I’ve been in Peru for about a week now, or so I am told. If you were to ask me I wouldn´t be able to tell you what day it is, what time it is, or how long I have been here. I have been swallowed whole by the beautiful world that is Peru and have completely lost track of my position- I love it!
In this last week we have been quite busy moving from Lima to Pisco and Paracas. In Paracas I took a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands to spot sea lions, penguins, lots of birds and an ancient Peruvian trident carved into the mountainside. In Pisco, we visited a winery where we learned how Peru´s favorite alcoholic beverage is made, then tasted all different varieties- Pure Pisco made from red grapes is a killer at 40% alcohol. Next we made our way down to Nazca to spot some of the famous but mysterious Nazca lines and took a night bus to Arequipa.
From Arequipa we began to wind our way up to the mountains to visit Colca Canyon reaching an altitude of 15,000 feet above sea level along the way. To combat altitude sickness our guide showed us how to chew Coca Leaves and do some yoga breathing. After a short orientation walk that was NOT strenous but left me huffing and puffing I spent 20 minutes with my feet up on the wall to again, re-oxygenate my brain. I know now I have been taking my home altitude for granted all this time and want to send a quick shout out to sea level- I appreciate you.
After spending yesterday morning spotting condors swooping over the awe inspiring Colca Canyon, me and 3 of the other women on the trip decided to break away from the group and go trekking across the valley to some nearby villages. Ultimately we planned to end up in Yanque were we could use the hot springs that the locals visit. No doubt the altitude made our hike much more challenging and after a couple of hours of walking up and down mostly unpaved roads, paths and across little bridges, dodging dogs, sheep, llamas and donkeys, we finally made it to the Aguas Termales.
Of course, before we could enter we had to climb down yet another hillside and across a wooden suspension bridge, one at a time, at the insistance of a local woman, lest two people together weigh too much, collapse the bridge, and bounce into the river below.
After getting a 50% discount and paying only 5 soles (about $2) per person to enter, we quickly changed and FINALLY submerged into the pool of naturally heated water. That moment made the hours of walking, sore knees, bangin headaches and general breathlessness we had all experienced to get there, worth it. That wonderfully hot water felt SO good in contrast to the plunging temperatures in the mountains during Peru´s winter.
None of us were ready to get out, but the sun was going down and we had a 20 minute walk back to the town center where we would catch a “collectivo” home to Chivay, where we were staying. 10 minutes into the walk we were submerged into darkness and everyone was tired. So, the 4 of us decided to hitch a ride in the back of a pick up truck back to Chivay. Bumping along in the back of a truck feeling accomplished and alive as we drove along the windy mountain roads was the perfect way to top off an amazing day in the Andes.
In reality, getting back to the hotel to my drugs and finally getting rid of the throbbing in the back of my brain was the perfect end to the night, but the rest was so amazing I can almost forget about the pain.
Tonight we ride a night bus to Cuzco where we will celebrate my birthday tomorrow and begin preperations for the Inca Trail. Here goes nothing!