinner. Yet here they were roaming with no worries. At one point we stopped and I got fairly close to the animals just to take a shot and run back onto the bus in the Caylloma Province.
Our altitude journey had reached its peak at roughly 4900-meter mark according to my GPS. I had never been at such altitude and at first didn’t feel any affects – grants I was chewing on leaves the whole time. We stopped at an area that was covered by mini pyramids made of small rocks. According to our guide it was good luck and I quickly rushed out of the bus and began running towards a small pond/lake to check it out.
As I ran I began to feel very tired and my breathing had substantially risen even though it had only been minutes and I was not doing much. I made my small little pyramid – photographed it and decided to run back. After about 5 steps I realized that if I continued to run I would be laying in the rocks for a pretty long time before I could catch my breath. I slowed down and crept back towards the bus to regain my breathing. The top or the peak of this mountain is roughly the same height as Mont Blanc, one of Europe’s highest peaks. We began our descent to a town called Chivay.
As we continued further down hill the grass seemed to spring out of nowhere and began to cover every inch of my view out the window. The views were simply breathtaking. Land that felt like it was not robbed of its beauty – not bothered – just left the way it should be. We first stopped in a natural spring bathing area near Rio Colca. After which we continued our descent into Chivay where we would be staying the night in a fairly large lodge.
It seemed like we were the only group of people for miles. We settled into our rooms and came back into the lobby to share stories and talk to one another and really get a sense of who was on this trip. Seemed like roughly 80% of our group was composed of Aussies who I had never known get over a month of vacation! While in the US we get 1-2 weeks max – sad. We ate some pretty good food and settled into our rooms for the night yet my night was not over!
Two hours into the night I wake up with heavy breathing not able to understand what was going on. I didn’t know if I was having a heart attack or who knows what. I had no idea that we were sleeping at roughly 3500-meter altitude. I began feeling light headed and quickly rushed to the small cozy lobby area trying to find someone to get me an oxygen tank. A gentleman came out and brought a tank to my room and after about 20-30 min it seemed like I was back to fairly normal and went back to bed.
The following morning we rushed to get all of our stuff ready in the suitcases and we had to get on the bus. I believe I misunderstood and ended up being on the last to get on. We rushed to the airport and began our flight to Arequipa. We flew in to Arequipa into a city that seemed substantially more desolate than Lima was. We began driving through large amounts of countryside and many homes that seemed like someone had started them but never finished. So much construction yet nothing done? Pretty strange. The guide explained that there was something to do with taxes or something of that nature that stopped people from finishing the homes. We were mostly on the bus the entire time as we drove around looking at area to area. Dogs barely alive walking and roaming the streets.
At one point we stopped by in one really nice area called the Miraflores district. There were huge palm trees and it all looked so nice in comparison to the desolate streets we saw when we first landed. We got to try some amazing ice cream from a lady standing on the corner and then we were off again on the bus. At this point we were at roughly 2300 Meter altitude, which was pretty high, but the fact that I was running on two hours of sleep I had no idea if it was the altitude or if something else was going on.
That night we stayed in a fairly nice hotel and this time I had my own room. I went to do a little shopping as buying water constantly a norm. I bought some corn on the cob that looked like it was enlarged 5-8 times the norm you would see in the US but the guide explained that it was due to the elevation. We check out some historical sites in the area and the night seemed to have ended early. Well not completely – even though I was running on fumes the guys convinced me we should go check out a bar with the girls. We stayed there for a few hours and at some point decided it was time to head back. The next morning we were heading to the Colca Canyon. Where supposedly altitude may be an issue for me – considering I come from an area where we live at sea level. Everyone apparently brought elevation pills – except for me. My doc told me – well you can buy the cheap ones for say 200 but they will make you hallucinate but you won’t feel the elevation or pay 500 for the good ones. I decided I was smarter and turned out way wrong.
The following morning after my alarm went off I was not in the best of moods – I walked over to get some food and then headed over to where we would have our meeting for the entire tour.
