Adventure Travel in Peru – Welcome to the big city, Country Boy

When I came to Peru for the first time, I lived in Arequipa for over four months while learning Spanish. Although I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, I had lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles for about 20 years and was so used to life in the big city. However, after living in Cotahuasi for over a year and a half, I have become a country boy again. When I go to Arequipa, I usually try to keep it as short as possible. I planned a short trip there and left Cotahuasi on a Wednesday morning at 7:00. I decided to check the way to Coropuna on the way, because I drove right past. We would climb it in a few weeks and I wanted a bit more information, especially since there was fresh snow since my last stay nearby. I was also a bit nervous about the climb because Coropuna is 21,079 feet high.

I looked around and found another road and was able to get closer to the foot of the mountain than the last time. Finally, I stopped as boulders blocked the road at an altitude of about 16,000 feet. I then climbed nearly 3,000 feet, which looked like the best approach route, at about 18,800 feet. That was only about 2300 feet below the summit, so I was very happy with it. It took me three hours and 35 minutes to get there, and two hours and fifteen minutes to get back to the car. Of course, where I turned around, it really gets steep and I've already begun to really feel the effects of the altitude. I was also below the snowline, so the speed will slow significantly when we reach that point. Anyway, I thought it might even be possible to do a day hike! We'll have to see how it goes this time as a two-day hike, and then decide whether it's possible as a day's walk or not.

I arrived in Arequipa around 10:00 that evening and stayed in bed with Marcio, where I live, and before 11:00, hoping to have a good night. Of course the dogs in the neighborhood had other ideas (they bark all night), I always forget how much louder it is in Arequipa than in Cotahuasi. And then the station wagons and taxis start very early in the morning, honking and roaring for the passengers, and the room I sleep in is right on the street and definitely not soundproof!

In the morning I went to the main post office to pick up a package that was kept at customs. After waiting for about an hour, completing forms and signing, I finally got my package, surprisingly without paying anything. Why they could not just forward it to Cotahuasi, I do not know.

Then I started shopping and bought things that I can not get in Cotahuasi or are more expensive there. I talked to a shopkeeper in the Central Market and she warned me there were more pickpockets and thieves than ever before and I should be extra careful. I have learned to take such warnings seriously. Unfortunately, I had no more money and had to go to the bank before I finished shopping. I took my money in dollars at the ATM and then went to the moneychangers to exchange it for soles. When I got my soles, I put most into a money belt, which I wore around the waist and put in my pants. Of course I tried not to be too obvious and not wanting people to see where I put the money. I carefully opened the bag and went back to the shopping district, crossed the street in front of the money changer's office.

When I arrived on the other side, I noticed that a few men ran into the street and collected money. I soon realized that it was mine! Here I was, trying to get the money back from them, trying to pick up something that was still on the street, and then noticed that more money fell on the street than I moved! I was totally confused, knowing that I had zipped the bag and was sure he had not had a hole since my last use. I went back to the money changers to leave the busy street and checked the bag. there was no money in it and no hole. At last I realized that in trying to put the money discreetly, I did not have to put it in the bag, but between the bag and my pants!

Sure enough, that even more money fell into my pants legs, so here I tried to get that out and make sure I got it all while standing in the corner of the open office! I am sure that I have a nice sight. The man behind the counter kept looking at me strangely. Finally sure that I was safe; I left the office. Then I realized that it was possible that a "ladron" (thief, pickpocket) had seen me and was just waiting for me to come out. I walked away from the shopping district, often peering over my shoulder, and walked quickly into an open courtyard of a museum and office complex to gather my brains and count the money. I had about 130 soles (about $ 40) but was grateful I had not lost.

I felt it was not a good idea to walk back to the shopping district. That's why I decided to get my car and do my shopping, especially since I had to fetch some heavy stuff like sugar, milk. Popcorn, a large box of cereal and a large pack of toilet paper. I parked in the street in a busy wholesale store and went first to a shop to buy a dozen packages of my favorite biscuits, similar to a strawberry-filled vanilla oreo. I had to wait a few minutes to find 12 packets of strawberries. Just as she was putting her on the counter, a woman in the street yelled something about my car. I was afraid that a policewoman would come to give me a ticket, so she ran out of the store to see my car hooked up to a tow truck and they were just starting to leave! I ran to the truck and asked the policeman not to tow him, but to no avail. He said I had to go to the "Deposito" to get it. Of course, I had no idea where or what the deposito was, so he said I could drive them in the truck.

To shorten a long story, 142.50 soles and about an hour later, I took my car out of the confiscated yard after having to take the completed forms around the corner to have copies made for them. Almost all government agencies here require photocopies of all paper works, but they do not have copiers, so you need to go to a store and make copies. Fortunately, copy machines are everywhere in stores of all kinds, so finding one is not too difficult. I had thought of taking a copy of my passport to the post office in the morning, and they wanted to.

Later that afternoon, I met my friend Morayma and she went back with me to get my biscuits, which I had left lying on the counter while towing my car, and to do the rest of my shopping. Then I met another friend, Maribel, in the square and told her what had happened. She invited me to eat fried chicken. It was an expensive day, but I learned a few lessons about life in the big city and had a good time with two good friends. I hope tomorrow will be uneventful when I do my shopping and then go back to Cotahuasi.