Day Three - Huacachina
While eating lunch today a group of musicians played for us. One of them was much older, perhaps in his late 30's. The rest were teenagers. The older dude seemed frustrated with his inexperienced band mates. He was yelling and pointing and getting all red in the face. He looked like a mulleted Jimmy Connors. I drew a cartoon of the scene. Later we rented sand boards and hiked up the hundred foot sand dunes outside of town. We watched the sun set. It was spectacular. The sand boarding, however, was not as enjoyable as the view. After wiping out a few times I had sand in places I didn't even know existed.
Day Four - Nazca
We boarded a collectivo bound for Nazca. It was a vintage Galaxy 500 with snow tires, a diesel engine and a bad exhaust leak. Our fellow travelers (there were seven of us) eerily drifted off to sleep while the diesel fumes washed over us. Needless to say, we kept the windows open. That afternoon we flew over the famous "Nazca Lines" followed by a bus tour of nearby tombs and mummies. There were bone fragments and ancient pottery shards littering the desert along with crushed water bottles and black plastic bags.
kicked out of the band | full drawing
Mummies in the desert | full drawing
Day Five - Arequipa
feeling ill in colca canyon
The windows were sealed tight on the overnight bus to Arequipa. The air got pretty stale with so many snoring travelers. A vendor selling hot corn boarded at dawn. A bottle of wine exploded from the altitude gain. All of these smells mixed together to form a stuffy, sticky, hot buttered fog that made Kim gag.
After the bus ordeal we embarked on the Colca Canyon trek. I was feeling a little better by the time we reached our posada, so I forced down some chicken broth and retired to our cement hut. After moaning and rolling about, I had the heaves. I leapt to my feet and tried to get out of the hut, but the door was jammed. My cheeks filled with hot chicken bile. Kim kicked the door open and I sprayed a stomach load on the lawn. Foooosh! The next day we hiked through the blinding sun and heat. Although we were both sick, it was an incredible place to be. We passed gardens, little towns, elders in traditional clothing, cute little kids, donkeys and sheep.
Day Seven - Arequipa
We rented mules to carry our asses out of the canyon. While riding up the trail, I felt sorry for the wheezing beast I was perched on. He would charge up a section of trail and then stop and fart and piss and wait for the lesser mules to catch up. As we rode, dawn broke, gradually revealing more and more of the spectacularly desolate landscape.
ride in collectivo
Day Seven - Colca Canyon
Soon after embarking on a six-hour bus ride to Colca Canyon I was overcome with waves of nausea and intense abdominal pain. I closed my eyes and bit my lip. "Please Lord", I whispered, "don't let me spray intestinal fluids over all the nice people on this incredibly crowded bus."
The road we were traveling on may have been constructed out of logs, or perhaps boulders. An on-board preacher gave a sermon. A crazy guy gave a rant. Our bus hit a Llama and blew a gasket. This was the longest six hours of my life.
Day Eight - Puno
The ride to Puno was gorgeous. Scattered among the dramatic rocks and ridges were lots of rugged looking herd dogs. When I die, I'd like to be reincarnated as a Peruvian sheep dog... That is, if I have to come back as a dog. When we arrived in Puno, 12,000 feet above sea level, the altitude change hit me in a bad way. The feeling is like doing whip-its when you have the flu. We drank coca tea and it helped a lot.
Day Nine - Amantani Island
We stayed with a wonderful family on Amantani Island. The Calarins were incredibly kind and just as curious about our lifestyle as we were about theirs. They cooked us fried cheese and potatoes, and served us tea made from garden herbs. Amantani was so refreshing. There were no stores or hotels, just simple farms spread out under shady trees and separated by rock walls. That evening, we took a stroll under brilliantly starry skies. Flute music echoed across the valley. I saw the Southern Cross constellation for the first time.
Day Fourteen - Cusco
Poncho man with dog
The first thing we saw is Cusco was a religious parade. The parishioners were carrying an ornate statue of Mary through the streets. They were blasting tubas and dancing in colorful costumes. Some of the men were wearing psychedelic rainbow masks with crosses on the forehead. We spent the afternoon in the Inca museum. It was interesting to learn about the 200 years that the Incas and the Spanish struggled for power. Some Incas were co-opted, some rebelled. There was a curious blend of cultures during this time. The museum featured portraits of Inca leaders posing in Spanish clothing. We also saw a room full of mummies in various states of decay - it made me feel queezy.
Day Sixteen - Cusco
We saw so many craft markets in Cusco that it boggled my mind. We took a bus to Pisac and wandered around the ruins above town. It was pretty amazing. The best part was walking back to town through the terraced fields. I bought a flute and played "The Sound of Silence".
Day Eighteen - Ollantaytambo
The ruins at Ollantaytambo are very inspiring. You can wander around ancient walls and mighty terraces. Maybe you'll find a room with a perfectly framed window. Or maybe you'll find a hidden corner where someone took a dump. There were great clouds of sand flies in the valley below the ruins. They're insidious, clustering around your eyes and ears. Maybe that's why the Incas built their cities on the windy hilltops - to blow the flies away. Here are some other theories I came up with.
Day Nineteen - Agua Caliente
- The Incas liked the view from up there.
- Hilltops provided good defense against intruders.
- They wanted to be closer to the sun god.
- Upper class Incas liked to be higher than lower class Incas.
- The higher class Incas had first access to clean water.
Wow... Machu Piccu! This was the highlight of the trip! I had seen it in pictures, but nothing can compare to actually being there. It was amazing to see how the Incas built the city with such attention to the natural landscape. The setting was simply spectacular. Everything was so well preserved. We had a few moments alone in the Inca astrological observatory at the end of the day. The space has a very powerful, yet grounded energy. I felt as though this was the reason I had traveled to Peru and hadn't known it until just then. It was a profound moment.
Day Seventeen - Ollantaytambo
hotel patchakutek | full drawing
On our way to the ruins at Ollantaytambo we stopped at a craft shop where artists recreate the ancient ceramic techniques of pre-Inca tribes ... (yawn). Kim was in heaven. While she shopped I drank lots of Coca tea with sugar. What a great treat - refreshing, with a pleasant lift. Why isn't it legal in the US? Seriously, it's no worse than coffee.
Day Twenty One - Cusco
Over the last two days we made our way back through Aguas Calientes and Cusco. On our last afternoon in Lima we toured the shopping centers in Miraflores and ate ice cream at a mall overlooking the Pacific. Peru was challenging at times, but overall it was a tremendously enriching experience. Even though we both got sick, and the altitude change was a factor, we felt invigorated by the end of our journey. There's a particular quality of light there and the air is so clear. It feels like the stark landscape is right there, within your grasp - mountains, sky, rocks. Peru weathers you. It makes you stronger, both physically and spiritually.