(this is extremely past due)
I left Huacachina and the desert dunes on a 5hr bus ride to Lima, then an additional 10hr bus ride to Trujillo (a northern coastal town). I wanted to spend the remaining 5 days I had in Peru on the beach, soaking up some sun and hitting the surf before heading back to cold, mainland US. I stayed at a surfer hostal which was really cool—right on the beach—that was full of people from all over: Germany, Switzerland, Finland, Canada, US, England, and the hostal was owned by Peruvians so there were constantly people around.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I really wanted to learn to surf while I was here. Interestingly, the first day I was there it was so foggy you couldn’t even see 30 ft. out into the water when you were standing on the beach. It must be a seasonal thing because the people were telling me the surfing is really good January-March—go figure. Instead that day I went back into Trujillo to the Plaza to look around. The plaza was beautiful! No where near as beautiful as Cusco, but very different. All the buildings were of different colors with bright, white trim.
The second day I took a surf lesson. Thankfully there were a couple others in the hostel that wanted a lesson too, so we did a group lesson which was much more fun. And much to my surprise….I got up! THREE TIMES! Of course this was with the assistance of the trainer, but still! And the waves were not that big so I shouldn’t be bragging at all. Me and the guy went out a second day as well on our own for a few hours—it was surprisingly cheap to rent all the gear for a day. He stood up at the very end, but I didn’t make it up. The waves kind of scared me a little because they get kind of big around high-tide and once you have to try to swim back out to deeper water, the waves just keep knocking you back and under. Later in the afternoon I went again and almost got up!…but not quite. I didn’t work up the courage to go out again while I was there, but I’d really like to try again sometime. It seems like a really fun sport.
One thing that I really took away from these last 5 days were that Peruvian people aren’t all the same. After living in Cusco for 3 months, I could tell the difference when I was in Lima—the people have a much harder to understand accent there and there aren’t many indigenous people. When I was in Huanchaco (the beach town 5 miles west of Trujillo), I noticed the accents were also even more different. You can tell it was a surfer/beach town because I could see the similarities between mannerisms and accents of Californians and these Peruvians. It was a nice change and interesting to understand that just because their country is smaller than ours, there are still cultural differences depending on the region.
Unfortunately, my trip has come to an end now. No more rice with every meal, toilet paper in the garbage, undrinkable tap water, or living from a backpack. But I am really going to miss all the people I’ve met (the girls at the orphanage, my host family and housemates), the easy ability to speak and learn spanish, and the diverse culture there. It was very sad to leave…after all, I did call it home for a while.
It’s hard to see but this is the hill we went down on the sandboards. It wasn’t as dangerous as I thought…we went down on our stomachs. It should be called sand-sledding! haha. Surprisingly I didn’t even get too much sand in my face. Needlesstosay, the dune buggy was much more fun.
Last Wednesday I left Cusco for Arequipa, a semi-costal southern city in Peru. Since it was during Semana Santa, the plaza was just beautiful and filled with people.
The next morning I left for a tour to the Colca Canyon—the Peruvian equivalent to the Grand Canyon (or so I’ve heard). What has fascinated really fascinated about Peru is all the different regions and landscapes that are so close—beach, dessert, wet and dry mountains, rainforest—and I really wanted to try to see them all while I was here. Thus, the trip to the Colca Canyon.
The tour bus was quite interesting, but much more pleasant than I was expecting. I was the only white person on the entire bus, and no one spoke English, so although the guide spoke English, we did the entire tour in Spanish. That was actually great because it forced me to use things I learned here in Peru. The drive out to the Colca region is about 4 hours from Arequipa, but it literally took us almost 7 hours because we were stopping every 10 minutes it felt like to take pictures of something or use the restrooms. I didn’t expect to see so much Peruvian wildlife on the trip but we got to see Vicunas and Alpacas. We also saw many snow-topped mountains and it even started flurrying very lightly during one of our stops!
We spent the night in a town called Chivay—pretty much just like Aguas Calientes, a town specifically made for overnight stays for tourists going to visit Machu Picchu, but in this case it was the Colca Canyon. The next morning I thought we were going straight to the Cruz del Condor where the condors fly so close to you over the canyon, but we made about 10 stops on the 20 km drive there, haha. We would literally drive for 5 min, then stop for 30 min to take pictures—I was the first one back on the bus every time. I think I learned that group tours are not quite my thing lol.
We finally arrived at Cruz del Condor around 9:30 am, and I have to say it was worth the wait. The Colca Canyon wasn’t quite what I expected (A deep and straight down cut in the earth) but it was beautiful. But apparently it is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon; it’s just not straight down. The sky was so blue and the condors were so huge, and there was so many of them! The pictures don’t portray very well how close the birds actually were or how big they were. They’re the largest flying land birds in the western hemisphere.
We arrived back in Arequipa just before 5pm, so I had about 2 hours left of daylight to explore the city before I was taking the night bus to Ica (a costal desert town). I walked to El Mirador (the lookout) to get a good view of the city and the volcano, Misty.
[Its funny because I looked on the map and it was only a few blocks so I decided to walk, but when I asked for directions on the way, everyone looked at me like I was crazy when I said I was walking. “It’s a 45 min. walk” they all said…20 min. later I arrived, haha. The Peruvians don’t walk anywhere.]
I left Cusco on Wednesday afternoon and the days leading up to that were both busy and emotional.
This week is Semana Santa, the week before Easter. Because Peru is so catholic (like 90+%), they have huge celebrations all week. On Monday there was a huge procession in the Plaza de Armas. A few people left the cathedral carrying a Hispanic Jesus on a cross around 3pm, paraded around the city, and eventually returned to the Plaza where thousands of people gathered around to watch them re-enter the cathedral. It was very talked up and we thought it was going to be much more exciting than it was, but it literally was just as how I explained it—-a few people carrying a float with Jesus on a cross. From what I read in the travel book, it is Senor de los Temblores (Lord of the Earthquakes), and I guess they especially celebrate it in Cusco because they believe he saved them from a devastating earthquake many years ago. The Cusquenans get very excited about it though!
Tuesday was my last day at the Orphanage. I took 5 girls at a time into a room to talk about proper teeth brushing practices and threw away brushes that were old and gave kids new brushes and paste if they needed it. It was good to talk to each of them in a small group because I was more likely to catch their attention. To my surprise, many of them knew the common practices: 2-3 times a day for 2 min. but obviously rarely practiced them for whatever reason. Hopefully the bubblegum flavored paste and new brushes will make them more excited about it. It was really sad to leave them. They don’t seem fazed by it too much, I’m assuming because so many volunteers come and go….but it can’t be easy. It sort of a tough thing because you don’t really think about that part when you volunteer. You think, how could it be a bad thing to volunteer your time to put a smile on a child’s face? But at the same time, is it good to go in knowing you’re only there for a short time? Entering a person’s life and then leaving a short while after? I don’t know…I guess it’s better to have people for a short time than not at all…but it’s definitely something to think about.
Tuesday night we had a nice family dinner and celebrated Gabriela (my host mom) and my birthdays because they are both October 1st! It was really fun to spend one last night all together as a family and a group of volunteers.
Gabriela with our birthday cake :)
The next morning it really hit me that I was leaving that day. It was very sad to leave Gabriela, but like I said when I left Toledo, I will come back to visit.
I left for Arequpia, Peru on Wednesday and plan to travel up the coast stopping in Ica, Lima (briefly), and Trujillo visiting the Colca Canyon, going sandboarding, and learning to surf! My flight home is Sunday, April 7th. It is all very bittersweet, but after leaving Cusco, I really am ready to be back home again.