3 Continents

The first thing I noticed as I was waiting to board my flight from Calgary to London was the fact that I had left my light spring jacket behind and was left with a thin Walmart cardigan. I had ditched my giant down-filled coat with my friend Nicole when she dropped me off at the airport, as it was about the same size as my carry-on and I had suspicions that it would not be necessary in Africa. I decided against purchasing a touristy sweatshirt with ‘Calgary’ or ‘Canada’ emblazoned on the front, because I can’t bear the smugness associated with having my country written on everything I bring overseas. It does not insult me to be occasionally mistaken for an American (the majority of Americans I’ve met are awesome), and while I have great pride in my country, I feel that the flag on the backpack thing is a bit much. That’s just my opinion.

It’s been a while since I’ve been anywhere (at least in the way I like to travel) but as I boarded the plane, I could feel myself relaxing almost instantly. I don’t really get those excitement jitters like I did when I first started traveling. I was in motion, on my way to Somewhere and I just find that extremely satisfying. I am probably one of the few people in the world who actually likes airports- even the annoying bits. Cairo Airport was a particular challenge, but I will get to that later.

I arrived in Gatwick around 10:30 local time and had a six-hour window to make it to the other side of London and catch my flight from Heathrow. It was Remembrance Day (Armistice Day in the UK) and there was an announcement on the loudspeaker as I waited to collect my bags. The airport would be recognizing two minutes of silence at the stroke of 11. I picked up my back and headed up to the main floor and by the time I got to the stairs to the main level, it was time. I stopped awkwardly halfway up the stairs for the moment of silence. I wasn’t sure if it would have been disrespectful to climb the last few steps before stopping so I froze in place. The European couple behind me had no such compunctions and continued up the stairs and out of the building. They were probably from an axis country anyway (kidding!).

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Canada Memorial in London

After catching the train into central London, I stopped briefly at the Canadian War Memorial near Buckingham Palace and left a poppy I had brought with me from Calgary. It wasn’t too cold so my cardigan did the job well enough as I dragged my suitcase to the Green Park Underground station. I  made it to Heathrow in plenty of time and arrived in Athens close to 11pm. Oh hello, Europe! There is a great tram system from the airport that I took to my hostel and after checking in I popped up to the rooftop bar and saw the Parthenon for the first time. The Acropolis overlooking the city really does dominate the landscape and seeing it lit up in the night was breathtaking. I’m not using that word lightly either- when I came up the stairs and saw it, I literally gasped.

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The Parthenon from the Pella Inn

This temple to Athena was built around 440 BCE and lasted over a thousand years (the current structure has been rebuilt from ruins, though some of the pillars remain in their original position; follow the link for more info or go to Wikipedia: https://www.ancient.eu/parthenon/). The construction was celebratory as the Athenians had just been victorious against the invading Persians. If you’ve seen the movie 300 or it’s sequel, you have a (very) vague idea of why that was a big deal. It was mostly blown up during the 1600s by invading Venetians against occupying Turks and much of the significant architecture and sculptures were carted away by the 7th Earl of Elgin, Thomas Bruce in the 1800s. Those pieces currently reside in the British Museum under the archaeological regulation of “Finders Keepers”; the Greek government has been trying to get them back for years.  But I digress; my point is that the Parthenon is a Big Deal.

I didn’t see much more of Athens as I only had until 2pm before I had to go back to the airport, but I did manage to find an amazing little restaurant that served Moussaka. It was called “All that Jatz” which maybe makes more sense in Greek:  Κλείσε τραπέζι.  No? Maybe not. In this lively little side alley, there were a bunch of locals smoking and haggling in a nearby market and some just sitting, enjoying the day. It was a perfect bookend to such a short time in the city. I also managed to try some Greek coffee which is a marginally weaker version of Turkish coffee. Still, not sure whether I’m a fan of having to chew my morning cup of joe.

