Peru…New friends…ruins…and adventure!

This would be a great time to sleep…on an early morning bus ride between cities in Peru. Unfortunately, that just isn’t going to happen now because I am “enjoying” the second live infomercial being shared on this bus. This lively vendor is a loud, fast talking woman who jumped on the bus to sell special soaps and creams that will cure every disease and make me look ten years younger. The scenery from Ariquipa, Peru is beautiful…mountainous and dry, with winding roads and blues skies. While the ride is less than peaceful with the blaring soap seller, I am going to imagine that she is my special reminder to wake up and enjoy this beautiful view.

After traveling for an extended time, it is easy to stop seeing the novelty of certain situations. Suddenly, the landscapes can seem more common and almost ordinary after enjoying them for many days, so this is a beautiful chance to refocus my mind and heart on the luxury of seeing the world up close and personal.

Josiah and I have spent the past two weeks traveling through the south of Ecuador and Peru. After leaving the Amazon, we headed south to Cuenca. I had heard about this quaint colonial town and we arrived with a few pleasant hours to walk around the river, enjoy browsing an art fair, and wandering through the city center. The architecture was lovely and the pace seemed to slow us down a bit after busy days in Quito and the Amazon. While there, we visited a tour office to gather maps and information about things to see and do. There were a few appealing options, but we decided on ziplining. I had never done it before, but the $10 price made this as good a time as any. We stopped back at the tour office the next day for more information, just as the clerk, Fabiola, was closing the office. She said that ziplining was near her house and offered to give us a ride to a halfway point where we could catch a taxi. We chatted with Fabiola and her husband on the way to her house and learned that many Americans are beginning to retire to Ecuador where the cost of living is cheap, the weather is mild, and where people can enjoy quality healthcare and inexpensive services like housekeeping and laundry. She also told us about the growing “medical-tourism” industry in South America where people are traveling for inexpensive dental procedures, treatment of illnesses, and cosmetic surgery. I am not sure if I found the prospect of retiring so far from home to be exciting or a bit sad.

We stopped near Fabiola’s country house and her husband searched for a taxi to take us the rest of the way. No taxis to be found, but he found a neighbor who was willing to take us on the bumpy ride. The neighbor…with pants unzipped, no teeth, and a pick up truck that was practically losing its bumper, made me take a double look, but she assured us that he was harmless and safe, so we jumped in. Cesar, the driver, wasn’t exactly sure how to get there, but he stopped along the way to ask for directions and we rocked our bumpy way up to the mountaintop.

I imagined that ziplining was something that should be done with an empty bladder, so I stopped for a quick trip to the bathroom and plop…my iPhone dropped right in the water. Oh, my!! You know me…I love that phone. It is my traveling companion…my lifeline…It was like watching a friend take a fall while helplessly standing by and also like watching a stack of cash go right down the drain. I had a baggie with me, so I asked the front desk if they had rice so I could try to dry out the phone, but in my heart, I knew this was going to be one of those lessons learned about being careful and not valuing “things” so much. I had started to get more carefree with my texting, and this would serve as a reminder that I could rough it a bit more than I had been. Anyway, I was already tense about the phone, so hopping on the zip line only increased my heart rate. Josiah popped on like a pro with the harness around his legs and hooked onto the first line. We had a total of nine lines to cross and each one got harder. Between stops, the guide would chat with me about the usual stuff. I shouldn’t have been so friendly because I think it gave him the sense that I was comfortable, so by the last few lines he started to challenge me to try some mid-air tricks. I hate backing down from a challenge-even little ones- so when he asked if I wanted to fly like Superman, I agreed, without knowing that I would have to practically spoon him while getting connected to his harness and hanging with my arms and legs spread eagle as we flew. On the last line, he had me connect to him in a hugging fashion with my legs wrapped around his waist so we could flip me upside down as we flew. I have a small personal bubble, but this was all a bit close for comfort, and I was just thankful that we didn’t have to traverse another line…it was all a bit too much bonding for me. When we finished, my heart was racing…but I am glad I did it.

