Well, I’ve officially been in Perú for more than a month. I have a Peruvian cell phone, a Peruvian bank account, a Peruvian gym, and a Peruvian hair dresser. Soy un verdadero limeño! But actually, no. The thing that I seem to be missing is the Spanish. I feel like my language abilities have been subjected to the following pattern:
Mediocre Spanish upon arrival –> Plummeting of my abilities to communicate in Spanish –> Inability to communicate in either Spanish or English
I may be exaggerating a bit, but it was only after today that I started to regain confidence in my abilities to speak Spanish (although my spelling in English has certainly taken a turn for the worse). After visiting my Peruvian hairdresser for a little trim, I decided to get lost in Lima (in a good way)…I’m challenging myself to learn something new about the city every day. Along the way, I stumbled upon the Inca Market (which is essentially a bazaar of Peruvian goods aimed at attracting tourists). While browsing about, I entered into a lengthy conversation with a local Peruvian vendor who asked me if I was Latino (I presume Argentinean or the like because I’m about as blonde as it gets) because my “Castellano” (Spanish) was so good. I proceeded to laugh out loud because up until this point I definitely would not have considered my Spanish the equivalent of that of a native speaker. Given that she was most likely just flattering me, her compliment nonetheless brought a confidence back to my speaking abilities that carried over into a 45 minute conversation about our respective lives. Although I certainly have a lot left to learn, after today I feel like it is all possible again, and I now realize that I need to doubt myself less and just throw as much of my Spanish out there as possible so that I can improve. Solamente con la práctica puedes mejorarlo!
All in all, I’ve settled in pretty well. My house and family are great. My classes, although they require loads of reading every week, are interesting. Studying, however, hasn’t kept me from escaping Lima and exploring the diverse regions “afuera de la ciudad” that make this country so unique…let’s take a photo journey through my 4-day trip to Huaraz, home of the Andean Cordillera Blanca, the highest mountain in Perú, an ancient pre-Incan civilization, and some of the most beautiful lagoons on the planet!
The Ancash Region: The Northern Peruvian Highlands (Andes)
We started the trip off with an 8 hour MoviTour Bus ride from Lima to Huaraz, Perú. When we arrived, we proceeded to spend about an hour and a half trying to find our hostel (the Alpes Huaraz, which I recommend to anyone who happens to find themselves in Huaraz…the rooms are cheap, clean, and they offer a delicious breakfast! Also, all of our tours were coordinated directly through the hostel and were very competitively priced, eliminating the need for a visit to a separate travel agency, which is something you will appreciate if you are only in town for the weekend.) After finally finding it, we settled in and went out to dinner at a Thai restaurant (yes, there is Thai food in Perú). Although the owner was British and insisted on speaking to us in English, the curry was fantastic…it was a nice reprieve from the mountainous portions of “criollo” food I have eaten since my arrival in Perú.
The following day, we took a 3.5 hour bus ride to the ruins of Chavín de Huantar, a pre-Incan civilization. It was a day full of ancient stone carvings, giant stone “cabezas,” and underground tunnels and aqueducts. Although very interesting, the tour lasted for nearly 2 hours, and our tour guide dragged us another 45 minutes out of the way to our only lunch option…a restaurant that she herself owned. We were in for an interesting experience. The food, all very over-priced for Peruvian standards, was less than “tasty.” As you can see in the first picture above, however, we accomplished am important life goal during the experience: we ate guinea pig. In Perú, guinea pig, or “cuy” (pronounced “koo-ee”), is a well-known and fairly common dish. Although in North America guinea pigs are considered pets, no such custom exists here. They are merely food. Unfortunately, we got a fairly lean one, so there were more teeth, claws and whiskers than actual meat to eat…yum? Needless to say, we felt it necessary to go out for some comfort food when we returned to Huaraz…pizza and wine for the night!
At 5 am the next morning we were awake and ready to catch our bus to Parque Nacional Huascaran in the “Cordillera Blanca” for an all-day hike to “Laguna 69.” (Before leaving, I managed to snap a picture of the sunrise over Huaraz from the roof of our hostel, which you can see in the gallery above). The hike was definitely a moderate one as far as the stress-level was concerned…the most strenuous part was the 45 minute final ascent to the lake, which was full of switchbacks and landed us at a final altitude of nearly 14,000 feet! (The air here was VERY thin…I, myself, had a headache because of the altitude, but there were others on the hike who suffered from more severe altitude sickness. Be sure to heed the acclimation warnings when you go trekkin’!) The views of the Cordillera Blanca and the glacial turquoise, blue-green Laguna 69 were stunning. After about an hour of enjoying the laguna, we started the 3 hour trek back down, which was undoubtedly more relaxing than the hike up. The pictures do not do justice to the natural beauty that is the “Cordillera Blanca.” Wild burrows and bulls roam the trails (making for some fairly interesting encounters). Waterfalls trickle from the ice-capped peaks. The entire hike felt like I was trekking through a Lord of the Rings Movie (minus the battles and all that jazz). Hands-down, one of the highlights of my entire trip thus far.
Exhausted, we returned to the hostel, called it an early night and got on our bus the following afternoon to head back to Lima to prepare for classes on Monday.
Two weeks later I would find myself in food HEAVEN. It’s a thing called Mistura…a food festival for which heavenly is not even an adequate descriptor. That post is soon to come (with plenty of pictures of sumptuous “criollo” delicacies), so stay tuned! I’ll see y’all later.
Find more photos like this on Institute for Study Abroad – Butler University