Almost by accident I scheduled my stopovers on the way to South Africa to do a reverse trip through human history. I left the New World to land in the heart of Mother England and the origin of the Industrial Revolution. From there I went to the birthplace of Democracy. Next stop, Cairo, Egypt- a place so ancient that they invented writing on paper. And from there to the land that was literally the cradle of our entire species. Cool, right?

The plane to Cairo was operated by EgyptAir, which had no alcohol on board, but my flight attendant was nice enough to suffer a photo with me even though he didn’t speak English. It’s surprising what you can communicate by pointing. Arriving in Egypt was definitely a culture shock. The intensity with which I was accosted with taxi offers was jarring after the relative calmness of the plane. I knew immediately that I was being ripped off, but with the weakness of the Egyptian Pound and my lack of energy to barter, I took what was offered and paid the equivalent of about $14 to head into the city. The tout led me to a taxi where he then talked to the driver in Arabic for a while trying to explain where I wanted to go. Neither could quite figure it out so I dropped a pin in Google Maps (after having taken the time to download the offline map for Cairo while I was at my last hostel) and handed it to the driver.

The trip to the hostel was definitely an adventure in itself. Search YouTube for Cairo traffic videos to get an idea or click here: https://youtu.be/HZ3wtkTzyYE . Any guidebook or forum you read will tell you not to drive in this city. The traffic is almost like a living organism, or maybe a raging river. Cars flow in and out of lanes with abandon, you share the road with horse carts and motorbikes and rickshaws, lights and signs are just decorative. Through all my travels I have never encountered streets like that. When we arrived at my hostel, I tipped the driver handsomely for my safe delivery (though he did, of course ask for more because this is Egypt, after all). My accommodation was on the fourth floor and I had time to regret my full-size suitcase as I dragged it up several flights of stairs. I had booked a room to myself and did not regret it; for $30 I had a full sized bed and my own bathroom. I sat on the bed and it only just then occurred to me that I was officially in Africa. I haven’t been to a brand new continent since 2011.  AFRICA!  Holy shit. So far I have not needed nor missed having my coat.

Tune in next time for more Egypt and my arrival in South Africa.

-A.

Crafty Beer in Colorado

So, funny story- literally minutes after I posted my last entry, there was a knock on my window and a lovely gal from the hostel named Rachel told me that there was a spare bunk in her room that I was welcome to. She was from Arizona and horrified by the idea that I would be sleeping in my truck during a night that involved snow. America, you rock.

As I anticipated, the weather turned to crap in the east so I chilled in Denver for the day. I had planned to go to the Veteran’s Day ceremony but I guess most of the events happened on the weekend, so I missed out. I DID see some kick-ass F-16 fighter jets fly by. Don’t get those in Canada!

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I spent most of the day just walking around Denver, which is currently booming according to locals. The legalization of marijuana has really put the gas pedal to the local economy and rent and traffic are getting bad (always a sign of “progress”). I was not expecting to like the city all that much, but I was pleasantly surprised. Near the hostel was a great little arts district on Santa Fe Road and I managed to find some cool cafes and art galleries, as well as promising watering hole called Renegade Brewery. After my wandering I headed back to my hostel to see what was going on there.

 

 

20151112_170043_HDRThe place was full of the standard sort of budget travelers, though definitely more road-trippers than you normally see in other countries. There was one Aussie named Matt who had just gotten off a 22 hour bus from Austin, TX. Naturally I managed to convince him along with a guy from my room named Jackson from Vermont to come out for beers at the brewery. We all had a good time, but sadly the young pups were only in for one pint a piece. I didn’t end up drinking alone, though, as the live-in tenant from the hostel and his brother also came out later. We had a really fun discussion about American politics (yes, I know I have a weird idea of fun). It’s just nice to have an educated discussion without anyone getting pissy about other peoples’  opinion.

When I got up this morning, I thought very seriously about staying one more day in Denver, but decided I do want to get to Cape Breton to see my sister eventually, so I got in the truck and headed south. According to another road-tripper at the hostel from Memphis, I really don’t need to bother with Kansas. My goal today was to make it to Albuquerque, New Mexico, but I only got as far as Las Vegas (no, not the one in Nevada). Las Vegas, New Mexico, seems to be just a whistle stop town, but I will try and give it a proper look-over in the morning since it was dark when I arrived. I never did end up buying any legal weed, but it was funny to see a store next to the gas station called “the Bud Hut”. Never change, Colorado.

Tonight I splurged on a Days Inn and am now enjoying some HBO and Colorado craft beer I picked up for my collection. I know it’s a fancy place because there is a telephone beside the toilet.

-A.

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Classy

Oh the Funny Things You Do, America, This is You

New day, new state

Welcome to my road trip blog. Take off your socks and get comfortable! Sorry for the weird title to this post, but the old theme for America’s Funniest Home Videos has been stuck in my head since I crossed the border. Now it’s in your head too, Muahahahaha!

This month’s crazy travel scheme involves driving my parents’ truck to Cape Breton where I will exchange it with a different truck that they had left there last year (my parents are ballin’). Since my employment status recently changed to “available” I volunteered to do the drive. Nothing like a road trip in November, right? To be fair I was supposed to leave 10 days ago, but I contracted the plague and had to recover my ability to breathe properly before departure.

As I write this, I am in the back seat of my truck, parked in front of a hostel in Denver. Why not inside the hostel, you may ask? Well, genius me, too cheap to pay the fee for the hostel booking website, just checked the availability when I left Montana this morning, and since there was beds available at 10am, I assumed they would still be available at 7pm because most travelers are not big on spontaneity these days and tend not to leave things to the last minute. I use this to my advantage because it allows ME to be spontaneous (and cheap). This turned out to be one of the few times were my strategy backfired, because when I showed up at the hostel, the place was full and there was no one even around who worked there. After knocking loud enough, someone from inside let me in and let me know the vacancy was nil. The guy was nice enough to let me borrow his laptop and I booked online for tomorrow night. There is something funny about making a reservation for a place online WHILE YOU ARE IN THE PLACE. So now I am parked in front of the hostel, crashing with my sleeping bag and my laptop in the back seat of the truck. Hey, at least I’m saving a night’s accommodation fee.

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My original plan was to head out across Nebraska or Kansas tomorrow, but the radio says that there is a blizzard warning for the western end of the those states and a tornado watch for the eastern end, so I will hunker down in the Mile High city for a day and wait out the weather. I don’t think I want to challenge the potential of a Kansas tornado; I have no desire to go seeking the Wizard. But speaking of the Mile High City, the hostel is across the street from an honest to goodness marijuana WAREHOUSE, How crazy is that? I’ve never been to Amsterdam so I guess this is my chance to hang out with the cool kids. I had my heart set on tracking down a craft brewery tomorrow, but maybe there’s time for more than one sinful indulgence?

The drive so far has been pretty beautiful when I wasn’t driving through a storm of freezing rain. From the US Border to Great Falls, Montana, the weather was absolutely garbage. It cleared up about 60 miles south of the city, but the road conditions, combined with a late departure from Calgary meant that I didn’t get into Billings until 10pm. I had booked ahead of time for that one and had a room waiting for me at the ever-classy Super 8 Hotel.  Everyone in Montana was incredibly friendly, though I don’t know why I am surprised. My only issue with the state was the radio. When I am driving in foreign countries where English is spoken I really like to listen to talk radio because it really gives me a feel for the culture of an area. In contrast to its people, Montana radio is terrifying.

