My Introduction to Peru

My itinerary from Toronto to Huaraz was awkward. I had landed in Peru’s capital Lima just after midnight and my bus to Huaraz was due to leave at 9:30am. I didn’t feel like paying for one night’s accommodation at some hotel or cheap hostel yet that left me staring down the barrel of 9 long hours sitting it out between the airport and bus terminal. In my mind, it was the lesser of two evils and it was definitely cheaper.

I was surprised at the level of activity in the airport at that time of morning. I was further surprised to have found numerous cafes open for business and bustling with customers. I found one with a seat next to a power outlet, ordered a cappuccino and started reading a new book, 'Homo Deus' by Yuval Noah Harari.

I watched locals and tourists alike walk by in their scores. Almost immediately I noticed how the local women held themselves compared to the tourists and women elsewhere I have visited. They walked with confidence and an obvious sense of pride. They are beautiful because they believe so, not necessarily because they are by western standards. It was refreshing, I liked it and I found myself smiling at the fact. 

The morning hours slowly passed by until it was time to catch a taxi to the bus terminal. As most overseas vacations in recent years have been spent climbing in either New Zealand or Europe, it had been a number of years since I had last visited a developing country.

I had forgotten the hustle and bustle immediately outside the airport as locals squabble for your business. I eventually settled on one particularly gentlemen by the name of Emanuel. He was well mannered and wasn't too pushy. Between my broken Spanish and his broken English we were able to come to an understanding of the required destination and cost with little fuss. We managed to squish my two 100L Duffels into the boot of his small Kia and set off.

The drive to the bus terminal took about half an hour and was non-stop excitement. Lane markings appeared to have no meaning nor did indicators. Cars, bikes and trucks alike weaved in and out of each other trying to find the quickest way through the morning traffic.

Emanuel appeared to have little regard for the speed limit or the number of Policia we passed on the way. Approaching a busy intersection, he even managed to purchase his breakfast from a beautiful young woman standing on the side of the street without even coming to a complete stop, leaning over me to make the exchange. It was quite the performance. I found myself smiling with nostalgia as the experience brought back memories of my first overseas adventures through South East Asia as a nineteen-year-old.

After another couple of long hours spent waiting at the bus terminal I eventually boarded the bus to Huaraz. I was pleasantly surprised when I found my seat on the top deck of the rather modern coach liner. It was large, plush and reclined completely. It was what I imagine flying business class is like but without the price tag. At 50 soles (about $23 AUD) I was excited at the prospect of getting some quality sleep on the eight-hour trip to what would be my base for the next four months.

Two friends from Brisbane, Ryan and Morag, of ‘Zen and the Art of Climbing’ arrived two days later. They are doing a year-long climbing trip through South America and will be spending the next 4 months here in Peru climbing with me. It had been four months since we had last seen each other in Brisbane and we had all experienced many great things. We promptly set off into town to grab a beer, dinner and exchange war stories.

They regaled me with tales of climbing in Mexico and Colombia, the nuances of shipping a van from the United States to South America and general van life. Needless to say it had been a busy couple of months for them with a steep learning curve!

Ryan and Morag had been driving for eight days straight to meet me in Huaraz and so were itching to climb again. As was I after a six-day hiatus. However, we would all have to wait one more day as life administration duties demanded our attention. On the top of the list was washing clothes, purchasing groceries and getting Ryan’s computer fixed. 

Our groceries consisted of mostly vegetables, rice, quinoa (a staple in Peru) and pasta for bulk, legumes and dehydrated soy for protein and fibre, oats and eggs for breakfast and a variety of energy dense snacks.  Nightly meals would be a mish mash of the above with paprika and hot sauce for extra flavour.

A lot of people would turn their nose up at this time of cuisine with its distinct lack of meat. However even when I am not in the mountains, it is the type of food I enjoy most. Big, hearty meals. Plus, it is cheap and is easy to manage with the limited space at our disposal. Our grocery bill came to around 140 soles, about sixty-five Australian dollars and would be sufficient for the three of us for a week. Getting these staples from the weekly farmers market each Saturday, our plan whenever possible, would cut the cost by half or perhaps more. Somewhere between three to six Australian dollars per person per day. Not bad.

With our life in about as much order as it can be we were ready to go climbing. The month of May will be spent mostly getting acclimatized, fit and strong. Preparation for the bigger, more committing peaks in the Cordillera Blanca. Our immediate plans were to head to a couple of the local rock climbing crags, located at an altitude of around 4,200m.  It is sure to be hard work however the benefits are obvious.

It’s been a long time coming but I am finally here. Finally, in Peru. I feel ready to tackle the next chapter of this journey and doing so with great friends from home fills me with promise, excitement and joy.