Slade's trip to PeruThis is the first of Slade's emails from Peru.
Members of the trip: Me, Johnny and Catherine (roommates and friends), Kevin and Matt (friends I've climbed with and bar-b-que often with), and Katie (A late addition to the group and Matt's girlfriend)
I'm in the internet cafe in Cuzco, Peru. My view is a beautiful colonial square, the Plaza de Armes. There are two large cathedrals that flank the square and there is always a lot of activity. Right now, it seems like the entire Peruvian youth are gathered in front of the cathedral, dressed in uniforms, and with marching bands. Flags are waving and drums are sounding.
We, my roommate Johnny and I, flew into Lima Sunday evening and immediately took a plane the next morning to Cuzco to meet our three other friends that have already spent a month in South America, mostly in La Paz, Bolivia. We were told that Lima was not one of the great cities to visit, and with the stench of rotten fish greeting us off the plane, we were not disappointed. However, the flight to Cuzco was amazing with views of the Cordillera Vilcabomba. Cordillera is Spanish for mountain range. The peaks were glaciated and jutting up to 22,000 ft. A glimpse of what we have in store during the next couple of weeks.
We arrived in Cuzco tired but glad to see our friends. We started planning over cervezas and decided to skip the Inca trail. There is a much more beautiful trek close to Cuzco that will take us to elevations of 17,000 ft (better acclimatize for future climbing) and circle around Asongati, a peak over 22,000ft. The trek is reported to rival those in Nepal.
We left two days ago on the train to Aguas Calientes, the jumping off point for Macchu Piccu. Aguas Calientes was extremely touristy but all of the busy people begging and selling melted away in the hot springs there. Unbelievable! They were nestled up against the walls of a rain forest valley, with vines, bromeliads, and lush green trees surrounding us. We were thinking, only two days, and look at where we are. Wow!
We woke up early, dawn patrol, and took a bus to Macchu Piccu. A 9-km ride through the rain forest, up long switchbacking roads, to the gateway. We were on the early bus and it really paid off. We were the only ones there for the next couple of hours.
When you see Macchu Piccu in pictures you imagine these mysterious and ancient ruins. It is difficult to describe when the sun is just pouring over the ruins. It is almost like unwrapping a present and then not believing what is inside. We were all in awe... for the entire day.
We were greeted by llamas (probably the most photographed llamas in the world). We walked through the ruins slowly and around every corner something new and amazing was there. I left with more questions than ever about how this ancient civilization was able to create such a city.
After exploring the Royal palace and the Sacristy, Kevin and I played an impromptu game of frisbee in the middle of the ruins. We then hiked up Huayan Piccu, the tall mountain shadowing the ruins to get a better look. Once again, amazing. The ruins are expansive and so beautiful. We ended the day eating Pringles under a tree in the middle of the square and drinking water or agua sin gas.
It was a long day... and turned out to be even longer. We left the ruins, grabbed some dinner in Aguas Calientes and took the five-hour train ride back to Cuzco. A hot shower and to bed.
My impressions of Peru are favorable. There are a lot of traveler and they all seem to be a little bohemian... living for weeks on little or nothing...dreads...hippie clothes...very interesting, almost gypsy like. Everything is cheap and we bargain for prices everywhere. The currency is the Sole=3.5$. We've been paying roughly 15 Soles per person per night for our hotels and 6 to 12 Soles for meals. We've been living large for little. Of course, with the economy here so low, we are constantly accosted by people selling post cards, bracelets, you name it. My friends who have been here for awhile are a little tired of it but I think it adds to the international experience. There are so many foreigners here so I've been practicing my French as well as my Spanish.
Today is a rest day to organize our trek and make arrangements for travel. Cuzco is the perfect city to do so.
The scenery has been out of this world so far... the mountains that we've seen are bigger than anything we've done before. Dad would have loved the stone work and all the lush bromeliads hanging from the stones and trees. It's only been three days... jeeez.
Tomorrow we take a bus and a truck (we'll ride in the back) to Tinqui, the small pueblo from where we begin our five to six day trek. After which, we'll return to Cuzco to go to Huaraz. I'll send another email at that time.
Everything is swell...