We left Cuenca after meeting Lorraine and Abby from our Amazon trip. After only a few days apart, it was fun to learn more about them and rehash Amazon adventures.
We took an early morning bus across the border and into Piura, Peru where we were staying with parents of my friends from home, Victor and Mariela. We were on the bus all day and we crossed our first border together without incident. Victor’s in-laws met us at the bus station and it was an immediate honor to be in their company. They had been married for nearly fifty years and still seemed very much in love. We walked through town and enjoyed our time with them. At the same time, it was great that they had local phone coverage with the US because I could work with my aunt Bones to find a way to replace my phone.

Piura was a short stop where we caught our flight to Cusco. I have been to Cusco a little over a year ago to celebrate Bones’ 80th birthday when I met her there over spring break for a trip to Machu Picchu. While I would not have visited again on my own, we were too close to have Josiah miss this wonder of the world. Cusco is a gateway to trekking and busing/training to Machu Picchu so it has an international feel being filled with travelers from over over the world. The restaurants are great and offer really authentic global options.

When we arrived, we met up with Miro and Lainie who are staying in Cusco on their world schooling adventure. We met in Las Almas square and walked to dinner. It was nice to follow someone else and not have to navigate on our own for a bit. Miro was a spirited and cool kid. He has a great sense of comfort with people, a fun sense of humor, and some common interests with Josiah. They became fast friends talking about video games and all kinds of other things at remind me how out of touch I am. We went back to their house and enjoyed hearing their stories and getting to know them more. We spent our second day in Cusco together…hanging out with other travelers, exploring museums and climbing Incan ruins. On the —- ruins, there is a tall rocky slide that we climbed and zoomed down. The landscape around the ruins is really incredible and a sight to see.

Peru was busy…we took a bus tour of the Sacred Valley…more ruins…and headed for a night in Ollantaytambo where we would catch the 5:30 scenic train to Aguas Calientes and from there, the bus to Machu Picchu. It is such a cool and remote place…and the ruins seem to just open before your eyes, high in the mountains where they have stood for hundreds of years. When we arrived, we learned that we would have to wait three hours for our English tour guide. Waiting is not my strength, so I was disappointed at first, until we started walking around on our own and found empty places to climb and explore that were away from the tourist route. Josiah climbed fairly high and we went down pretty low. I love when you have a sense of getting away from it all…in an mind boggling location. The tour was also good for taking us to the must see temples and photo op spots. Walking through Machu Picchu is like exploring a textbook and standing in front of a postcard photo. It feels like stepping into history. When the tour was done, we climbed down the stairs instead of taking the bus back to Aguas Calientes. It was an hour and a half climb down that we enjoyed with Atalya from Israel while learning about her army service, life in Israel, and traveling experiences. The long day ended with another train ride back to Ollantaytambo and final bus to Cusco. It was a worthwhile sixteen hour day.

Our last ten days together are going to be quite busy, with lots of bus riding and down time needed to get us to Santiago, Chile for Josiah’s flight home. We are on the bus now (sales pitch has ceased and we have returned to peace of quiet bus ride). We took a bus from Cusco to Piura and we are now heading to Puno for a few days on Lake Titicaca and where we will learn if we can head into Bolivia for a tour of the salt flats or if we will head straight down to Chile. The salt flat tour company is having trouble getting gas, so we will not pay the Visa costs for Bolivia unless we are sure that we can take the three day tour.

We are ready for something new and both Bolivia and Chile sound like exciting options…salt flats, hot springs, desserts, and beaches…so much more to explore and so little time to do so.

As for our World Schooling time, Josiah and I have found time to begin reading the Bill O’Reilly book on Lincoln’s assassination as a precursor to seeing the new Spielberg movie on Lincoln. Josiah is keeping a blog and uses websites to research places we will visit. Some of the plans I imagined in my head are challenging because our time is so active. When we have down time, it is also good to have a brain break. We took a class on making chocolate…I count that as an important elective and have done some research and discussion about college prep. We have also watched some movies. I am learning a lot about the Marvel Avengers and and found that I really like Iron Man. We haven’t quite started the Audrey Hepburn series yet, but I can’t wait to hit play on Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Traveling with someone really let’s you get to know them. Josiah is strong and smart and patient. I also think our time together has challenged me in good ways to try different and learn different things. It has taught me new things about myself and the world around me. This trip was about stretching, so I am grateful for this new opportunity to do so…blessings come in all kinds of packages.

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