I′m typing this article on a Peruvian computer with a screen resolution of approximately 10×20 pixels, a Spanish keyboard where everything is switched around, and a processor that is probably powered by a mouse running on a treadmill.
That being said, I′m having an absolute blast down here in Peru!
Unfortunately finding wifi is almost impossible, so I′m not able to upload any of the great pictures I′ve taken thus far on my phone; those will have to wait for an epic photo post when I return home in a few weeks.
In the meantime, I figured a quick update about what I′ve done in my first few days here is a great place to start. I aplogize in advance for typos and formatting issues, I′m working with a very old machine here…
Observances from a first-time traveler
Healthy eating is not a priority. Soda is cheaper than water, and far more readily available. White rice comes with everything, sugar is added to everything, and many foods are only served fried. It′s tough to find good meals that are really healthy, but there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and the meals are insanely cheap so I′m not complaining. I′m sure if I went to some upper class restaurants the chices would be better, but I′m on a tight budget, so I′m doing the best I can while burning as many calories as possible to maintain balance.
Traveling can be cheap! My friend Cash and I are staying in a really safe and secure hostel where we have our own room, clean bathroom, and a really friendly staff. It only costs about eight bucks a night! Buses around the country are incredibly cheap as well, and splurging for a fancy bus for a long trek usually only costs a few dollars more.
Everybody is friendly. Peru is much nicer and safer than I would have expected. Some parts of each town are really dumpy, but there are plenty of police, locals are friendly, and I haven′t really felt unsafe yet since I′ve been here. I imagine this will be true for almost all places I will visit in the world.
There are lots of foreign travelers, but very few of them are from the US – I′ve mostly run into Aussies, Brits, and Germans down here, but not many Americans.
My Spanish is much better than I expected it to be. Although I took AP Spanish back in high school, I haven′t really spoken the language since then. In only five days down here, my Spanish has rapidly improved and I haven′t had a problem conversing with people. I did have one issue where I spent five minutes arguing about bus fare when I realized that she was quoting a price for BOTH of us. Good thing she didn′t charge me the price I was asking for!
What I′ve done so far
Although I′ve only been here for six days, Cash and I have managed to do WAY more than I would have expected…which is probably why I′m somewhat sick today. Don′t worry Mom, it′s just a slight cough. Here is what we′ve done so far:
Spent two hours in Lima. Boring, dull, grey, and not pretty, so we decided to get the hell outta there. It′s nice being able to change plans at a moment′s notice.
Hopped a bus to Ica, on which I met Jorge, an English and Law professor at the University of Ica. Jorge, thanks for helping me practice my Spanish, I′m glad you could join us for lunch.
Traveled to Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the Peruvian Desert. Needs to be seen to be belived. Pictures are coming.
Took a dune buggie out into the desert. Once we got away from the oasis, I felt like I was in Egypt (or Gerudo Valley for you Zelda nerds). If you′ve ever played Excitebike 64, the endless dunes level is a pretty fair representation of what we were dealing with. Just miles and miles of picturesque dunes in every direction – the sunset over them blew me away.
Went sandboarding. Take a snowboard, lie down on it, and then throw yourself over the edge of a sand dune and scream down a hill so fast that your face gets windburn. AWESOME.
Took a quick bus to Nazca. We didn′t get a chance to see the famous Nazca lines, but we did meet Jess and Wynn (sorry buddy if I spelled that wrong), two peace corp folks who are stationed down here. After spending two days speaking Spanish, it was nice to catch up with some folks speaking English!
Took an overnight bus to Arequipa. 10 hours on a bus is tough, but 10 hours on a bus in the middle of the night that′s winding along a cliff with no guard rails 500 feet above the Pacific Ocean? Brutal. Luckily we splurged for a luxury bus on this one and arrived safely in Arequipa at 7AM
Explored the ancient Monestary of Santa something. I can′t remember the name of the place, and I′m too tired right now to look it up. Just know that it was beautiful and full of history. Unfortunately, it was built for Peruvian nuns, so I cracked my head on more than one of the 5′5¨door frames.
Woke up at 2:30AM to travel to Chivay and Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world. Another 5 hour bus trip, complete with my first encounter with altitude sickness (we went up over the mountains at 4,700 meters).
Upon arriving at the Colca Caynon dropoff point, our guide Vladamir, my friend Cash, five awesome US students (doing a semester at University of Lima) studying abroad, and I decended down the canyon to Oasis/resort at the bottom. A big shout out to Emily, Emma, Katie, Caitlin, and Natalie – great hanging out with you for the past few days! It was brutally hot on the climb down, but the awe-inspiring scenery more than made up for it.
Spent the rest of the afternoon lounging around a pool in a resort at the bottom of the canyon. Easily one of the most surreal moments of my life – swimming in this pool, sleeping in a bamboo bungalo sans electricity, and looking up at 1300 meter-high canyon walls in every direction. Can′t wait to post pictures from this part of the trip.
Woke up at 4:30AM to hike back up the Canyon. I was worried it would be too tough of a climb (as I′ve never really done any serious hiking), but I surprised myself by getting to the top in only an hour and 45 minutes. I have to thank my iPod and my workout playlist, which constantly motivated me to push harder and faster and scale as quickly as possible. I also have to thank the three wild dogs who stayed with me on the whole hike up. I now understand why people climb mountains – the satisfaction and high you get from doing so is incredible. I have to imagine climbing something like Everest is life-changing.
Saw packs of wild llamas – everytime I see a llama or alpacca, all I can think of is Emperor Cuzco from Disney′s ¨The Emperor′s New Groove.¨ It was pretty neat to see thousands of them grazing freely on the mountainside. I expect to get a picture of me trying to high-five one when I get to Cusco.
And that′s just 5 days in, with 10 more to go! Tomorrow we hop on another bus to visit Puno and the floating islands of Lake Titicaca, and then we′re off to Cusco to begin our adventure to Machu Picchu!
Although I was certainly scared, and I′m pretty worn out at the moment, I′m so freaking happy that I took this trip. I′m stepping outside of my comfort zone, doing things I haven′t done (like hiking up a canyon, sandboarding down dunes), eating things I′ve never eaten before (like alpacca – tastes like steak but a little tougher), and exposing myself (not literally) to a culture and place unlike anything I′ve ever seen.
The first journey on my Epic Quest of Awesome is off to a great start!
Until next time.