Monthly Archives: July 2014

Peru Diary, Days 3 and 4

The last two days have been all Inca ruins, one glorious hike, and my cold taking a turn for the horrible. To begin at the end, I am feeling pretty gross. My mom gave me some Dominican cold medicine that she laughingly told me would either kill me or make me better. It can’t help that on today’s adventures I inhaled like maybe a fourth-grade classroom’s yearly supply of chalk. I feel a little like an elephant is sitting on my chest.

Yesterday we saw the ruins at Ollantaytambo, which were a religious complex as well as a fortress. Today we saw Maras (a picturesque little town that is pretty much unchanged since colonial times), Moray (an Inca agricultural experimentation station), and Salineras (a really weird-looking collection of salt harvesting pools from which a local community makes its living). All great, wonderful, etc.

But what I really want to remember is this hike I took yesterday. It’s supposed to be a 5-6 hour hike, but I just wanted a little walk to prep my legs for Machu Picchu. If you follow the trail (one of many Inca Trails) to the suggested end, it leads to a series of Inca Quarries and (an?) Intypunku. I decided to hike up for a while and then turn back whenever I started to feel tired. For the first hour, the hike follows the course of the Urubamba river, which is a shade of aqua I don’t think i’ve ever seen before in a river, as it snakes down the valley between Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu. Except for a couple of farmers and two other hikers, I didn’t see anyone else the entire two hours I was up there, which is CRAY because the view was so beautiful that I kept thinking “SHIT!” (articulate!) every time I climbed to a new vantage point. And climb I did…like 400 or 500 meters, judging by how much higher I was than the ruins of Ollantaytmabo across the Valley. Far below me was this bucolic landscape of farms and villages and the railway line that follows the river. The mountains that rise up from that valley floor are practically vertical and covered in dry, goldish grasses and scrub. The rock beneath the thin soil is pink granite. It’s a harsh, semi-arid landscape. The sun is so strong up here! I actually got a sunburn for the first time in years…mostly on my scalp. It was incredibly hot and at the same time, a strong, cold breeze was always blowing, so that I was sweaty and cold at once. Off in the distance, I could see the snow-covered peaks of the Veronica mountains, the tops of which seem to be permanently ringed in filmy, white clouds. I passed a stand of eucalyptus trees, and it reminded me so much of being 20 and walking the Camino de Santiago in Spain… I don’t want to be corny, but the combination of possible oxygen deprivation and memory and the view turned the hike into this sublime, weirdly affecting experience. There came a point when I knew that I should turn around because my head had started aching and I was so cold and sweaty, but I couldn’t stop walking because the idea that I would have to stop looking at what I was looking at–and that I might never see it again afterwards–was unbearable. So I kept going. Finally, the trail took a turn away from the river, and there was this promontory where it was unbelievably windy. So much so that the government or someone had actually put up a covered shelter. I didn’t sit in there obviously. I sat on a big rock (maybe it was one of the ones the Inca famously left behind; Ollantaytambo wasn’t finished at the time the Spaniards conquered the Inca) getting buffeted by the wind at the edge of this precipice. It almost felt like that time I went skydiving, the landscape was so vertical. I was really worried that I was going to start crying, and then I would be one of those people, but thankfully it turns out I am not one of those people. Finally, I decided to go back down.

I mean, is this what made my cold so horrible? Possibly. Am I sorry? Not really.

Peru Diary, Day 2

Today I actually arrived in Inca country. We’re staying in the village of Ollantaytambo, which is as charming as its name would lead you to believe, with little mud-brick and stone houses built on Inca foundations. Almost everywhere, there’s the sound of rushing water, because every other street or so there’s a well-supplied irrigation canal. I think the water comes down from the mountains, which rise up dramatically all around the town. They mountains really loom over these Sacred Valley towns. Above us are two sets of Inca Ruins, one of which is the Inca fortress of Ollantaytambo, where Manco Inca–last ruler of the Inca–made his second-to-last stand against the Spanish. It’s also just, like, super windy here. It sounds like a hurricane outside.

The journey from Lima took up the bulk of my day, and the only remarkable thing about it was the crazy number of Australians on it. Is there anyone in Australia right now? In my experience the Australians are great world travelers, and every time I run into a rabble of Australians I wish they’d stop it. Whenever I see them, off to see the world with their weird hipster clothes, I really get what people find so annoying about Americans. Because they’re just like us: the worst. I don’t even know what the appeal is of being on a tour with 50 other people and you all have to wear a day-glo yellow ribbon on your person and talk like you’re sitting across a football field from each other even when you’re just across the aisle. But I bet those Australians would have yelled it to me if I’d asked.

