Thursday, June 3, 2010

Lima and Marcahuasi

So, we woke up in Huaraz, bid farewell to the hospitable grandma and walked to the edge of town. After a few hours of waiting, a classic peruvian truck pulled over, the one used for transporting cows. It was empty, and we climbed up onto the ¨mom´s attic¨, the part of the box overhanging the cabin. The wind was blowing in our faces and through our ears, the locals all of a sudden turned all friendly and waived to us as we flew by them. The snow-capped peaks were passing by on the horizon and the road weaved it´s way through the narrow valley. The quality of the pavement left much to be desired though. Huge pot holes, livestock on the road and sometimes chunks of road missing due to wash outs made driving very tricky. Our driver was of the best kind, he weaved around cows and donkey, but he had to break hard often to avoid hitting pot holes. These maneuveres almost catapulted us a few times from our nest, but we held with all fours and kept one eye on the road and the other on the landscape. It was difficult, but rewarding.
The truck dropped us off in a small town, we walked across it and installed ourselves for another long wait. It was around 4 pm and the sun was approaching the horizon when a brand new Lima-bound sedan stopped. There was a middle aged couple and a man inside. The couple have immigrated to Virginia a decade ago, and now were visiting their cousin in Peru. They spoke bad English and wanted to show off in front of their cousin, so we kept talking in a mixture of languages. They seemed quite interested in talking at first, but as the sun went down and the topics exchausted themselves, they fell silent. It was another four hours until Lima, and the atmosphere inside got stuffy and uncomfortable. We asked them to stop so we could call our contact in Lima, but our request was ignored, as if we have not said anything. We asked where is a safe place to be in Lima at this late hour (around 11), but they did not know, even though they lived there... On top of that, the driver was driving very badly on the nighttime straight desert highway. At this point we decided to leave this ride as soon as we could. The people in the car were obviously releived when we asked out at a tall booth, in the middle of the desert, an hour away from Lima. It was the first ride that we have ever intentionally abandoned!
Their red lights faded in the night and we went to chat with the policemen on duty. They showed us where we could pitch our tent and gave us some food. We were happy as could be, falling asleep in the desert that night.
In the morning, it was easy to get to Lima, which assaulted our nervous systems badly. The traffic was just crazy. We were in a mini-bus, that was racing through the grid-locked streets. George made a mistake sitting in the front seat, so he saw all the close calls. On top, there was loud dance music blaring from the speakers, driver cursing at everything, simultaneously honking and flooring the gas pedal. Imagine all that after a calm night in the desert!
We had a CouchSurfing contact in Lima. We had high hopes for it, but we should have not expected much. As it turned out, sleeping or taking hot showers were not part of the program. The hosts were very fond of pisco, a local 48% sugar-cane liquor, and they got very loud and drunk up until 3 or 4 in the morning. Plus, there simply was no hot water in the house. The nights got pretty chilly, and a cold shower in the morning was rough. Three sleepless nights was all we could bear, so we decided to leave our hosts and take a trip to Marcahuasi, a near-by high mountain plateau, reputedly a magnetic anomaly and an esoteric point of interest.
We spent next four tranquil days up at 4200 meters above sea level, admiring the mountain landscapes.The town of San Pedro sits at only 3500 m, and it was from this Nepal-looking town that we had to hike the remaining 4 kms to the Marcahuasi ¨stone forest¨.The trek was exchausting. We have not properly acclimatized before hiking, so we had to stop and recuperate every 50 steps or so. We gained almost a kilometer of altitude hiking only 4 kms. It took us 5 hours.
Once at the top, we found a beautiful camping spot and sat down. The effect of the altitude were strongly evident. A walk to the latrine and back left us breathless. Bending over for a piece of firewood made the head spin.The area was heavily used by people, and there was very little firewood available. A stick the size of a pinky finger was considered a log. On the second day we decided to do like the locals do, and burn dry cow dung scattered in large quantities all around the plateau. It burned very well indeed and left us with hot coals in the morning. We boiled coca tea on our little fire of prickly sticks and dung cakes.
The four kilometer wide plateau did not leave us bored, and we explored the ruins and natural landcapes for a few days.Anastasia naively decided to sun bathe one day. 15 minutes of high altitude sun was enough to make all the exposed bits glowing red. Suntanning at 4200m without a sunblock hurts!
We are back in Lima, waiting for a parcel from home. It contains a new pump for our stove, and as soon as we have it, we are moving on.

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