awake 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



Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6

A view




A trip to Peru

Part 1: Maybe later

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.

But even 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 Arequipa.

Arequipa 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 the journey.

Arequipa 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."

There was 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.

There were 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.

There was 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.

For us, 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.

Part 2: A room named Oskar

this travelogue is part of the subside travelzine
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