Wednesday, October 28, 2015

To Touch the Sun


Map picture


The last two days have been a blur of activity that has left us exhausted; not to mention, that tomorrow promises to be a 15.5 hour outing. So, excuse me if I am of necessity brief in my describing our experiences.

On Oct. 26th, our ship docked in the port city of Matarani, Peru. From there, we set out on a 12 hour roundtrip journey to Arequipa, Peru. We traveled into the mountains along the main highway from Peru to Bolivia. The road, while a well-constructed two lane highway, was none-the-less a very winding pathway up the steep mountains. It was also filled solid with traffic, most of it being large cargo carriers. I remember at one point, I looked out the window and counted 9 large trucks slowly climbing the road in front of us. Now the entire length of the road was painted with solid yellow stripes – no passing, right? Not in Peru! Our bus managed to pass up to four of the large carriers at once; not only ignoring the double lines, but also ignoring the oncoming curves. At times, the “two” lane highway became a temporary “four” lane one. All the drivers seemed to understand this unwritten code, and we never saw any sign of an accident. Sadly from the perspective of a photographer, the bus did not stop even one time for photographs, and so the only images I got were those taken through a dirty window while moving along the highway.

Finally, we arrived into Arequipa, a UNESCO Historical Center, but not before a funny story. Our bus was equipped with a “small” bathroom, which I was seated directly across from. Every time someone used the toilet and left the door open, the stench was not pleasant. So even after a very long ride, I avoided going into the little room, even though I really needed to do so. As we entered the city, I asked our guide how long after we departed the bus before we would have rest rooms, and he told me one hour. Well, that did it; smell or no smell, some things won’t wait. Up until now, the bus had been driving smoothly on the highway, but now that we had entered the city, it would stop and start, make abrupt turns – in short getting into the little room was a challenge for someone of my size. I managed to enter, and actually turn around all the while being thrown around like a beach ball. Suddenly, the bus quickly accelerated, throwing me against the door, and causing a small clicking sound. Thinking nothing about it, I finished, and by then we had stopped and people were coming off the bus. I went to open the door, and it was locked with no way to unlock it from the inside. So I did the logical thing and started banging on the little door, but of all the people going by, no one heard me. I started to become a little concerned, and turned to a very small one-way window to look outside. Ah, a member of our expedition team was less than 3 ft. away, and so I begin to bang on the glass. Over all the noise, he really did not hear me, but something caught his attention, and he came over to put his nose on the window at which point, I gave the glass a big bang indeed! Finally free, I vowed to never enter a small bathroom on a bus again.

Our guide very quickly stopped at the historic Plaza de Armas with hardly enough time to take a picture. The beautiful white Cathedral was under renovation and was not only closed, but all covered in scaffolding. Pooh! We then rapidly walked to a famous museum which houses two exceptionally well preserved mummies which were young girls sacrificed to the Gods by the Incas and left on the mountain top, where they froze solid; their remains were discovered in 1995. From there we walked to the Santa Catalina Monastery which was founded in 1579 under the Dominican order. It is considered one of the most important and impressive monuments in Peru. The nuns lived in this large complex until 1972 when they moved to modern quarters next door and the monastery was opened for tourism. On first entering the buildings, I immediately thought I had been there before, but neither Lisa nor I could remember ever having been to this city, much less this particular monastery. As we continued, I started to tell our small group what was coming next, and every time I correct. As it turns out, we had indeed been here in 2013 on the Silver Wind. Yet another “senior moment.”

After a wonderful lunch and some free time in town, we made the long drive back to the ship mostly in silence since everyone was tired. We had departed that morning at 7:30 am and returned at 4:30 pm, a day of 9 hours.

Overnight we departed Peru for Chile, and with it came a 2 hour time change – the wrong way – we lost two hours during the night. So imagine our joy at having to rise early the next morning for a 9.5 hour day. Our ship had docked at the small town of Arica, Chile, which we actually did remember visiting previously. However, rather than staying in town, this visit we traveled into the mountains to an elevation of 11,500 ft. in the Andes. Our destination was the small Chilean village of Putre. Along the way, we stopped several times for photographs, and at one stop we were offered Coca tea which would help us in acclimating to the attitude.

At one of our last stops before reaching our destination a most amazing thing happened. We were already at a high altitude where the clouds were few, the skies deep blue, and the sun blazed directly overhead. After we got off the bus Lisa noted a very unusual phenomena and quickly pointed it out to our small group. Directly overhead was a beautiful circular rainbow. This occurred because a thin layer of high ice crystals had come between us and the sun; a condition which would quickly fade as the high clouds drifted away. It was nothing less than the highlight of our tour!

As Putre came into view, we made our final stop to look down into the valley where it was located. It was beautiful with snow covered volcanos in the background. We finally arrived at our destination to find a small village in which the dusty streets were so narrow that our bus barely made it through to the town square. This was a very out of the way place. Not primitive; I mean they had electricity, plenty of water coming off the mountains, and even cell service, but really out of the way. We walked around the square, slowly because of the altitude, and eventually made our way to lunch. Now lunch was described in advance as “basic but tasty.” Well, let me tell you that this little hole in the wall turned out to be huge inside and the food was delicious. Even though I do not eat salads, even I recognized the quality of the salads being served. They were large, fresh, and the ingredients almost shined. I was given a boiled chicken breast, along with new boiled potatoes which were huge in size. Overall another great meal!

Then came the long drive back. Unlike yesterday this highway was not so heavily traveled, and going downhill we made good time arriving back to the ship around 6:30 pm.

I wish I could elaborate more about our two days, but both Lisa and I are so tired that we took this day to take not one, but two naps since tomorrow will be a 15.5 hour day! Yikes! Also, I apologize about not getting photographs uploaded yet, but there simply has been no time. At this point, it might have to wait until we get home, but I hope not.

I hope everyone is well.


No comments: