I’m probably the furthest from sea level I’ve ever been, wandering streets of a foreign city in the mountains on my own. I pass live guinea pigs trapped in nets (good eatin’) and elderly wrinkled tanned ladies in the same high top wide brim hats, wearing colourful jackets that look more like a robe. So many of them hold walking canes. I swear there’s only four of them, they look so alike, so they must be stalking me.
I’m in Huaraz and when I woke up this morning at first light I peered out my bus window to see the city nestled in the valley of the foggy Cordillera Blanca. And it was beautiful. The city 3000 metres above sea level looks like a slum but it’s my sort of place. There’s a hunger here I haven’t seen yet. There’s many stalls on street corners and more energetic people, unlike in Zorritos where making money seemed like a part time hobby. Children are skinnier and are more likely to working. I found a lamb on a side road eating green grass and as I was about to take a pic a nina asked for money for the right to take it. That’s fair but there’s so many good photo opportunities here that I didn’t bother.
This is the Peru I came to see. And I feel a little dizzy from the wanderings. Or the high altitude.
I’m listening to Once In A Lifetime by Talking Heads. (you may find yourself in a shotgun shack, and you may find yourself in another part of the world…and you may ask yourself, well, how did I get here?).
A cute girl and I flipped a coin as to where we would go. I wanted it all to come down to Density. (Congrats! You level up and claim 50 points for a Hogwarts House of your choice if you get that reference).
Would the coin tell us to go to Cuzco or would it be Huaraz?
Three out of three flips went to Huaraz. That’s density.
But somehow six of us moved down the coast to Trujillo instead. Maybe it was because we knew the Pope would visit there in January?
It was because we were looking for work and there were promising job offers in Trujillo. We jumped most of the hoops for what appears to be the perfect job for me, and then we waited in a surf hostel, and waited, and waited, and drank, and waited for when we were next needed. Most of us were running out of money.
Every day for almost a week I would go to the gym, and to the huge mall and drink flat whites at Starbucks. It all became routine to the point I zoned out from the culture around me. It bored me. Where was the spontaneity I had when I decided to go to Peru in the first place?
‘Fuck it,’ I thought. ‘Be yourself. Do what you want for yourself. That’s how you be yourself.’ When my former company unexpectedly paid me yet again (Christmas bonus), I knew I had no excuse. I had to leave, recharge, and channel my Ernest Hemingway. I remembered the magical coin flip. And I thought, ‘yes! It’s my Density.’
I felt bad leaving my friends (including the cute girl who needs to survive off two minute noodles until the next pay cheque) over Christmas and New Years but they understood (expressing the nicest type of jealousy).
I packed my bag and then got really tipsy before saying goodbye to them, probably making a real ass of myself (let’s add that one to the list). I arrived at the station in Huaraz this morning and I realised three things; my phone was flat, I must have forgotten to pack my charger, and the smallest note I had was 100 soles. That’s problematic because so many here are reluctant to break those notes. But fortunately I had just enough coins to get the taxi to the city centre.
I wandered searching for wi fi to find my hostel (and I hadn’t written the name or address down. Fool!). For ages I searched until a tour guide found me, so I asked him where I could find a coffee and wi-fi, and then he never left me alone. He helped me, but he lured me back to his office. So the good news is that for the next three days you’re going to get pics from up in the mountains when I go on a tour guide. Maybe that’s Density too.
I’ve been to the bank, I’ve found where all the cute knitted sweaters are and I’m definitely getting one. I’ve found where the hostel is, and now I’m biding my time at a restaurant eating a burger and drinking lemonade and resting. Gee, I feel weird up here in the heights of the world.
Hasta que nos encontremos de nuevo.