Down the street from our hostal the road aligns with some hillside drawing reading, “Viva El Peru Glorioso” [long live glorious Peru].
Went back to our juice lady in the market. Stall number 76, which is unmarked, but logically located besides marked stalls numbers 77 and 78. here for 3 Soles or a dollar you can get 3 glasses of pure blended fruit and natural fruit juice.
At one of the many market restaurant stalls you can also get extremely cheap food and eat next to locals. A friend I made on the bus told me even some Peruvians don’t trust the food but plenty of people are there eating so I have now risked it many times. For a dollar or so you can get a huge bowl of soup, rice, potatoes, salad and meat with a drink.
After eating I wanted to get a view from up above, looking down over the city. I walked up a street near the central market, crossing some railroad tracks and continuing up past some Adobe houses and crumbly ruins of shanty homes. The economic resource of the street seemed to decrease with every block upwards until eventually a lady, sitting with family or friends asked where I was going. I said to the top and she offered to accompany me, saying its dangerous and that I could be robbed or worse. I wasn’t sure what would be more dangerous, walking alone or if she would lead me to a trap so I figured the safest way was back down from where I came. It turns out i later walked down through the same are with no problem from a bus station.
The people here despite how much garbage can be seen on the streets, really seem serious about littering. The sign reads, “littering prohibited under penalty of beating”. i was sure not to drop any trash along my way.
The following day Weronika was planning a seemingly, unnecessarily dangerous trip 5 hrs by car and 5 hrs hiking to visit the village of a friend of a friend of a friend. my intuition said no so i made plans to go to Machu Picchu taking a more adventurous and cheaper option. first you take a locals bus to Santa Maria. The bus station is in a sort of sketchy part of town and you have to get the first bus possible [730am] heading towards Quillabomba. Online i read that there was a 530am bus so i woke up and took a taxi at 430 in the morning but ended up just sitting around in teh cold bus terminal, basically a tiny wharehouse building. there were all types of people with boxes and bags and indigenous women with the blankets tied around them into a sort of makeshift backpack in the way they do. there were women selling bread and outside a little cart selling juice and cheese sandwiches which I ate 2 of. A half hour later an Asian backpacker came in to buy a ticket also. Tumi was from Korea and was also taking the cheap way to Machu Picchu so we chatted for a while waiting for the bus to finally leave at 830. The ticket only cost 15 soles despite being a 5-6 hour trip. outside the bus a woman untied a sack and a rooster poked his head out and began eating bread from the woman’s hand. I started talking with a teenager and then a 20 year old kid beside me who was from a small village. He was so curious about the United States and asked me question after question about the most silly things but for someone with little contact other than TVand internet it must have been a cool experience for him to hear about my country. Along the journey he would point out the window and say over there that [name of pueblo] or not far from here there are some great ruins. another strange aspect of the bus trip were the people who would get on the bus at polverous little towns and try to sell products or food. My Peruvian seat mate explained what all of the foods were but we didn’t buy any. I was sort of dizzy because I didn’t have my Dramamine available. When I got on the bus the floor was covered in dust now along the way i understood why, the bus was bouncing around on gravel pathways curving around mountains until we entered the Sacred Valley and as we climbed back up out of the valley towards Santa Maria.
At one point an hour or two from our destination the bus came to a halt and the engine cut off. the doors opened and people began poking their heads out of the windows to see what was going on. it was then obvious we would be a while so we all got out while we waited around for the construction crew to finish doing their maintenance. During the 3 hour wait women pulled out food from i’m not sure where and set up a makeshift restaurant, stringing a tarp from some branches to shade them while they served us rice and chicken. The whole event reminded me of the story “El autopista del Sur” by Julio Cortazar Eventually When we got close to Santa Maria, in order to let the driver, who was down below us, know that we wanted to get off we had to stomp on the floor and he would know we want him to stop the bus.
