Monday, April 2, 2012
Today we awaken to a beautiful morning. We enjoy breakfast on the top floor of our hotel like most hotels in Peru. We don’t forget to drink the Coca Tea! Arequipa is only at 7660 feet above sea level but we are told we will go much higher today! Then we board the same small bus we were on yesterday to travel on our way to Colca. The same set of volcanos appear throughout the morning! The volcano in the first photo is “Volcan Misti”!
Some interesting buildings appear along the way along with the local Police as they survey traffic. In the distance we see what we are told is a concrete factory.
The scenery is ever changing as our bus climbs into the Andes Mountains! A small farming village appears and we wonder at how they live here close to 10,000 feet! A roadside memorial marks the place where loved ones perished.
The bus stops at a roadside stand where vendors display their wares. I end up buying an Alpaca Sweater from a lady who knitted it herself and it turns out to be the warmest sweater I have ever owned! It turns out there are four related animals that each have different fur from which clothing is made here. Llamas, Alpacas, Vicunas and Guanacos all reside here. Guanacos are the most difficult to recognize and we’re not sure if we ever see them. Vicuna have the finest hair and a well made Vicuna Sweater can fetch upwards to $2000 US Dollars!
We are told we are now up around 12,000 feet above sea level and we can tell as we have to take deeper breaths. The scenery is still stunning and the bus stops where a woman is tending a herd of Alpacas and our cameras are entertained once again! There are also Llamas here and possibly some Guanaco.
We travel on and soon our bus stops again and our guide tells us we are at the highest point that we will get to. We are invited to go outside and make an “Apachita” for luck! An Apachita is a stack of rocks on top of each other. While looking around we see a boulder on the roadside that has numbers painted on it. 4910 Meters above sea level it indicates. I do the math and that is 15,997 feet. So I see a small knoll on the other side of the road and suggest to Elee that we build our Apachitas above 16,000 feet. We climb laboriously up the small knoll (a feat that would be simple at sea level) and we each build our own Apachita. We hear a couple of shouts and look over and our guide is summoning everyone back to the bus so we quickly head down to the bus, a big mistake because the air is so thin. I feel like I may pass out as we get to the bus and I turn and look at Elee and the color has totally drained from her face and she literally looks blue. We get seated on the bus and she is coached to breathe deep and slow. The guide get’s out a tank of oxygen that is standard on tourist vehicles here and offers it to her. She declines and slowly recovers. I now know what the expression, “Blue in the Face” looks like and for a short while I am worried for her. But she recovers and the bus travels on.
The bus travels on and we begin to descend in altitude much to our delight. We stop at an overlook where colorful vendors are displaying their goods and we look over Colca Valley. The overlook is at about 13,000 feet and breathing is much easier here. We make a small purchase of some trinket and the vendor smiles sweetly and poses for my camera.
Our bus then descends into the valley below and takes us into Colca and it’s time for lunch. We go to Urinsaya Restaurant where we get our first taste of Guinea Pig, a popular dish in Peru. It is quite tasty yet it is very bony and you have to just nibble at it to avoid the bones. Outside the restaurant, a young boy sits dressed in Peruvian garb with his pet Alpaca and poses for tourist photos for tips. We also see an wall of stone that was intrinsically assembled so precisely as to have no gaps between the stones!
Driving on, we are taken to the town of Yanque (pronounced “Yankee) where we will spend the night. The bus drops Elee and I at the “Killawasi Lodge” where we check in and say goodbye to our new bus friends. It is a very clean and neat place with an open air restaurant that has windows for stormy weather. Our room is plain yet very comfortable.
The lady who checks us in to the Lodge is very personable and offers to take us on a tour of the town and we take her up on it. We walk about and see how people live in this part of the world and it is eye opening to say the least. Many houses have actual grass roofs and are very impoverished. In the center of town, there is a church and other important buildings. Our guide points out a side road and tells us it is very scenic. We bid her goodbye and thank her for the tour and head out along the road she indicated. Sure enough, it is a pretty walk. We pass by a building that looks like it will collapse any minute with bulging windows that appear to be ready to burst and we see a sign on it indicating it is a local restaurant. We don’t choose to dine there!
Walking further on, we come across a river with wildflowers along it and my camera smiles. Then some people approach us and it is a family with workers returning from the fields, their mules laden with the days bounty. It is such a sight and I point my camera and take a photo of the older lady dressed in native Peruvian garb and she scowls at me. We have been warned this whole trip that if you take a photo of a person, you must offer them a “Tip”. So I reach in my pocket and pull out a coin and hand it to the lady. She is not satisfied and approaches me with her hand out, saying, “Uno Mas, Uno Mas!” (One More, One More!). She looks upset but I see her as charming. So I pull out another coin and hand it to her and she is pleased. Laughing as I walk away, knowing I have a very fun shot of her!
“Uno Mas, Uno Mas!”
We head back and eat dinner at the restaurant at Killawasi Lodge and retire for the night, knowing we are getting up very early tomorrow!