Getting past the fact that more than half of the stations I could pick up were evangelical Christian, any commentator I came across was shouting about crazy shit. No word of a lie, the successive conversations of three consecutive stations were as follows: Protecting your assets in case the “Socialists” get elected, Impeaching the President, and finally a program that I though was about science but upon further inspection, was most definitely not. I stopped at that station because the person on air was talking about vestigial organs… I thought “Oh cool, science!”  Yeah, no. The guy’s premise was that “Evolutionists” use the concept of human vestigial organs as an argument against Creationism, but since we actually don’t truly have vestigial organs, and even if we did, evolution says we should be continually improving so we shouldn’t have them anyway, that was the reason why Creationism is true. Wut? Getting past the fact that the guy was trying to use science to argue FOR CREATIONISM, Evolution is not “continual improvement”. IT IS NOT A CONSCIOUS FORCE! Gah, sorry- I’ve been by myself all day and I had no one to yell this at. At the Wyoming border I found an NPR station and stopped cruising the crazy-town airwaves.

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American Bad-ass, Sam Elliott

Oh and Wyoming is goddamn beautiful, by the way. The north reminded me of Southern Peru and the south reminded me of Western Australia. Both places I absolutely love. Side note: most North Americans would probably have made the reverse comparison, but I’m the weirdo who made it to two other continents before I made it to the state that’s a day’s drive from Calgary.  Lots of lovely buttes and rolling cowboy landscape. I kept waiting for Sam Elliott to start narrating my journey. I had really wanted to go to Yellowstone, in the northwest of the state, but there is only one short road through the park open this time of year, so I will have to get that part in when I do my west coast motorcycle trip next year.

It is supposed to snow here in Denver tonight, but I have a sleeping bag and a down jacket, so I should be fine- it’s not like I’m sleeping on the ground or anything. The temperature is just barely below freezing, so it’s pretty much like camping in Jasper in the summer. The Fahrenheit is killing me, though. I can wrap my head around miles okay since all the land around our farm is measured in half-miles but 32 degrees should not be freezing temperatures! My brain cannot compute that.

Okay, enough old lady ranting for one day.

-A.

Equatorial Jaunt

Quito

For the first time in a while, I managed to reach Quito, the capital of Ecuador without losing a single possession. Huzzah! Arriving in the city at 5:30am was rather inconveient, but I found a little corner of the lovely, modern bus terminal to relax for a while until the sun came up. I eschewed the touristy La Mariscal region of the city and chose instead to stay in the colonial center where my odds of being pickpocketed were slightly lower. I first stopped at a place called the Secret Garden, highly recommended in the guide book, but there was no one around to talk to so I stole some wi-fi and checked to see if there was any other options nearby. I settled on a place called Hostel Revolution, only five blocks further down the road. I got to the front door at 7:15 and then found a sign saying that they don’t answer the door until 8. Lovely. Quito is pretty cold in the morning owing to its elevation and I had no desire to continue wandering the streets so I hunkered down on the doorstep like a well-dressed vargrant to wait it out. When I was finally admitted to the building, I found out the place was full, but someone would be checking out at noon. I curled up with my backpack and some pillows in the TV room and stole a much-needed nap.

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Fun graffiti, ten points if you can figure out the reference

 

The hostel was worth the wait, finding that fine balance of being really social and fun without nightly drunken assholes ruining your sleep. The place was owned by a Croatian lady who had lived in Toronto for the past 20 years- she had just purchased the business from an Australian guy and was in the process of updating the place with more plugins and better stairs. Because of this, I was informed that I would have to check out by September 25; it was only the 22nd so I figured I would be fine. Some aimless wandering finished up the day followed by a proper sleep in an actual bed. Ah the simple pleasures.

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Bullfighting mural at Equator park

On September 23, the equinox, I attempted to leave the hostel early but the combination of sleeping in and crowded transit meant that I didn’t start out toward the equator until after 10am. The actual site of the equator is only 25km from Quito but I had to take a combination of metro and bus so it took a while to get there, especially after my bus broke down.

Mitad del Mundo!
Mitad del Mundo!

