Somewhere between Arequipa and Colca Canyon.

Somewhere between the city of Arequipa and Colca Canyon I looked out the bus window and saw this beautiful sight.  I knew I had to snap it even though conditions weren’t ideal.  The weird segmented “creature” in the water just left of center is a reflection of my watch band off the window.

On the right side of this photo is El Misti, Peru’s best known and most active volcano.  Its proximity to Arequipa (about 16 kilometers) would mean a major disaster for that city should it have a major eruption.  It’s had many rumbles over the years but no major eruption in about 2,000 years, although our guide kept making reference to a big one about 500 years ago, and I did find data to back that up.  As usual, internet “facts” are only as good as their source and I’m not skilled at weeding out the bad info.  Nor am I so inclined today.  If our guide is any indication, the citizens of Arequipa take a rather fatalistic attitude about El Misti’s ability to wreak havoc on their beautiful city.

High in the Andes we were able to observe the vicuña.  How high?  I’m not sure.  I know that we stopped a little later and were at 16,000 feet, so this wasn’t much below that elevation.  The wool of the vicuña is the softest, most desirable, and most expensive of all the Peruvian wools.  Our guide told us that one sweater from the vicuña yarn would cost $3,000 to $4,000 in American dollars.  One factor is that this beautiful, graceful animal can be shorn only every three years and must be caught from the wild.  In the days of the Inca, only royalty could wear this superfine fabric.  I suppose that would be true today as well at those prices.

The photo on the right shows local vendors hawking their wares at the highest point we achieved on this magnificent journey.  This is the spot where we stood at 16,000 feet above sea level.  When we first got off the bus I felt a little light-headed, but I acclimated quickly.  We had stopped along the way up to drink more coca tea, and we had coca candies to munch on all along the way.  I have never suffered from altitude sickness, soroche, but I didn’t want to take any chances, so I followed the advice of the guides, the literature, and fellow travelers.  Altitude sickness can be quite dangerous and is not to be taken lightly.

Here I am hale and hearty.  Our guide took my picture so I could prove I was there.  Unfortunately, the marker doesn’t give the elevation.  This moment felt like a huge accomplishment.  I don’t know exactly why.  I hadn’t hiked up or anything astounding like that, but I felt as if I were on top of the world, and ready to conquer whatever else I might encounter.  And so we’re off to eat lunch; then on to Colca Canyon Lodge where we will spend the night and partake of the wonderfully soothing natural hot springs.  I’m pretty sure I can “conquer” a bit of food and some hot springs.  🙂

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As the mind wanders…

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness. ~ Mark Twain

I know there’s such a thing as adult ADD but I’m wondering if it gets worse as we get older.  It seems that I can’t focus very well these days.  I’m getting excited about my upcoming trip so I know that’s a factor but I can’t even walk and chew gum at the same time lately.  What’s going on?  Hell if I know!

If you read my blog even occasionally, you probably know that I’m going to Peru soon.  I’ve been reading until my eyes are bleary.  As you can see by the title of this book, I’m trying to learn as much as possible about Machu Picchu.  A friend who’s going with me on the trip told me about this wonderful read. The moment I heard the title I thought, “Now this guy is funny.”  Happily, I was right about that.  He’s very funny indeed.  It isn’t often that one finds a travel book as entertaining as this one.  Ah, but I’m not writing this post to sell books.

I’m laughing at myself as I try to figure out why I am writing it.  I have found these past two years that if I write it out, whatever it is, I can begin to make sense of what’s going on in my life.  It’s rather like thinking aloud, but in print.  I hope it still works.

Back to Peru.  Most of my life I have wanted to see Machu Picchu.  I saw a photo of it in my Spanish book when I was about fifteen.  I think that explains why I have pored over materials about that particular site.  Now that the trip is coming at me like a downhill snowball, I realize that MP is only a small part of the trip.  It’s time for me to pay attention to Arequipa and Cuzco and the Colca Canyon.  I’m starting to get excited now about the magnificent textiles I’ll see and buy there, as pictured in the top photo.  Aren’t they gorgeous?  A feast for the eyes.  Heavenly to touch.  I’ll have to make some tough decisions.  I can’t buy all of them.

This will be my first journey to the southern hemisphere.  I must say my emotions are all over the map.  (Groan.)  You name it, I’ve felt it over the past few weeks.  I’m elated, nervous, a little scared, very excited–so many things bouncing around–no wonder I can’t concentrate.  I’ll be happy to get on the plane.  Then it’s too late to worry about leaving something behind.  That’s when I’ll let it go and relax.

And so I hope my wandering mind is calming down for the night and a good night’s sleep now that I’ve typed it out of my head.  One more thing I will mention, though, and that is that my grandson DW moved to a new apartment today.  He had stayed with me for the past two weeks while he awaited his “moving-in” day.  A couple of weeks doesn’t sound like enough time to get settled in and I doubt that it was for him, but I became accustomed to having him here and I miss him.  I guess I’ll set the alarm tonight since he’s not here to accidentally set it off.  He was three years old in this photo.  That was twenty years ago.