above the clouds - a trip to Peru: the rhythm of the Inca trail, the
cool in the shade of the Andes, the sight of Machu Pichu, the spirit
of the Sacred Valley, Peru, Inca trail, Machu Pichu, Andes, Arequipa,
Cusco, Sacred Valley, travelogue, trip, travel, hike, trek, ruins
All available flights to Peru landed in the capital city,
Lima, so we were forced to go there even though our interests
lay in other parts of the country. Arriving after midnight
with an early morning flight to the second largest city, Arequipa,
we decided it was just too much bother to take a long taxi
ride into the city and rent a room for a couple of hours before
taking a taxi back to the airport. It was a miserable night
trying to catch some sleep on the hard plastic seats in the
waiting area. I think they were designed to prevent a person
from lying down.
worse was the Muzak tape that played loudly on the intercom
over and over all night long. We were tired but happy to see
the sunrise and board the ageing jet for a short flight to
was another destination that we didn't really want, but we
felt that it was a necessity. Coming from our home literally
at sea level, Arequipa (2300 m) was supposed to be just a
place to walk for a few days and let our bodies acclimatize
before we continued on to Cusco (3,339 m).
But to our
surprise, we immediately felt very much at home there and
we had great fun exploring the city on foot. We were so impressed
by the Peruvians that we met, with their wonderful faces and
smiles. In the very first shop doorway I looked in, upon leaving
the hotel, was of a quietly charming little girl in a hat
with a beautiful face. That was the first photo I took on
was a low-pressure city. Even the hustlers who tried the hard
sell to get us to try a tourist restaurant, or to change money,
or to buy something, didn't try very hard. The hard sell soon
would melt into a smile and they would say, "Maybe later."
a delightful little bakery across from our hotel, where you
could sit in an open air alcove beside the busy street, eating
fresh little loaves of bread with butter, drinking coffee
and watching the policeman directing traffic, wearing a white
pith helmet, standing up on a platform in a little gazebo
in the center of the intersection.
a lot of interesting sights, some of them tourist attractions
like the colonial architecture of the Plaza de Armas, but
many of them not.
In the evening,
the streets were crowded with people socializing, street vendors,
beggars, and children. Lots of little eateries opened along
the street near the hotel, and they would do the cooking right
at the entrance so you could see what and how they were cooking.
We walked around Arequipa, to different neighborhoods, visiting
an old museum with a moldering natural history collection
and fascinating exhibits from colonial and pre-colonial history.
We were deeply moved by that famous mummy, Juanita, who is
so much more beautiful in person.
the grime and old fading paint of developing countries, of
course. Poverty, beggars, and other sad cases. But
even some of those of minimal means had a wonderful inner
light, as revealed in a photo of my lover with an old woman
who sat on the sidewalk each evening with some wares for sale.
And there also were artists who produced beautiful weavings
and other creations, and street performers at intersections,
and a city filled with industrious and clever people going
about their lives.
there were the joys of experiences like walking past a seafood
restaurant one morning when a man arrived on a kind of bicycle
with a human powered knife sharpening grindstone in back.
He sharpened all the knives for the restaurant. We asked,
but he didn't want his photo taken. But then, a lot of good
memories are best stored in the mind and heart instead of
on film or as digital images. We were so comfortable in Arequipa,
we were sad to leave, but the Andes awaited.