I've been meaning to write about my vacation in Peru, well, ever since I was there last summer. That never seemed to work out and ever since it's been on my mind but I've let the topic languish with a lot of other things. It finally seems like I've got a little bit of time so here we go off of the diving board and into the pool. The first thing I'll say is that while it was my summer vacation it was not summer in Peru. The seasons are directly opposite there so for instance right now there is snow on the ground in Tulsa and in Lima it's time to go to the beach. See what I mean? That of course can change depending on where you go.
My last trip before my departure was arranged by my wife and her family and it was to be to Ticlio which as I found out is not a town or city but a mountain pass. As a matter of fact it's the highest railway junction in the world clocking in at 4,818 meters above sea level. Translated into gringo talk that means it's over 15,807 feet above sea level, higher even than Pike's Peak beating it by over 1,600 feet. Our group would be comprised of me, my wife Connie and our son John, my wife's aunt Flor and her daughter (and my wife's cousin) Melissa, my wife's cousin Henry and his girlfriend Karina. Others were supposed to go but that's the thing about Peru, plans change not only from day to day but from hour to hour. Originally we were supposed to make this an overnight trip with a bit of hiking to a waterfall but that didn't end up happening. It's the way things are, you don't question it, you just go along for the ride.
In order to start our adventure we all met close to Brena in Lima to get a van to take us to Chosica The way that works is you pay a set fee and once the van is full they leave. There were quite a few people in the van and I ended up sitting next to a couple whose final destination was for Marcahuasi, a place I really wanted to go to myself but unfortunately I was in no shape to hike for several hours at extreme elevation. Once in Chosica we walked over to a bus station and had to wait for one to fill up. While we waited I decided that since I hadn't had any breakfast and our trip up was going to take several more hours I'd better get something in my belly so I had two delicious empanadas from a stand right around the corner. Some of our group didn't think it was a good idea for me to have food but I felt that enough time would go by that it wouldn't bother me too much. Eventually the combi filled up and off we went on the next leg of our journey to Matucana.
When we arrived in Matucana there was some sort of speech going on and a local school band was playing in the square but after a bathroom break it was over so I never even found out what was going on. We didn't stay very long in Matucana because we knew we'd be spending more time there on our way back. Instead we walked over to the next bus stop and caught another combi that would take us to the much smaller town of San Mateo. The higher we went the smaller the towns became. Our time in San Mateo was very short, we simply walked down the street a bit and the negotiations began with taxi drivers to see who would be taking us to Ticlio. Eventually we settled on two taxis for our group and off we went.
The closer we got I did feel a little sleepy and felt some sinus pressure but overall I think I handled it well, especially once we made it all the way up. We kept going higher and higher and still we found ourselves looking up at the mountains towering over us. Even though it was cold at this time of the year I still found it to be very beautiful. One thing I came to understand was why there were so many reports that I had heard about buses wrecking and crashing down ravines. After being on the road with them and seeing them pass slower moving vehicles on blind curves, sadly it became clear why it occurs so often.The taxi I was in had carburetor issues with the elevation and the engine ended up dying at least four times at which point we would slowly drift to the side of the road and hope the other drivers were paying attention. But finally we were there, our destination achieved.
The first thing I noticed out of the taxi was a dead burro lying on the side of the road with it's guts split open. Definitely strange to see but at this point not a deterrent. My son was in the other car and decided he wasn't getting out in the frigid air, the elevation had him sleeping as much as he could. The rest of us looked around at the beauty of nature at such a high height. In spite of the bitter cold temperature believe it or not there were a few people there selling snacks, one lady even had a baby wrapped up in her sling. They were happy to take pictures for us..............so long as we bought a few of those snacks. Heck of a way to make a living.
After about twenty or thirty minutes we had seen enough, okay it was just too cold and we were hungry so it was time to go. We clambered back into the taxis and started our descent. The trip down of course seemed to take less time as we reversed the process and caught a comb in San Mateo and made our way back to Matucana. Now it was time to eat and Melissa led us on a short search for a restaurant she had been to before that she promised would be good. After a few minutes she found it and we stepped inside a modest and unassuming building, in other words my kind of place. After consuming a cup of Mata de Coca tea (to help combat the elevation sickness) I was ready for the large plate of Bistec a la Pobre that almost everybody in our group had. As you can see Peruvians do not scrimp on portions. The food was delicious and filling.
After eating we made the short walk to the bus stop to wait for the next combi. The walk was good for our full bellies and then we had to wait at the stop as there was a long line of people wanting to return to Lima. After a bit our turn came and we were off to Chosica and then Lima. Once there our group began to split up and go their respective ways. Melissa and Flor were first and then Karina, leaving Henry, Connie, John and me to make our way back to San Juan de Miraflores and the family home. With that our trip was over and sadly in a few short days I would be leaving to come back to Tulsa. If I had the means I would happily return to Peru today and live there with no reservations. There is so many different things to see and do. I guess I can always dream, can't I?
Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.