the RPCV tour: Part II

Greetings from my sickbed in Arequipa, Peru!

Yeah, I got food poisoning. Or something. Anyway, Kait is out at Colca Canyon trekking like a badass while I nurse my Ritz crackers and gatorade but really, this works out for you, relatives who might read this blog, because now I have time to write.

Peru is a dream I never want to wake up from.

From our arrival, we’ve been scooped up into the arms of these incredibly kind, helpful and funny people who marvel at the fact that we’re gringos who do in fact speak Spanish. We ask questions that no one else really asks because we’re trying to understand the way Peruvians move in the world, the intersectionality of indigenous culture and conquistadores, which fish makes the best ceviche and why…our curiosity is our charm, I suppose. We’ve met some characters, that’s for sure.

We were taken from the airport to our hostel by a jolly, English-speaking taxi driver who told us “I lived in the U.S. for 32 years, but I got deported.” When we asked why he said “I sold drugs. But I’m a good boy now. I found God. I cannot lie to you.” His honesty was at least slightly endearing.

Honestly, Lima is a lovely city. We were told by nearly everyone we met that Lima is only worth a stopover, a resting place to get everywhere else. But we found ourselves enchanted by the city. The ride from the airport to our hostel was chaotic in a way that only a city in a developing country can be, and we took comfort in it. The hustle of the people and the complete disregard for traffic laws made us feel at home.

We arrived at our hostel  (1900 Backpackers Hostel…honestly my favorite hostel I’ve stayed in ever. Wonderful staff, comfy beds, beautiful building) and were asked “ya wanna take a ceviche making class?” and we were hungry and it sounded fun. Mauricio, the dangerously handsome hostel chef, took us to the local mercado where he bargained with the señoras for fish, sweet potatoes, ginger, hominy, hot peppers and limes. Kait and I were more than charmed by him and for the price of taking a walk and buying a piece of fish we ate some incredible ceviche that we helped make (and by helped I mean, we peeled some ginger and watched Mauricio cut the veggies like a pro and died a little inside). That night we stayed in for dinner at the hostel just to see what he was making, which really worked out to our advantage because we met other really lovely humans worth pulling all-nighters for.

We spent the next day with another PCV and a friend Kait had met in Patagonia who coincidentally went to my high school (small world right?) and ate ceviche at a hole in the wall (el Cevichero, in mercado Suquillo, go there) and wandered along the coast, which looked like La Jolla, built up on the bluffs, one long stretch of parks and beautiful apartment buildings with garage doors because the people who live in said apartments have cars worth protecting. We got on the night bus to Huaraz feeling dreamy and like Peru was a place we were going to fall hard and fast for.

We arrived in Huaraz at 5 a.m. and made our way to our hostel where the owners were kind enough to let us check in early and let us sleep in a bed for a bit. If you’re ever in Huaraz, stay at La Casa de Maruja. It was a little far from town, but our stroll to the Plaza de Armas was our first act in acclimatization so it works out. Huaraz is very Uyuni-like, it serves as a base camp for backpackers heading to Huascaran National Park, where we spent one day hiking to Laguna 69 (a name that even made us sex educators giggle every time we said it) and then three days doing the Santa Cruz trek and HOLY CRAP, MOTHER NATURE, YOU ROCK. So does the human race. We made friends on both hikes. Actually, we haven’t met an unpleasant person yet on this trip.

Our trekking group consisted of four Americans, three French girls, a Canadian girl and an Israeli couple. Our guide, Jaime was the biggest jokester and we spent most of the three days laughing at each other over just about everything. Unexpected friends are my favorite kind. We got along so well we had a celebratory “we’re finished!” dinner and then three of us took a night bus to Lima together (which in true South American fashion, was three hours late).

We’re in Arequipa now. I mustered myself out of bed to explore the beautiful plaza and drink a banana ginger smoothie from a cute cafe.

I know I mentioned in my last post the feelings of fear/insecurity re: men and I am so grateful that Peru has shown me otherwise. I walked through town today in a sundress (it’s beautiful out!) and not a single person cat called me. On our hike, we walked through a group of men fishing on the river and they greeted us politely with “buen dia!” and made sure we had enough water. Gloria Steinem mentioned in “My Life on The Road” (aka mine & kait’s travel philosophy bible) that machismo is a product of conquistadores, and that within indigenous cultures it doesn’t exist, not even in their language is there a difference between man and woman, their pronouns are neutral. That equality transcends language (in Huaraz, we heard a lot of Quechua on our hikes). I feel safer in Peru than I ever did in Paraguay. It makes me somewhat sad that I’ll always have that little black raincloud over my service, but it warms my heart to know that Latin America as a whole isn’t such a scary place for women. I still have some issues to sort out, but I feel significantly less scared than I did at the start of this trip, and that’s something worth being pretty excited about.

Here’s hoping my body bounces back soon, there’s more hiking to do.

Besos,

H

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