I sat down and quietly waited as the room began to slowly fill up with random strangers – most of who chose to remain pretty silent till the room was almost full. Our tour guide introduced herself and paired us up and we dispersed into our new rooms to relax and get ready. I got partnered with a pretty cool guy from the UK. The room they put us in was way more modern than the one I stayed and I was happy the trip was finally starting to go well. I relaxed in the room for some time till we had to meet downstairs for our tour of the city. Once we got on the bus I only then realized that most of the time the cab driver was driving us – we were mostly right on the edge of the cliff. Some of the people in the group checked out the beach but didn’t seem too excited about it. The weather that day was in the nice 70’s+F. The rest of the day I followed a group of girls that were on the tour to see where they were going to go eat since they said it was some pretty highly rated place. 4 girls and I wandered the streets trying to find this place. I simply followed – my sense of direction is not that great. After about 30-40 min of walking we stumbled onto the address the guide mentioned and it was just a grocery store and they had no idea what we were looking for.
We gave up and went to a little bar/lunch place outside where they had some of the most amazing smoothies I had ever had. They would simply blend whatever fruit you want with a little ice and that was it! So amazing – makes me wonder where the US gets it’s fruit.
After which we headed back to the rooms and tried to find something cool to do. We went on a walking tour and also wandered around some old ruins. After which we headed back.
I have had roommates in the past who snore and I am a very light sleeper so I get really mad when it happens. I asked the roommate I got if he snored and he mentioned no but it was in a very nonchalant way and I decided to take some sleeping pills just in case. One hour into it I hear the loudest snoring I had ever heard in my life! It was insanity. I was going on 4 hours of sleep and now I had this guy keeping me up for a second night. I came out of the room in some shorts on and wandered the hallways debating as to what to do. Do I hit him with a pillow do I yell? I tried yelling and nada. Eventually I wandered over to the front desk and they didn’t care – basically said well you can pay again to sleep in a room for a few hours. I put the pillow on my head and put in some ear buds and just passed out from frustration. Next morning we were destined to Arequipa.
My first day to arriving to Lima started out a little bumpy. I met a lady on the plane who was fairly aged and seemed like she had many conversations with Americans who knew very little about Peru. She spoke to me in a fairly condescending tone but I decided to entertain the idea and I had no other choice – I was stuck next to her on the plane for a fairly long time. On the plane she even offered to have her friend drive me to my hotel. I was pretty hesitant and went with the – at the time I thought – was the safer router and be picked up by the hotel cab. As the plane landed in the dead of night I rushed quickly to get my baggage. One of the last ones out I realized I had only US currency on me and I needed a way to pay for my cab and other expenses. Got some change and stood in a pretty strange line to leave the airport. There were three rows of people with a fairly tall metal structure with a Red/Green constantly lighting up, as people would walk through. The lady on the plane explained that you pressed a button and if it turned red they would have to search you.
I got in the closest line in the baggage and waited for my turn. I let the lady I sat next to budge behind me as the lines began to grow substantially. Now I have a tendency to break almost every electronic thing that I own – not my fault – just a curse I guess. So without hesitation I slammed the button as it was my turn to walk through and the entire vertical structure just went blank. The security guard told me to just go – apparently I broke it.
I read stories before arriving to Peru of non-legitimate cabs that would pick people up and sometimes there were kidnappings and so fourth so I was trying to be extra cautious. As I walk out from the end of the line I see a sea of people and small little old man holding a sign with my name. I raise my hand and follow him to his “cab”. At first he signals to just wait for him outside of the airport doors – he then comes back after 15 min and signals me to follow him. It’s about 12:30 am and I just follow him blindly expecting to see a yellow cab with stickers and so fourth. Instead we arrive at what looked like a 1980’s Honda sedan. He told me to throw my suitcase and backpack into the trunk but I was hesitant and decided to keep my backpack on me as it had all my info. As I there my suitcase into the trunk I could hear the entire vehicle structure barely holding on. I was worried what would happen if I actually sat in this thing. I finally get in and we begin driving.
5 min into the drive – the oversized racing rear mirror falls into my lap – he grabs it as if nothing and we continue. His English is about a D+ and my Spanish is not any better. 15 min in he explains that there is too much traffic and we need to go an alternative way. It’s now roughly 1am it’s so foggy you can’t see over 30 feet in front of you and there is no one on the streets. We begin driving through some very shady areas with women standing on the corners and some of the worst roads and driving I had ever seen. So it was he and I in this car at 1am in a brand new country with all my stuff on me and no one else really around. As we kept driving along the coast he would tell me – check out this prison, funeral, and other public buildings. I kept looking at my watch thinking what is the worst case possible and what I could do. We finally arrived at the hotel. I paid the cab driver grants he never told me how much or anything – was going based on what I was reading. I got to the hotel drenched and completely dead – got a room which I had to pay for the entire night – even though I slept only about 4 hours after everything and that was the beginning of day 1.
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