The city of Lima made for a good beginning spot to plan our route and chart our course for the next five weeks..oh wait, scratch that, maybe the next five days:) We spent a bit of time talking with the other travelers, creating and recreating our path with each conversation.."Oh, you said Bolivia is beautiful?"..and just like that Bolivia has found its way onto the calendar and has made the "things to tick off" list even better. Lima summed up: Brutal sun = ridiculous sunburn on day two for this gringa...oops. But before that, I had a really great chance to meet up with my beautiful cousin, Sandra Swan, who just happened to be here visiting her parents, who live about 5 minutes from my hostel. Such an awesome thing to be able to connect with family across the ocean in Peru, when I don't even get to see them often enough in the states..thank you for taking the time to share some of that beautiful Peruvian heart and spirit with us cousin:) Lastly, La and I are convinced that the most magical ice cream in all the world, exists in the form of an Oreo milkshake from a little spot called La Lucha. Yep, you heard me...it's the gelato of South America..but, better! Pretty certain we could eat one these babies for desayuno, almuerza y cena every single day. And that's Lima.
Next up...a night bus 8 hours north to a town called Huaraz. After a bit of research, we established there are three bus companies to choose from..we picked the one with the best safety recommendations and the comfiest semi-cama (semi-reclined beds) and hopped aboard. We were dropped off among the dusty, sleepy village streets of Huaraz at 7:30 AM. Armed with our trusty offline Spanish translator app, our broken and comical Spanish attempts, and a few fabulous games of charades with the locals, we slowly navigated our way to a suitable hostel. A quick glance around the town revealed that Huaraz has just as many stray dogs as it does citizens of the human kind. Dogs on rooftops, dogs in alleyways, dogs in windowsills, dogs chasing cars and bikes...these dogs ruled the streets and apparently the night as well as we found out late that evening when we drifted to sleep to the sounds of a 101 Dalmatian-esque doggy serenade. Ah, such a peaceful lullaby.
We had not yet made reservations and were happy to find they had room to house us for a few days. We walked into the hostel that morning feeling quite ambitious and adventurous. We arrived at 7:45 and by 9:00 we had secured a bed, unloaded our things and freshened up, eaten breakfast and chatted with the owners, and booked a day trek to see a glacier. At 9:15 we literally flung ourselves aboard a moving bus en route to the glacier known as Pastoruri, with a Peruvian man waving wildly at us through the open door. Elevation of Artesia, NM: 3,380 ft. Elevation of Dallas, TX: 1,368 ft. Elevation of Pastoruri Glacier in Peru: 17,200 ft. Fun fact for those who are as geographically challenged as we are: apparently before embarking on a trek into lands of extremely high elevation, one is meant to spend at least a day allowing ones body to acclimate to the changes in geography...for some still unknown reason, these ones decided to simply ignore this sage little nugget of advice. Instead, we chose to trust in the words of our host, who when asked about the effects of altitude sickness, responded with "Ohhh, es all en su cabeza..you be fine!" Turns out he was wrong and the physiological truths of science were correct. Annnd...cue the most pathetic trek of La and Sta ever witnessed. After two hours of winding mountainous terrain we stepped off our bus to discover that our feet were suddenly not attached to our bodies anymore, but were instead replaced with massive blocks of lead dangling from a pair of spaghetti noodles that used to be our legs. And not only was it difficult to figure a way to move these lead blocks called feet, but it was suddenly beyond difficult to even see where to place them as our visual field was now filled with exciting little grey spots to chase after. Tack on the presence of an explosive headache, nausea, shortness of breath and difficulty concentrating and you have the textbook version of altitude sickness my friends. Yaaay!! And hang on, let's take a quick minute to talk about the little man who was trying to sell us a meager 3 wadded up squares of toilet paper for 1 sole as we are both stumbling toward the bathrooms, desperately trying to hold everything together. Yeah, by this point we are the true image of classy.
Prior to the trek, I had purchased a sack of coca leaves (a piece of advice I did choose to acknowledge). These guys are meant to minimize the effects of altitude sickness when you chew them. We nibbled a few and I tucked them safely into my jacket with big plans to return to them for a mid-trek snack. However, as we worked our way up the first 20 feet of the trail, the need for the leaves grew quickly and I reached for them, only to discover an empty space where they had once been. I left La sitting on a rock with her head strategically resting between her knees, gathered up my spaghetti legs and went in search of our beloved leaves. I attempted to carefully retrace our steps...left foot..right foot...left foot..cheering myself on and congratulating myself on each successful yard gained. But it grew increasingly difficult to concentrate and I was suddenly astonished at how tricky it was to determine the difference between what might be a pile of rocks or what could be our bag of leaves. I worked my way through a tiny, muddy and mucky trail with about 7 tents assembled on each side where some villagers were working on some construction projects and others were set up camp trying to sell their wares to the daily trekkers. I raised my eyes to see one of these villagers enjoying some tasty bits from a bag of coca leaves. I asked in my slurred, altitude sickness, gringa influenced Spanish if she had any more for sale. She quickly shook her head no and it was then that I realized those were my tasty bits of coca leaves she was enjoying! What?! She had found them and claimed them as her own. Grrrr!!! Ah well, I said, and I meandered slowly back to La and we resumed our pitiful pseudo-drunken hike. I'm not sure I have ever felt so disconnected from my body before, ever. My sickness gradually lessened, but poor La struggled quite a bit to shake the sickly haze. Ok ok, science..we get it. Lesson learned.
Altitude sickness aside, I spent the day in absolute awe of our magical surroundings. It was my first encounter with the majestic snow-capped mountains of the Andes and it was an experience I will never forget.
Next up...the "tengo tango" and the beautiful connections of the heart spoken with and without a common language.
Travel makes it impossible to avoid the ignition of something within the heart to see more..to do more..to be more..to give more.