The drive from Cusco to Ollan was one of my favorite drives I’ve ever been on. The scale of the landscape here is crazy. The way the mountains frame the sky and the winter colors of the scrub and grass that cover the hillsides gave me such a sense of desolation and of being lost in an endless landscape. I feel like an ant.

I wish I could add pictures to these posts, but that seems like it’s going to be beyond the capacities of my current wifi connection.

I am reading a great book about Machu Picchu called “Turn Right at Machu Picchu.”

Peru Diary, Day 1

Dear Diary (and my one reader),

Today I arrived in Lima. The flight itself was pretty nice. I spent most of the flight from Miami talking to a nice man named Ken who was visiting Peru for the 7th time. He had a lot of good suggestions. The conversation hit some real awkward turbulence when he asked me if I was traveling alone, which I think is a super rude question to ask a woman who seems to be traveling alone, because she’ll feel obligated to lie to you and she won’t be good at it, and will probably say something that contradicts some earlier fact about her plans. Because we all saw Taken, and though we understand it was mostly paternalistic xenophobic fear mongering, we don’t want to be that one idiot. Anyway, we got past it.

There was a real tragedy that happened to me at the ATM machine in baggage claim, where Ken pulled out money and then left behind his ATM card. I handed it to him, because I was behind him in line and am just a really great person, and then in the sort of irony that probably gave rise to the phrase “no good deed goes unpunished”, I left my card in there when I was done. I think if I hadn’t been so busy congratulating myself on being helpful, and if Ken hadn’t been distracting me by thanking me, I probably would’ve remembered my card. If I weren’t meeting my parents tomorrow I’d really be in deep shit. I’m thankful I took out the maximum amount of soles (which is, like, a hundred bucks). The card is dead now and it’s all going to be fine, I guess. I hope I am getting all my dumbshit stuff out of the way early. Woo!

I just want to highlight that while I was waiting for my computer to start and connect to the internet so I could see if all my money had been stolen and Skype with my bank, all I could think of was this.

My hotel is nice. It’s in a neighborhood called Miraflores.

Other observations: Lima looks a whole lot like Santo Domingo. The city government here has taken on a monstrous coastal improvement project the scale of which boggles the mind. It’s nice and cold.

Molly Reviews the Flavia De Luce Novels

MOLLY

Good tidings, friends.

Molly recently made her old-person way through Alan Bradley’s Flavia de Luce mysteries, also known as the Buckshore mysteries, also known as the Werther’s caramels of murder mysteries. She didn’t really like them, but she listened to all of them anyway, because when you are old the last thing you need is to learn the names of a whole new group of characters, or for someone to feed you peanut butter for the first time and find the consequences hilarious and then threaten to put a video of it on the internet if you don’t stop rubbing your face on deer poop and dead roaches. If her master chooses to turn her into a tired Youtube cliche, Molly supposes that this latest in a long line of trials must be borne with grace or, at the minimum, by sleeping through it. She’ll be in her bed, which will be under her master’s bed, as she HAS CLEARLY STATED COUNTLESS TIMES. The face she makes whenever her master tries to put it somewhere nice is probably as close to contempt as it is possible for any animal that isn’t a cat to get. At least there are murder mysteries to turn to when the going gets rough.

Anyway. These mysteries.

flavia

Molly should have liked them. After all, they are full of things she likes: British countryside, historical setting (just after WWII), a large, decrepit house, a family fallen on hard times, spunky girl characters, murder…

The problem with the books, Molly feels, is that at one point a chicken becomes a beloved indoor pet. Another beloved pet is a bicycle. These are not pets. Chickens are for chasing, bicycles for ignoring. Everyone knows. And that’s the problem that keeps cropping up: no one acts the way these characters act. Who would let a little girl go gallivanting all over a village in the dark when murderers are around (without a dog)? Who would allow a child to have a chemistry lab after she repeatedly tries to poison her sisters (without a dog)? It’s absurd!

Also, (spoiler) there’s a conspiracy afoot. If there’s one thing Molly has a love/hate relationship with, it’s a conspiracy. People love conspiracies because they give order and intention to what would otherwise be senseless chaos, but as the #1 senseless creature in this household, Molly opposes all of that.

So, Molly gives these books a paw…up? down? No? Actually, she just needs to go outside.