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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

10,700 feet straight up

PERU | Monday, 31 December 2007 | Views [454]

Today was my first full day in the Land of the Incas, and I’d love to share it all with you. I woke up at like 2:00 and couldn’t fall back asleep. I tried to send my girlfriend Teressa (Teri) a love message, but my phone is all but useless out here. I fell asleep for like a half hour and then woke up at 6:00 and packed all of my stuff. It was very nice of Felix to let me stay at his house. Anyways, Felix and I walked down the street and flagged down the first taxi. I thanked him very much and told him I’d see him later in my travels. The taxi ride was 7 soles and I got to the bus station at about 6:45. In line at the bus station, I was talking to these girls from the U.K. and one of them had been to Dunk Island, Australia. I didn’t make it there, but I will someday! I got my ticket at a reduced price of 50 soles (rather than 65 soles) with my ISIC card. The prices are higher today because it’s New Year’s Eve. Afterward, I was talking with this girl named Amanda. She’s traveling for 7 months around South America with her boyfriend. They’re also going to Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. While I still had time, I walked to the gas station across the street from the bus terminal. The taxi drivers were pestering me, like always. It’s like “c’mon, I don’t need a ride across the street.” I got a couple of Red Bulls and a big bottle of water for the bus ride. I had to use my credit card because I was out of soles and they didn’t take American money. I was really surprised though that they take credit cards at the gas stations here. Back at the bus station, I talked with Amanda and her boyfriend about their travels in Australia and New Zealand. I also recommend that they visit the catacombs when or if they come back to Lima. At 7:30, we boarded the bus and they searched my bags. I was assigned an aisle seat, but the girl sitting next to me was nice enough to trade with me so I could take photos out the window. Getting through and out of Lima took a very long time because of heavy traffic. Meanwhile, I was still wondering how I would adapt to the altitude change, because Lima is practically at sea level and Huancayo is just short of 11,000 feet, and Prof. Ropp told me that one stretch of the ride goes higher than 15,000 feet. The ride is 6 hours because of the altitude gain despite the fact that Lima and Huancayo are only 140 miles apart. About an hour into the ride, we began driving up into the Andes. They are very steep! Mr. Hanley once told me “they’re not sissy mountains.” It started getting even more beautiful as we kept ascending higher into the Andes. I got several very good photos. I’m still a little jet-lagged, so I took a short nap on the way. The higher we got, the more interesting the buildings became. Many of them appear to be made of mud and brick and have to be at least several hundred years old. It kept getting colder and I fell asleep again. The young lady I told you about earlier is from Huancayo. She shared her Ritz crackers with me and I gave her some of my gum. The bus attendant passed out lunch, which was included in the price of the ride. It was quite good! While I was talking to Amanda’s boyfriend, Leighton about the fact that I have autism, he told me he’s a diabetic and needs daily shots of insulin. There’s something about a person that has a condition like autism or diabetes; it only makes them go even further to do stuff they love. It’s also remarkable because he’s carrying a huge thing of insulin and it has to stay cold. When I was younger, everyone thought I’d be institutionalized my whole life but now I’m happy, healthy, and seeing this world! We continued to drive through many miles of the Peruvian countryside, all while seeing goats, cows, and farm fields. At about 3:00, we finally got to Huancayo. I gave that nice girl sitting next to me a hug, and I got Leighton’s email. I’m proud of him for living life to the fullest just like I do. I started to walk and the taxi drivers were after me again. I must say this is a very interesting and beautiful city. I visited the internet café and I got a loving email from my girlfriend (mi novia) Teri. I’m so thankful to have met her! She’s my everything! I also got an email from Mr. Hanley. He told me about having a machine gun stuck in his face in Hungary when he asked to have his film hand-inspected. The internet out here is only 1 sol ($0.33) an hour. In Iceland, I was paying about $5-6! Afterward, I walked into central Huancayo and searched around for a payphone. One of them took my money, so I kept searching around. Finally I went to this place called a locutorio and called Prof. Ropp. He told me to meet him in front of the cathedral in about 15 minutes. Huancayo has a very nice central square with a beautiful cathedral and a big park.

Some little kids wanted me to buy some candy, but I had no money. So, I just exercised and relaxed while soaking up Huancayo’s thin atmosphere. Prof. Ropp showed up and he bought me an ice cream. We took a taxi to his house and I met his wife and two little girls. Their names are Kiki and Emiko. Prof. Ropp (whom I’ll call Steve) showed me around the house and offered me a cup of coca tea, which is used to combat the effects of the changing altitude. An interesting thing about coca tea is that it can cause a positive test for cocaine use. I washed my clothes by hand and I played with his kids for awhile; just like I used to play with Ashley and Jennifer (my two little sisters) when they were little. I got on the computer for a bit and then fell asleep for about 4 hours. I don’t seem to feel any altitude sickness, but I’m still jetlagged. I woke up at 9:00 PM and had dinner. Steve said that he doesn’t stay up for midnight on New Year’s because in the Japanese culture, the big celebrations take place on New Year’s Day. For dinner I ate chicken and mashed potatoes, and had another cup of coca tea. Steve told me that he gave a cup of coca tea to his brother and that he failed a drug test when applying for a job. I had some Ritz crackers and Steve then went to bed at about 10:00 PM. He said I could make a short phone call, so I called Dad and then Teri. She was super excited to hear from me. I love her so much! She wants to take a watershed course at a community college and I really encourage her to. She told me that her ex-husband never wanted her to go to school and things like that, but I feel different. At about 10:30, I lay down. I played my Nintendo DS and checked out the photos I’ve taken. I was also listening to the fireworks outside. It’s a rather quiet New Year’s this year for me because at home I’m usually out with friends or family, and in Australia I was at the base of the Sydney Opera House. I was still awake at 1:00 and I was into 2008 before California was. Happy New Year!!! So, I got up and gave Mr. Hanley a quick call. I’m going to go to sleep now because I want to see the glacier tomorrow. These fireworks are still going, but oh well. Good Night.