Tumi and I got out of the bus and just like the internet article explained there were private taxis waiting to take us up from Santa Teresa to the hydro electric plant. a guy approached us and herded us to his car. It was a tight fit but me, Tumi, Jessia and Olivia [twins from Boston] managed to squeeze into the back seat while the girls Barcelonian friend Fernando took the front seat. another 15 Soles out of my pocket and I was again moving. The shoddy taxi rattled over the pothole filled dirt road, occasionally splashing through knee deep streams of water that cut across the road. we would get behind a slow car and have to roll up the windows to not be choked out by the blinding cloud of smoke that threatened to mislead the car off the cliff. after relentless honking eventually the car would make enough room for us to sneak past without incident. I was sitting on the edge closest to the precipice but felt not much danger, the taxi drives the same road day in day out so he knows what he was doing, at least I hoped.
When we made it to Santa Teresa we had to buy some flashlights because we were going to arrive at hydroelectrica at night fall and we still had a two hour hike in front of us. when we got out of the taxi and grabbed our things there were several people standing around looking like they had no real purpose and I was sketched out that we were going to be followed. The hike from the plant was following the railroad tracks through a remote 2 hour forest and mountain environment. As the 5 of us got walking Fernando turned to me out of earshot of the girls and said when we turn the corner stay in the back and just make sure we aren’t being followed. seeing Fernando’s alertness I felt fairly comfortable with the hike but the girls seemed pretty clueless, making too much noise and turning on the flashlights when there was still plenty of light to see.
Along the path there were unseen boulders to be tripped over, holes, fallen logs, little bridges where you had to walk on the railroad ties with gaps we could have fallen through. then there was a big rusty metal bridge with a footpath on its side but the rivets holding down the metal sheets that formed the walking surface had all been removed or popped loose. Every step caused the sheets of metal to make crazy noises and bounce, giving the illusion that they were going to become dislodged and allow us to fall to the rocky river below.
we finally made it into Aguas Calientes where we would spend the night to hike up to Machu Picchu in the morning. Jessica had made a reservation for a hostal but didn’t realize she reserved one in Aguas Calientes, Mexico so we found a place with availability.
The girls had a separate ticket that allowed them to hike Huayanapichu and the three of us guys had just the basic ticket. they didnt want to wake up so early but
At 630 I headed out to hike up the 410 Meter elevation change from about 2,000 meters to 2,400 meters. I took the stairs for the first hour or 45 minutes but each step is about a half meter high and at that altitude I had to stop and rest after each 30 steps. After some time though I couldn’t take the stairs and just followed the dirt road the buses use to shuttle people to the top.
Eventually I made it, exhausted and sat down to draw. When I looked over i saw Joahanna, who i met on the bus to Cuzco. She lives in Ica, Peru working on Social issues. we hung out walking around for a while but i got really shaky and light headed. I guess I didn’t eat enough the energy spent getting up there and the altitude combined were a strong combination.
I had to head down by bus because I didn’t feel well enough to hike down but I met a really nice Jewish woman who has a grand daughter in Huaraz who is running a hostal on calle Sucre number 955. She told me to go there and say she sent me and I will be invited to dinner if not also to stay there.
when I made it to the bottom of the hill i went to get food and found my 50 Sol bill torn. after eating i tried paying but they wouldn’t accept it so the woman followed me to the bank to withdraw money and ask where i could exchange teh destroyed bill.
then i went to the hostal where i was staying to reserve another night but teh woman working was nowhere to be found. only her lazy teenage son was and he wouldn’t even sit up from the couch to speak with me. after trying to overcharge me then saying he didn’t have change and wouldn’t go get any i walked out and found another hostal which had a cool view over the river which filled the room with the sound of rushing water all night.
The following morning i woke up at 6 and started my hike back to Cuzco in the reverse way as i had arrived, this time only in day light and alone. an hour into the walk i met a cool Argentinian couple with whom I shared a taxi back to Santa Maria.
When I got to Santa Maria this time instead of a bus I shared a private van. I couldn’t believe who i saw when I got to the van; It was Tumi and Fernando. we paid 25 soles and got on the road. The driver was a maniac, on the first turn he took the tires were squealing, he drove like a rally racer with little experience, taking corners way too fast, passing cars on blind curves and taking it way too hard on the brakes for such a long trip down hill. i thought he was going to burn them out for sure. A few hours into the trip we stopped for food and he put water on the front brakes and there was a huge cloud of steam as all the cars we raced to pass came steadily past us. some how, miraculously we all made it back to Cuzco alive.