Monday, April 12, 2010

Machu Picchu

So this is a quick, single media note. I am in Aguas Calientes, Peru. I am still having a fight with my camera (not only is the focus off, the battery is totally wonky... did you get a warantee, Dad?). I did however manage to get a few really lovely snaps. And my friend, Daniela, who I met on Friday got some awesome ones. We walked up to Wayapicchu, which is the sacred mountain overlooking the city. It was about forty straight minutes of steep staircases in high altitude. So I'm exhausted. Fortunately, this town is called Aguas Calientes because there are natural springs here. So we're about to go sit in some geo-thermic tubs for the rest of the day. I am feeling really good right now. Still a bit preoccupied with logistics. But generally I have the feeling that everything is about to become really clear.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Onward, but mostly upward.

So today I arrived in Arica, my first stop on what is going to be a fairly whirlwind tour of Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. I basically didn't sleep last night because my flight left so early (but thanks again for the ride, Israel!) so my impressions of the city are pretty hazy. I basically fell asleep on the beach and then walked back to my hostel. Fittingly (and extremely annoyingly) the autofocus on my camera seems to be wonky. So while it's technically a malfunction, you should think of this photo as an expressive manifestation of my mental state.

Arica is basically built around this giant, sandstone hill. It sort of just looms out of nowhere and the city hugs the flats around it. It's pretty dramatic looking. To accentuate things there is a giant statue of Jesus on top with outstretched arms. It's hard to know who started the trend of putting giant religious statues on hills overlooking cities, but it's probably time to stop. I mean it's getting a bit hackneyed if you ask me.

I had a very informative conversation with the owner of the hostel and an amateur anthropologist about how I should proceed with my trip. It seems I will have to be pretty choosy about Bolivia. They have also really put the fear of god into me regarding altitude sickness. Because of my time constraints I can't make the recommended stop in Arequipa before going to Cusco. I will therefore be dealing with a fairly sudden altitude change of more than 4,000 meters*. So basically I could be completely incapacitated for my first days in Cusco. Which could potentially ruin my plans involving the salt flats of Uyuni. If I can't make it to the salt flats my back up plan is to spend an entire day swimming in the center of Lake Titicaca. Because I think it would be cool to be able to say I swam across an international border. I will also probably need the exercise after all the hours I'll have spent on buses.

*Originally I wrote this as kilometers. Which would put me very close to the moon, I suppose. Let this be a testament to my exhaustion. And embarrassing lack of comprehension of the metric system.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Arica or bust.

I will be getting on a bus in seven hours to take me to the Santiago Airport (it will be my seventh time there in 2010!). The plane will take me to Arica, a port city at the northern extreme of the country which was part of Peru until the War of the Pacific. Arica is known as the city of endless spring and I plan to spend the afternoon on the beach, getting into the vacation mode. Not that things have been particularly stressful or busy or non-vacation-like here in Santiago lately. But the weather has been pretty autumnal in the last week, so it will be nice to be back in the warmth. I am considering naming the volume of my memoirs that covers this year and a half period, Actually 500 Days of Summer.

After Arica I will take 18 hours of buses to Cuzco. People say it's a beautiful town and it's the jumping off point for Machu Pichu treks. I will probably be taking the faster, cheaper train option rather than the famed Inca Trail, but I'll consider the options once I'm there. After that I have 1675.33 miles to travel before the 19th when I meet my sister in Buenos Aires. I hoping to see as much of Bolivia as possible. The country's transportation is notoriously bad, so I'm sure that it will be extremely frustrating and uncomfortable at times. Which is great for you guys because frustration and discomfort mixed with loneliness is the recipe for great blogs! I jest, I jest.

I am honestly a bit nervous about being on my own for so long. At the same time, it's really exciting. The experience of living in Chile has been a pretty solitary one. Starting out not knowing many people and speaking almost no Spanish was a pretty significant hurdle to forming meaningful relationships. And while I still feel like I have a ways to go in that regard, my social life has definitely filled out over the last several months. There are many people I'll be sorry to leave. I am hoping to meet many more fellow travelers on the road.

I expect to be extremely glad for my sister's company by the final leg of the trip in Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Originally we were hoping she could come for longer, but the logistics are tough and it was all quite last minute. I am leaving my computer by taking two real books, an audiobook and a very empty journal to pass the time. I'll be in touch soon!