 

The Ecuadorians have built a bit of a tourist park around the monument marking the equator, as measured  by the French Academy of Sciences in 1736. So while the spot is impressive, the equator is actually slightly off from that location. Sadly, my camera battery died before I got to take some shots of the official equator, but the sun was still directly over my head at noon, and that was just damn cool. Fun fact, “Ecuador” just means “equator” in Spanish… not a terribly creative country name, in the end.

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In the afternoon I caught the wrong bus back to town and ended up completely lost, but I was too stubborn to catch a taxi so I walked for about 3 hours to make it back to my hostel. I think the pollution got to me and I spent 2 very unexciting days being sick. With nothing to occupy my time, I mostly surfed the internet and after a bit of googling I decided, “what the hell, why not go to the Galapagos?” and bought a ticket leaving September 26. I occasionally have a problem with impulsiveness. Of course I was supposed to leave the hostel by the 25th so I made a plan to sleep in the airport the night before my flight. When I told this to the hostel owner, she took pity on me and let me sleep there one more night for free. This is why I love travel culture. Next stop Galapagos Islands!

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Coastal Rambling and Too Much Whiskey

Lima in the sunlight
Lima in the sunlight

Arriving in Lima, I was still mourning the loss of my beloved travel pants- stain resistant, quick dry, and they made my bum look good, goddamn magical pants! Sigh. On the bright side, at least the sun was making a rare appearance in the perennially foggy city (weather pun!). I stayed at a place called the Red Psycho Llama Hostel in Miraflores, on the recommendation of my Aussie friend Lucy; treating myself to a private room, blissfully bedbug free. I spent a full day and night in Lima, checking out a few corners I missed in my previous visit. The colonial center of the city is really quite beautiful, but my most lingering memory of the day was the group of nuns I came across while wandering near the main plaza. They had set up an impromptu concert on a street corner, complete with guitars and amps, to raise money for a Namibian charity. Those ladies could rock!

Rock and Roll nuns
Rock and Roll nuns
100 year old cafe near the main government building
100 year old cafe near the main government building

Against my better judgement I caught a night bus to Trujillo, with the intention of checking out the surfing suburb of Huanchaco; another night bus, another lost item. This time it was my mom’s IPod I had borrowed with all the podcasts I had been saving for rainy days. All those Radiolab episodes gone to some bus cleaner who won’t even be able to appreciate them because they’re in English. Not to mention it was my mom’s IPod (sorry Mom!!!). I was never built to function immediately upon becoming conscious. I have made a new rule that I will no longer take night buses unless absolutely necessary as I am quickly running out of possessions.

September is firmly in the shoulder season for surfing in Peru so Huanchaco was practically deserted. I had already had some time to mellow out in Lima so I continued north after only a single night, in search of a little more excitement. On the local bus to the main station in Trujillo traffic got pretty heavy and as we pulled up to a light, a second bus came swerving into our lane and seriously sideswiped us. I was sitting on the side of the impact and glass shattered out of the back window immediately behind me. I shouted and dived rather dramatically into the main aisle. Nobody else on the bus even blinked an eye- I guess this is a fairly normal occurrence for the locals? I sheepishly climbed back into my chair and stuck my head out of one of the broken windows to survey the damage. Other than some broken glass and a new dent to go along with the bus’s previous collection, the mechanicals seemed no worse for wear. The bus pulled over to the curb and everyone silently filed off. Unnerved by the calmness of my fellow passengers, I quickly flagged down a taxi and rode the rest of the way to the terminal taking deep breaths, trying to calm my pulse a little. Well I said I wanted some excitement, didn’t I? I boarded my bus to Mancora without further incident, but it took a while for me to relax after that.

