Saturday, November 13, 2004

Week 20 - "Bus Somewhere in Ecuador" to Aguas Calientes, Peru

November 6 - 12, 2004

Saturday to Monday - HUARAZ, PERU

Started this week in the bus to Macara, Ecuador, border with Peru. Arrived at 4:30am and walked one hour to the border - really early - very beautiful with the sun coming up over the river that divides Ecuador and Peru. Crossed into Peru. Via Sullana, Piura, and Trujillo, we made it to Huaraz Sunday at 6am.

Amazingly, the geography changed dramatically once we entered Peru. Before reaching the snow capped mountain town of Huaraz, we went through Star Wars like scenery - a desert that made you feel like you were on the moon. A lunar landscape set between the Pacific and the Andes. Simply jaw dropping.

Huaraz is a climbing mecca at the foot of the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountain Chain). Click here to see some photos. It is considered one of the best technical mountain climbing places in the world. There were people from all over the globe there to climb the mountains. From Huaraz, you can see 23 snow crested peaks over 5,000m (16,404ft) including Huascaran, the highest in Peru at 6,768m (22,205ft). It makes the "14ers" of Colorado seem like not that big of a deal.

Met and greatly enjoyed tons of students (ages 11-16) who were on "Promocion". Each year, the graduating (promoting) classes into middle school and high school go on end of the year multi-day field trips all over Peru. Some students travel distances as far as 20 hours by bus. Some kids`trips were over a week long. It was really neat meeting kids from all over Peru. They were very interested, curious, respectful, and polite. In Peru, like most schools in South America, the kids have their break in December, January, and February - the summer below the equator.

We also met some people from Spain and Peru who were climbing around the area. Here is us at a bar playing "Huaraz-style full-contact" Jenga. As you can see, a hard-hat was a must - for real.

Tuesday to Wednesday - BUS

Spent Tuesday night and Wednesday all day and night (around 33 hours total) on a bus to Cusco via Lima. Just south of Lima it looked like the Sahara Desert, but on the Pacific Ocean...

On the second leg of the trip, due to the windy roads through the Andes and the great altitude change from sea level in Lima to 3,310m (10,860ft) in Cusco, many people got really sick on the bus - motion sickness that involved throwing up. The views, however, were unbelievable.

Thursday - CUSCO, PERU

Arrived to Cusco to find a public transportation strike that blocked all roads of cars, taxis, and buses. Because our bus had to stop way before reaching the terminal, many people had to walk to their final destinations. In helping a fellow passenger carry his bags to a family member`s house, we met Miguel and his family. Miguel is the care taker for a school, Escuela Cuetarde. This school is for rural kids - some of whom walk 2 1/2 to 3 hours EACH way to and from school daily - 5 days a week!! To return the favor, Miguel insisted on walking us to a train station where Kiko and I needed information. He further invited us back to his home.


Left towards Machu Picchu. Stopped in Urubamba and Ollantaytambo where we spent the day before taking a train to Aguas Calientes. Ollantaytambo is a living Inca city - one of the few that was never abandoned. Cusco is also a living Inca city but because of Ollantaytambo`s very small size and remoteness, it is very authentic. Here we spent time in the market, teaching kids how to play Cat`s Cradle, and with a family who showed us their family photo album and played Peruvian music videos for us. Ollantaytambo was such a cool town!!

Market in the evening...

Wonderful family met and we spent time with...

Many houses were made of stone...

Other Ollantaytambo scenes...

Arrived late at night to Aguas Calientes - anxious to see Machu Picchu.

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