A wrap-up of three weeks in Peru

Life in Ollanta was a bit challenging to get accustomed to at first.
The food is different and you definitely have to make sure things are cooked thoroughly, all water has to be boiled or filtered before you drink it, lots of freezing cold showers, and of course Spanish. But I’m definitely accustomed by now.
The staff at Awamaki matched my preferences for a home-stay perfectly, it’s a great fit and the relationship between my homestay family and myself is fantastic.
I’ve fallen in love with a lot of the Peruvian chocolates and snacks, namely Nestlé Sublimes, Morachas, and D’ANAFRIOs, all by Nestlé. All are super cheap, around 26¢ US.
Also all the sodas are here are made with REAL sugar, not that high fructose corn syrup mess, REAL sugar. I’m sipping a REAL Coke as I’m writing this.
So down to business, the real reason I’m here is for a volunteer photography position with Awakaki. So far I have almost completely organized somewhere around a thousand or so photos on Awamaki’s hard-drive, for use on their online Picasa Web albums. I have shot product photos of textile colors, a kids computer class set up by the Education division of Awamaki, two trails for possible use in the Awamaki trails booklet, a Spanish teachers class, and numerous street scenes and landscapes.
This weekend I have a camping trip to the endangered queuña tree forest, planning to do lot of astrophotography, so you could be seeing a photo or two from it.

My journey to Ollantaytambo, Peru

So I made it to Ollantaytambo. With my oh-too-limited Spanish, I somehow made it. A flight to Miami, then a 4 or 5 hour wait for a 6 hour flight to Lima. I get to Lima and there is a huge crowd of people posing as taxi drivers and telling me of cheap rides, but only the one guy from the hotel I had arranged a night at, One Hostel. So with a very long and fast taxi ride to the hotel, I get there in one piece, stumble through some Spanish with the doorman, and get to my room, tired and hungry, and decide to eat a granola bar because I didn’t want to test my luck with walking Lima’s streets at 10 PM, by myself. HAH. Not fun.
So then I wake up at 6ish, from a sleepless night, but excited for what the day holds. First off at 8:30, I walk down to the Metro (a super market actually, not anything to do with transportation). Once I’m there, I try to buy a bus ticket with Cruz Del Sur to Cusco, but to no avail, they aren’t open til 9. So I go back to One Hostel, wait for a bit on the precious Internet, then walk back. I wait, and it turns out the girl who runs the bus ticket counter is not in that day. Nice. So I go back to the hostel and research other places to order my ticket from, and the very helpful woman who runs One Hostel points me to Forester Tours, which is right across the street. There’s a man talking Spanish very fast to some customers, and a teenager idle. Luckily the kid realizes I’m not so great with Spanish (HA), so he quickly says “I can speak English,” and it turns out he’s great. Phew. I get my bus ticket from Lima to Cusco for $71 US, exactly what I expected.
I go back to my hotel and think about what to do. As I’m sitting there thinking, I see my the GoPro lent to me by my good friends at Beneficial Entertainment, and my skateboard at the top of my suitcase. Duh. A bit nervous about it, but determined to try, I head out into the street, iPod blaring and GoPro filming. In minutes I make it to the coast, and my jaw literally drops at the view; a wall of fog sitting out before the horizon, and clouds covering the mountains in the distance. I push up the hill, pause at the top, and proceed to bomb the hill.
After that bit of skating, I shower at my hostel before my bus ride, get a taxi, get to the bus station, get my ticket, grab a little bite to eat (yea, haven’t been eating much as you can tell), and at 2 PM board my 21-hour (actually ends up being 24) bus ride to Cusco. I completely exhaust both iPods on the trip, sleep maybe a couple hours maximum, watch many movies in Spanish, finish reading “Linchpin” by Seth Godin, eat some decent bus food, and finally get to Cusco at 2 PM the next day.
Despite my gradual climb in elevation, the altitude still affects me, and I’m not feeling too great. I change out a US $5 bill, almost take an unofficial taxi and take an official taxi instead to Pavitos and Grau taxi stop. I make the mistake of telling the driver I’m American (why didn’t I just say I was from Cayman??!) and he charges me 8 nuevo soles, quadruple the normal price! I then take a shared taxi to Ollantaytambo, which only takes a bit over an hour (normally 2) because the driver goes 15+ MPH over the speed limit, overtaking multiple cars on a hilly terrain, IN THE RAIN. I mean, really?! Once there I am again ripped off by the taxi driver, by exchanging my $20 US for 2.0 instead of 2.93. Grr.
Stay tuned for an overview of my first week in Ollantaytambo!