Quiet Huanchaco
Quiet Huanchaco

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Loki Hostel is a chain of budget accommodations found in various locations throughout South America. Last time I was in La Paz, I stayed at a similar place called Wild Rovers. This is not the type of place you go to have a meaningful cultural experience. At 31, I feel like I am on the ragged edge of the target demographic, so I figured, now or never. I arrived in Mancora, a fishing village turned beach destination with a decent surf break and more beach bars than you can count. Unlike the Mexican Riviera, this place still has a bit of a casual, unforced feel to it. There are still some locals who actually fish for a living and though there are the persistent touts hassling you when you get off the bus, it doesn’t have that desperate, frantic tone you may find in more developed beach spots. This might just be the laid back, Peruvian mentality, though. The hostel is what can only be described as a backpacker resort. There is a central pool and hammocks and a huge bar with attached restaurant, and of course everything you buy can be put on your tab. I even ran into my friend James, who I hadn’t seen since Cuzco. He was working behind the bar in exchange for room and board. My first night involved blue curaco slushies, whiskey and beer pong. There may also have been a round of strip Jenga? Luckily I’m very good at Jenga.

Chillin' by the pool
Chillin’ by the pool
James serving me drinks slightly stronger than officially authorized
James serving me drinks slightly stronger than officially authorized

The next day I was feeling every day of my 31 years, while the 20-year-old Argentinians were doing laps of the pool. I promised to do Karaoke with James that night, but he was forced to rock out to Hotel California all by himself, poor sod. The day-long hangover convinced me that I might actually be to old for this shit (or maybe I just shouldn’t mix whiskey and blue booze slushies…). If you are not partying, there is not really much to do in Mancora so I pulled up stakes after three nights of torturing my liver. My secondary motivation was that I had this crazy idea that I might try to make it to the equator in Ecuador for the equinox. Nerdy as it sounds, I thought it might be cool to have one foot in spring and one foot in autumn. This would mean a marathon run through the country, skipping much of the highlands to get to Quito in time. After five weeks in Peru, I decided I had seen enough highlands to suit me for a while, so I said goodbye to Peru and crossed the border that day.

Letting the Bed Bugs Bite in Huacachina

Desert Oasis
Desert Oasis

Finally pulling out of Arequipa, I headed to Ica on a night bus (and it had wi-fi! Are you listening Greyhound?). From Ica I then flagged down a taxi and reached my final destination of Huacachina, a literal oasis in the desert. There is a little lagoon and palm trees and sand dunes and everything I felt like I was in a Bugs Bunny cartoon. At any moment Yosemite Sam was going to come strolling up the street with his six-shooters. I chose a hostel that was fairly cheap but had a busy cafe out front serving proper bacon, which was what sold me in the end. Never judge a hostel by its bacon. My room was full of teenage Brits on their gap year- nice enough blokes, but not exactly my peer group. The one guy kept complaining he couldn’t fit his new purchases in his bag because he had brought too many condoms. Poor little fella- though I guess you have to appreciate the optimism.

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I wandered around the oasis for a while, a full lap of the place took all of 15 minutes and then went in search of my friend Marylin who I had met in Arequipa. I found her easily in the small settlement and she told me she was going on a dune buggy tour the next day which included sandboarding down the giant dunes. While it did sound like fun, my board and hill skills were limited to an ill-advised attempt to learn snowboarding over 10 years ago. I promised her I would think about it and after a long phone call to my bank where I once again had to explain to them that I was in fact actually in Peru and not being defrauded of my life savings, I made an early night of it and headed to bed. The room was surprisingly cool considering the heat outside, thanks to a small open skylight in the vaulted ceiling. It was because of this that I did’t really think anything of it when I woke several times throughout the night to serious itching; I thought there must have been mosquitos invading through the hole above. Nope.  I woke up to dozens of bites all over my upper body and bed bugs visibly fat with my blood crawling in the sheets. Ew ew ew ew ew.

