Due to the encouragement and explicit directions written for me by Geoff, Paul’s nephew, I am going to try to post our Peru adventure as a blog. The blog site was also set up for me by the ever patient Geoff. This way you can go to the blog site when or if you wish too. In addition, I can place our photos alongside the related story. As we will be busy haying, this journal will be drawn out but eventually I will finish, I hope. Nancy
Peru, part one
We are off to Kansas City early this morning on May 8 to board a plane bound for Houston. We have no problems out of KC but our Houston flight is an hour late, in which most of that hour we are sitting on the plane 😦. Despite the delay, we arrive in Lima, Peru at 11:45, only 20 minutes late. Making our way through customs is a piece of cake and a friendly Peruvian is waiting to whisk us away to our hotel. It seems odd that after a seven-hour flight from Houston we are still on Central Standard Time. We arrive at the Allpa hotel which is located in the part of Lima called Mira Flores (considered the safe part of Lima) where we check-in. We briefly admire the large room with its king-size bed before crawling into bed as soon as we wash up and brush our teeth. We have an early start tomorrow!
We are up at 5 a.m. to shower and pack what little we unpacked last night. We eat the breakfast buffet provided by the hotel at 6:30, which is nothing to brag about, gather our luggage and check out. Our driver picks us up at 7:30 and we are at the airport an hour later. Traffic is crazy and the way the Peruvians drive reminds me of India, this is not a compliment. We have another flight delay so our arrival at Arequipa is quite late. When we file into the small airport, someone starts whistling the theme song from Clint Eastwood’s “The good, the bad and the ugly”. I look around to discover the whistler and spot a Peruvian man leaning on the handle of his baggage cart. He smiles at me and points at Paul and his Stetson hat. I begin to laugh aloud along with several other passengers as we find the reference to Paul and his hat quite funny. The man continues to whistle, with uncanny precision, the western movie theme song as we leave the airport.
Our poor driver who has to have been waiting for an hour or better is quite friendly but speaks little English. He drops us at the hotel Monastario San Agustin. We walk through an iron gate into a gorgeous courtyard. There are benches placed on the tile floor and a beautiful fountain graces one end. We later find a garden hideaway in another corner of the grounds filled with potted plants. We are only a few blocks from the main square too. As soon as we settle into our room, we will be off to explore this charming city.
After strolling around the square and doing a little people watching we decide to visit the Museum Santuarios Andinos. No, I can’t pronounce the name either. This museum is dedicated to the subject of Inca human sacrifice specifically that of the famous mummy Juanita. We have an excellent English-speaking guide as most of the signage is in Spanish. I guess what I find most fascinating is that Juanita’s sacrifice and burial took place at the lofty height of 20,000 feet! Can you imagine climbing that height without the benefit of oxygen or any of the cold weather clothes we have today?? The other thing that struck me on this tour and throughout our trip was how the guides always stress that the families of these young girls and the victims themselves considered it the highest honor to be a “chosen” one. Of course, the girls selected for this honor had to be without any flaws, pure and beautiful. Hmm, I wonder if any mothers in that time ever managed to inflict a small but prominent scar on their daughters at birth.
We eat lunch and proceed to the Arequipa cathedral for another guided tour. The young woman explains that the cost of the tour doesn’t include a tip for the guide and it is customary to give 10 or maybe even 15 soles to your guide. We burst out laughing at her precociousness but after the tour, she indeed receives a tip since she did a terrific job. The opulence of the cathedral is overwhelming and we can’t help but wonder what the gold, that seems to encrust everything, would add up to in dollars today. There are centuries old paintings adorning the walls along with intricate wood carvings. I am rather taken aback to find a devil, horns and all in the cathedral! Granted Christ is standing atop the demon and crushing him so to speak but still it seems startlingly out-of-place amidst all the grandeur. We will visit many cathedrals in the days to come and all the silver and gold they contain will continue to astonish us.
As darkness begins to fall, at six p.m., we visit a grocery store on the main square to purchase a light snack for our supper. We wander through the aisles seeing familiar items and some things that are new to us, like different grains and fruits. Bottled water, a banana and bread sticks are among our purchases. This costs us a grand total of 5 dollars or about 13 soles.
Since we leave at 7:30 in the morning, we retire early for a good nights sleep. Well that was the plan anyway. After midnight, we become aware of a constant deep vibrating sound. We decide it must be some type of machine but as we listen closely, we believe we can hear words too. Finally, we determine that there are songs accompanying the persistent beat so we get up and peer out our window. Cattycorner to our hotel, probably two blocks away, neon lights are flashing in time with that annoying “ba-boom” beat. When we open our window, the words of the songs become audible. A dang disco in the heart of this historic square has dashed the hope of a restful night. Paul puts a pillow over his head to muffle the noise and is able to go to sleep. I, being somewhat claustrophobic, can’t follow suit and must listen to this din, always with the same vibrating beat, until 2:30 in the morning when they mercifully shut down.
A few points of interest we have found here so far. Gazing up at a rooftop in Arequipa you will often find a dog looking down at you! The napkins here barely cover the palm of your hand but they give you a half-dozen of them :). You never put the toilet paper into the toilet but in the trash bin next to the toilet. Do you know how hard this is to remember? On occasion, I forget despite the big sign on the wall commanding you not to throw paper in the toilet. I always fear that because of my transgression I will back up the whole sewer system of the city where I’ve committed this crime!!
In my next posting, we will travel through the Andes with our destination being Colca Canyon and Condors.