Leaving the coast
Woke up before the crack of dawn to get a taxi to the bus station. I was worried about not arriving in time but in the end had enough time to go around the block to get a sandwich. I had a bit of food with me but it was an 8 hour ride and the ticket agent said that the bus doesn't stop for food. I had to be prepared! Well, the joke was that when we arrived at the second station in north Lima
to pick up more passengers, vendors came on the bus selling sandwiches, drinks, snacks, newspapers. Then in an hour we stopped again and yes, more vendors. Then at the halfway point we stopped for lunch for a half hour! Silly me, to worry about a lack of food in Latin America? Impossible!! I should have known better and I was laughing at myself.
Leaving the coast
The usual chaos surrounded the bus on the way out of Lima. Absolute crazy poverty and grime and insanity. I was dead tired and feeling so sick so I didn't take photos. As we got onto the coastal highway going north, the hills closed in until we were facing the ocean to the left, with a straight dropoff, and on the right a wall of densely packed dark brown sand stretching hundreds of meters high. The fog was swirling all around us and the sheer wall with no peak in sight was almost surreal. It was like a ghostly lunar landscape. In parts, the smooth sand wall gave way to isolated eroded mounds and made it look even more like something from a science fiction film.
After a couple hours we turned inland through a dusty town and finally saw green fields and cultivation.
Road to Huaraz
Apparently the whole coast of Peru is completely dry and arid except where it's punctuated by the river valleys that have their source in the Andes. In the valleys there is life and greenery. We were to follow this valley up up up ascending to more than 3,000 meters by the time we arrived in Huaraz
. At the stopoff for lunch I met some other foreigners on the bus and we sat at the same table. There was Magda from Bolzano in northern Italy, Caroline from Germany near Dresden and Katie from Pennsylvania. Caroline and Katie had been studying Spanish in Arequipa
in southern Peru and were traveling together before leaving for home.
Entering the mountains
Magda had spent 6 months in Huaraz teaching kids with an NGO and was returning to visit. German, English and Spanish were switching on and off at the table as we tried to find common ground. When we got on the bus I talked with Magda in Italian for a while but it's rusty and mixed with Spanish now. I speak Spanglitalian and some Peruvians have asked me, "Andrew, is your family Italian?" "No, why?" "Well, you speak Spanish like an Italian would"! I guess it will always be that way, but it makes for amusing conversation sometimes. I don't mind. Magda mentioned that as much as she loves travel, she feels that with each journey she loses her sense of "home" a little more. The more possibilities, the harder to choose and settle down in one place.
Mountains and valley
I agreed with her completely and voiced my sense of being a man without a country sometimes. It can be unsettling and frightening. Sometimes, I think we travel for the very reason of not having to come to terms with that decision of settling down.
As we got higher, the lady across the aisle from me started to get sick from the altitude. She vomited into a bag and I felt so bad for her. I gave her some tissues and she mopped her face and looked miserable. Her little girl clung to her the whole way. Another boy named Maria came to the back of the bus and Magda was trying to help him. Did he need the bathroom or was he sick? We didn't know. She tried to comfort him until finally he threw up too, the poor thing.
He was crying in Magda's lap but finally recovered and went back up to the front to sit with his parents. I gave some chocolate to the little girl and to a young girl in the seat in front and to her mother. A few minutes later there was a timid tap on my shoulder and the girl was offering me some candy from a little plastic orange jack o lantern that said "Happy Halloween" on it. I started talking to her and once she lost her shyness she became little miss chatterbox. She rattled on and on and was laughing and talking a mile a minute. I couldn't resist taking some pictures. She was a doll. I hope I can teach some kids and work with some kids here in Peru or in South America. I just love them :)
Once in Huaraz I called Caroline's Lodging, a hostel recommended by several travelers, and the owner came to pick me up along with Caroline and Katie, who needed a bed for one night.
Entering deeper valleys
He couldn't have been friendlier and we felt immediately at home. The hostel cost 10 soles a night (about $3) with free breakfast! We quickly met other travelers who told us about their treks and journeys and then decided to go out for some dinner. Caroline said she was "hangry". "You mean 'hungry'?" I asked. "No, HANGRY. It means hungry and angry!" I told her I was going to adopt that term since that's how I get when I get hungry! We walked into town and got some chicken and soup and salads. I ate light since it was recommended when adjusting to altitude sickness. I had a headache from the early afternoon and that was a symptom of soroche, as the sickness is known here. Other symptoms are nausea, decreased appetite, shortness of breath and trouble sleeping.
I was experiencing all of those except nausea, in small measure. I did go back into to town for a little while since it was the 150th anniversary of Huaraz that night and there was a stage set up with singing and presentations and such. But the headache persisted and I had been up since 6 am so it was time to try to get some sleep.