Fiestas Patrias is the equivalent to the 4th of July here in Peru. As volunteers we get “free vacation days”, mainly because it wouldn’t matter if we wanted to work the majority of people stop everything and celebrate. I and another volunteer Ellie had some of our other vacation days free to use so we took one and headed to the big city, Lima.
Once we got there the good times started to roll. First things first we had Dunken Dounuts and sat and used their awesome internet! We proceeded to McDonalds and I had a Big Mac Fries and a Coke. Unfortunately we should have started small, cause so much rich food in that short frame sent my stomach into freak out mode. BUT nothing could slow us down we had been dreaming of this vacation for weeks and we still had shopping to do. So we headed to the individual stores got tired and headed to the mother land, Jockey Plaza Mall where there is a Chili’s, TGIF, Subway and so many more good places to eat but my personal favorite (in Peru) STARBUCKS!!!! In the duration of 2 days I had Starbucks 4 times. A bit obsessive I know but going months without properly prepared Carmel Macchiato I just had to get as many as possible. Anyways as you can tell our trip to Lima was primarily to stock up on American food and drink until we come back to Lima for Mid-Service Checks.
Next we went to the Ancash Mountains (The Andes), Huaraz. Huaraz has a spectacular view of Huascaran Mountain, this mountain people use to train for Everest. It is the highest mountain in Peru and more or less the only place you will see snow. So we got in and then so did the rest of the group: Kate from Cajamarca, Alison from Piura, and Julie from Lambayeque. We were only missing Sonnet from Tumbes but her bus came in a day later. Of course the first thing we did after hugs was find food. (If you can’t tell what I and others miss the most is FOOD). In Huaraz there is a café called California Café where they have bagels, waffles, eggs and bacon etc. So it was a lovely way to start the day. We got information on some “beginners” hikes. Spent the rest of the day moseying around, then met up with another volunteer from our group, Matt. For dinner we either had good Mexican food or Thai. Yum!
I said “beginners” hike earlier because of the following story/ disaster for me particularly but the group in general. After talking with the guide agency we felt secure that we could do this hike on our own without a guide. Got up at 5 AM to get a combi, which took us an hour into the trip, in that same combi another white looking couple was there. When we got off to get a taxi we absorbed them into our group (cheaper and faster to fill up cars with 7). We get a taxi up into Huascaran National Park. Obviously we ask about the couple, they were from the Czech Republic. They had already done Churup hike the day before. Anyways we get to the starting point of the hike. Our driver tells us it is a good 3 hour hike, after the first small laguna (lake) it is 30 minutes farther. The Czech couple stayed behind to eat breakfast. We started and 30 minutes later the Czech couple passed us hahahahaha. That should have been our first sign. We go and go for another hour and finally take a good 5 minute break to refuel.
There was our second mistake because before we were powering through and from there on we needed small breaks every 10-15 minutes, yes the hill got steeper as well but oh man did the going get rough. Almost at 3 hours in we reach the first small lake and we think thank God we are almost there and take another break. This break in particular was for me. I don’t know if I just did acclimatize well or I’m just that out of shape (even though I started running 2 months ago to prevent just that) but my body shut down. I mean yes it was hard to breathe but that wasn’t my main problem nor sore muscles, it felt like I had no muscles. But I didn’t want to bring the group down or be so weak so I said charge on McGruff I’m going to make it 30 minutes more and I truly think I can because the path levels out and then I see it the mountain we still have left to climb. The path seems to split in 2 directions at first we try the one on the right because it isn’t a steep uphill climb of course that isn’t it. We go back down and there are these old run down stone houses. We pass them and start that massive climb I get a few minutes in and know that there is no way I’m making it to the top without collapsing. So I get my sandwich and head back down. Now there are these 3 cows grazing just below that start my way and follow me for a minute. I think they are gone but oh no just after I find a nice covered place to sit here come these cows and they are not afraid of me…and want my sandwich. So I move around a couple of times and still they follow. I’m tired, mad and disappointed in myself and now these cows won’t leave me alone. So I jump on top of the stone wall and walk until I see a nice little place where I don’t think the cows can get in. I’m right! I start eating and the snow starts falling. Around 30 ish minutes later I see my friends coming back down the hill yelling that it was the other way. So they start yelling at people behind us that it is the other way but one group has a guide and by the time my friends are to my hiding place he is telling everyone that it really is the way the girls just came. So we decided to just picnic next to the small lake. Kate did a lake jump into the freezing cold water and once again it started to snow. How many people can say they had a picnic in the snow?
We get down and back and of course have to wait for the car and the Czech couple. On the ride back we asked if they made it, of course they did. Yet they ruined all goodwill from us by saying they made it up in 40 minutes with stopping and if we had really wanted it so could have we. Making it seem even worse that I stopped so early and they didn’t reach the finish line. Oh well I failed but had a good time doing it. Haha. When we got back we were so tired the lights were out by 9:45 pm.
Next morning we got breakfast and then headed out to Katie and Ben’s site to make lunch and see their community. Wow is it pretty there but I don’t think I want to live there. I think the mountains would get old or less amazing due to close proximity. We had awesome lentil burgers and sweet potato fries. Yum yum yum. It was so great to just hang out with friends and have no agenda but to eat and talk. In site you can relax anytime you want but it is always by yourself and you know that at any moment someone might want something or another and no matter what it will be said in another language. So if nothing else that one day made the vacation.
That night we took an overnight bus to Trujillo. Got in super early so we spent a couple of hours on the couches of the Peace Corps Hostel there…woke up to young boys staring at us. Haha. As the day progressed we got to see Cristina. With Cristina we went and had either an awesome salad (me) or good rotisserie chicken and to top if off went to see The Dark Knight Rises!!!!! Oh man do I love those movies. Such emotion! Anyways to say that our trip was successful and full of fun is an understatement. Now a week back in site it seems like the first month were I was fresh with ideas and enthusiasm so hopefully the next step taken will be a full-fledged project! I’m bursting with vacation optimism. Ah haha.
And on a random last note I have killed and plucked my own chicken to eat...I can now live in the wild! haha