Today was my second day (mi segundo dia) in Peru. I ended up sleeping in until 12:30, so I missed the opportunity to go to Huaytapallana glacier. I washed up and then had some teriyaki chicken and rice. Steve’s friend, Pamela came over. I’m not used to the custom of kissing females (even strangers) as a greeting that exists here in Peru. I played with Steve’s kids for a bit and then decided to go out and explore. I had no money, so I exchanged some with Steve. He told me about a traditional Andean market a few blocks away, so I set out. I got a Red Bull at a small store and I noticed the owner’s daughter lining up bottle caps on the sidewalk.

People out here always have something to do; they’re never bored. That’s one reason people are so happy here. I then walked to the open-air market. There were people selling vegetables, potatoes, and rice. I really felt like I was in another world, because I was the only tourist. I got a banana and a bottle of water and got some photos of the various products for sale. The locals dress conservatively and colorfully, and dogs roam the streets. Other products I noticed for sale are chilies, bananas, toys, football (soccer) jerseys, and all that stuff.

I spent about an hour at the market and then walked back to Steve’s house. I wanted to go get a bus ticket and change some money. I ate a little bit more and then went with Steve and Kiki (his little girl) to downtown. Most of the currency exchange places were closed, but we found one that was open. I exchanged $40 so I have money for the trip to Cuzco. We then took a bus to another place and got an ice cream (helado) and walked the rest of the way. At one point I picked up a rock and heaved it like 60 feet toward of a metal drum full of water and made it! Talk about a prayer! When we got to the bus station, the desks for the Ayacucho bus were not open, and the only departures listed were night buses. I prefer to take the bus during the day because I get to see more and I hear it’s safer. But, I figured that if I have to leave at night, then so be it. We took a colectivo taxi back to Steve’s house and it was only one sol. It’s amazing how cheap the taxis are out here because gasoline is even more expensive out here than back home. I think it’s because people aren’t so “money hungry” out here like they are in L.A. People tend to care more about others out here. Back at the house, we looked in my guidebook, and Steve’s wife made a call for me. I found that there’s a bus tomorrow at 7:00 AM. So, I’ll have to get up very early tomorrow. I wanted to get my hair cut, but we walked to the place and it was closed. Steve also told me about a good place to get photos of the city, so we caught a taxi to where near the bus stop was and did a bit of walking. Steve’s older daughter Emiko joined us this time. I got a photo of an old train at the Huancayo train station. Steve was telling me that the train from Huancayo to Huancavelica is among the highest in the world. I then saw a stand with a lady selling beef heart kabobs. It doesn’t sound very appetizing, but Steve said they’re actually quite good. Maybe I’ll try one later in my trip. We then caught a bus up to the area I was talking about earlier. The area was very impoverished and was a perfect example of a Latin American barrio, which is what we call the “ghetto” back home. I got a bottle of water and we started walking. It was raining, so it was a good thing I packed my raincoat. We walked all the way to these unusual rock formations. They look like carvings of some sort. Steve then told me that “Huancayo” means “place of rocks.” My boots were all muddy and my camera got a little wet, but I was really enjoying my time here. This is also a great place to go because it’s very cheap! It was getting dark out and we began walking back as the lights of Huancayo started to shine. It is a very pretty city! I got a bit tired because the air is thinner. Steve told me that he feels the altitude change when he climbs stairs and things like that. We took the bus back to Steve’s house. One thing I noticed is that people will actually sit next to others on the bus, as opposed to there being one person in each seat until the bus is full. People also bring their dogs on the bus as well. We got off a few blocks from Steve’s house and I stopped for a Red Bull and some Ritz crackers. Today, I spent a total of about $8; far less than I’d spend in many other places. For dinner I had some teriyaki chicken, mashed potatoes, and a cup of chai tea. For awhile I just relaxed and played my Nintendo DS. One advantage about a long trip like this one is that I get to relax a bit more instead of traveling around like a maniac like I did in Costa Rica. I then emailed everyone and I was a bit upset because I only got two responses to my email that I sent in Lima. I had a cup of coca tea and then Steve went to sleep. Teri emailed me back saying I sounded angry, but I could never be upset at her. I love her too much! It’s that all of my friends tell me they’re busy, but they should at least take two minutes to email me. I tried to call Teri, but she wasn’t answering. I’ll have to call her in Cuzco. I surfed the net for awhile and then went to lie down. I have a long bus ride tomorrow and I have to be up at 5:15. See you in Ayacucho!


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