Lima and Llanganuco...hello Peru!

Trip Start Aug 03, 2007
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Trip End Aug 01, 2008


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Wednesday, October 3, 2007

As I sit down to write this blog, I am in southern Peru and it is hailing like crazy outside. I am bundled in a beanie, scarf, and my fleece jacket and am so cozy! South America has certainly brought on some cooler weather, especially at night, and I am enjoying the change from the hot humidity of Central America and the opportunity to wear this winter attire!

It feels like the month of October has gone really fast in comparison with our previous 2 months of travel. We arrived in Lima, the capital of Peru, via plane on Oct. 2 and were warmly greeted at the airport by Emma and Pacho, family friends of the Andersons. Duane, James' dad, has worked for many years in distribution of the Los Angeles Times and has quite a few Peruvian friends. Emma and Pacho at one point lived in the U.S. but now they, along with their 2 daughters, are living in Lima. They made us feel so welcome and we are glad to have spent some time with them. We got to tour downtown Lima at night with them (oh my, quite an experience!), share a few meals, and help James ring in his new year of life on Oct. 10 with versions of Happy Birthday in English and Spanish, along with a tasty chocolate cake!
Jumping into big city life in Peru means embracing and surviving the roads. The traffic is crazy in some places and the style of driving is best described by us, at least, as total chaos. Cars cutting each other off, making turns across several rows of traffic (including LARGE buses), and a lack of stop lights meaning everyone seems to decide when they think they should have the right of way. There are stop lights, of course, but not nearly enough by my standards! And to be a pedestrian among all this madness means you have to be REALLY CAREFUL about crossing streets. It is truly scary. Fortunately, being in Central America for a couple months prepared us a bit for being more cautious about walking on the streets (pedestrians do not have the right of way).
While in Lima we also had the chance to meet up for lunch with a gal who is a friend of a friend of ours from San Clemente. Sarah has been living in Lima for about 5 years working for a Christan ministry called Word Made Flesh (their website is www.wordmadeflesh.com). She spends time investing in the lives of kids who are living on the streets and we loved our time with her, being encouraged and refreshed to hear about how God is changing lives in Peru. Thanks for spending time with us, Sarah!
After a few days in Lima, we headed north 7 hours to a place in the Cordillera Blanca called Llanganuco. The Cordillera Blanca is a huge mountain range in Peru that offers heaps of opportunities for the outdoorsy adventurer to day hike, do longer treks, mountain bike, ice climb, camp, anything you can think of. We only had a few days because we had booked our trek to Machu Picchu that would be leaving from Cusco not too soon thereafter, so we had time only to do some day hikes. Very fortuitously, on our way out of Lima, we met a South African couple who had just returned from where we were headed and they recommended a place called the Llanganuco Lodge for its charm, kind owners, delicious food, and amazing scenery. We had yet to make any plans so we decided to find this lodge...and we are so glad we did. It is so great to have our travels be so open that we can allow ourselves to be guided by last minute encounters with fellow travelers!

The Llanganuco Lodge is located 40 minutes up the mountain from the nearest small town and is in the process of being built. It currently consists of 2 private rooms (each with a bathtub!!!!, duvet comforter and great mattress, and private balcony) and a dorm room. We were going to stay in the dorm room but were easily swayed to stay in the private room when we saw the bathtub were offered an "end of season" discount! The owner is a young English fellow named Charlie and the manager, Brett, is an Aussie. They are true outdoorsman, both of them each impressing us with their stories of adventures they have had in the world and the surrounding mountains. There was one other couple visiting the lodge besides ourselves and with the only other neighbors being local mountain people (and by neighbors we mean at least 10 minutes walk away), it was a quiet, serene, relaxing, and breathtaking place. Snow-capped mountains, lakes, hills being cultivated for all different sorts of food and vegetables...incredible.
The altitude unfortunately was a killer for me the first day. We arrived at the lodge which was at 11,500 feet and then almost immediately did a hike up to a glacier which was another 1200 feet...putting us at almost 14,000 feet a bit too quickly. We have read much about high altitude hiking and how to prepare yourself by acclimatizing and I thought I would be okay but apparently I am not quite as tough as I thought! Headaches, stomach problems, and fatigue can be some of the more common side affects of altitude sickness and I definitely had my share of them that first night! Word to the wise...it is a good idea to try to relax and take it easy for a couple days when you first get to a high altitude about 9000 ft or so...just to make your life a bit more enjoyable!
However, we had an incredible experience at the top of our hike. We climbed up a valley to a place where mountains continued to loom over us and ice had fallen down from a glacier. We were catching our breath, rejoicing over the fact that we had made it, when we noticed in the distance a Peruvian man that appeared to be hacking away at the ice. It turns out, this man was cutting 4 HUGE blocks of solid ice that he would strap to the back of his horses and then take down to his village where he would made snow cones from the ice and sell them for something like 50 cents. His wife followed him up the mountain with the horses. It is hard to describe the amount of work he was doing...chopping the ice, hauling it on his back and onto the horse. We watched from a distance and then got suckered into helping him load the HUGE, heavy blocks of ice onto the horses. As neat as it was to be interacting with these folks and to be a part of their lives for this short moment, I did not like the fact that the poor horses looked like they might fall over from the weight. It felt like animal cruelty, especially because the horses did not seem to be in the healthiest of conditions either. But that is what they do on a regular basis...all for a cheap snow cone. Seems like the purchase of a freezer would make life a whole lot easier.
Our second day of hiking led us to a gorgeous lake that offered amazing view of some of the nearby snow-capped mountains set against the blue sky. We loved our 2 days of hiking in Llanganuco and wish we would have had more time there. We highly recommend the lodge and the surrounding mountains to our friends who are looking for adventure as well as some peace and quiet!
To wrap up this blog, James' 30 birthday was one to remember. He started it in Lima with a delicious birthday cake and then flew to Cuzco (south of Lima) to end it with a yummy dinner and more birthday cake and coca tea. (Yes, we carried leftover cake in tupperware all day to enjoy it again later that night!) Coca tea is a big deal here in Peru and does wonders for counteracting high altitude malaise.
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