I immediately went to the front desk and asked to get the money back I had paid upfront for my second night; the desk clerk was initially reluctant to give me money back, saying they didn’t do refunds. I then presented several of the insect invaders from my bed to her on a business card and then she immediately gave me a refund for both nights. Another woman who worked there walked up and had the temerity to suggest that I might have brought the beasties in with me. I chose not to immediately smack her and simply left the place and walked across to where Marylin was staying. Needing something to distract me from the itching, I decided to go on the dune buggy  tour after all and that afternoon we headed out to the endless dunescape on these monstrous multipassanger dune buggies that looked rather insectoid themselves.

Having been warned that some of the drivers could be a little crazy, I was confident that my quading and motorcycle background would give me a strong stomach for the adventure- I definitely underestimated the cojones on these guys. Barreling long at breakneck speed, we would approach the downward slope of a dune at such an angle that you couldn’t see the bottom before going over the edge. Our buggy got to hear a few of my most choice swearwords on the way down, to be sure. When it came to the sandboarding, I made no attempt to use the foot straps on the board they provided and instead went down my first dune toboggan-style, after explaining to a few people from Europe what a toboggan was. Most people who tried to go down the hill standing on the board fell down almost immediately and eventually switched over to my style. On the second dune the guide convinced me to try it head-first, since I had somehow become the ringleader in our little motley crew. More swear words, but damn was it fun once I realized I wasn’t facing imminent death.

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We cruised back to Huacachina as the sun set among the dunes and I had yet another early night, since I had promised Marylin to go with her on her 3am(!) bus back to Lima. While packing I managed to leave behind one of my only two pairs of pants and a sleeping bag liner. My bag gets lighter by the day. I then almost missed the bus because I couldn’t find my passport when I got to the ticket counter. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- I am NOT a morning person.

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Indecision in Canyon Country

I arrived in Arequipa with every intention of doing another solo hike (because I didn’t learn my lesson the first time, I suppose). There is a rather spectacular trek through the Colca Canyon, second or third deepest in the world depending on the metric you use. The standard tour runs between two and three days and stays primarily in the central part of the canyon. I mapped out an alternative route that brought me further west in the less touristy areas but this also doubled the elevation gain and added a day, making it a slightly more challenging trek than the last one I completed, but with the bonus that I would be able to stay in local villages along the way so I would not need to carry a tent nor any meals with me.

Saw this old beast while touring around Arequipa- didn't know International made more than tractors.
Saw this old beast while touring around Arequipa- didn’t know International made more than tractors.

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Arequipa with one of it's three neighboring volcanoes in the background (I think this one is Misti? Or maybe Chachani?)
Arequipa with one of it’s three neighboring volcanoes in the background (I think this one is Misti? Or maybe Chachani?)

After a couple days of planning and about 70 soles spent on maps, I eventually wussed out and took a one day bus tour instead. My feet were still not back to normal and I just couldn’t mentally commit to more solitude. I am not on some pilgramage or walk-about to find myself; I know myself pretty well by now, thank you very much. For once I decided that I didn’t have to do something the hard way, and I got to hang out with some fun people on my bus in the process. The bits of Colca Canyon I did see were absolutely gorgeous and when we stopped at a lookout, a huge condor flew mere feet from my head. The bus did end up with a flat tire, but that just meant we got to stroll around the town of Chivay for the afternoon. Not a bad way to spend a couple hours. And in the end my feet were much happier with me.

I chose not to hike down this. Looking down from the top was enough.
I chose not to hike down this. Looking down from the top was enough.
Condor country
Condor country

 

Cactus flower
Cactus flower

Also while in Arequipa I ran into my friend Lucy, who I had met in Cusco along with her friend Emmy- we went out drinking and dancing though their stamina outlasted mine and I called it quits at only 3am. Clubbing at altitude is hard work! Suffice to say I have no photographic evidence of the evening, probably for the best. We parted ways, with them heading south to Boliva and me heading north back toward Lima and eventually Ecuador. Such is the nature of backpacking friendships, alas. Next stop, Huacachina!