A day of ups and downs…and Pastoruri Glacier, and life!
Sometimes this trip feels more like a prison sentence than anything else. I find myself counting down the hours in the day and the days in the week and the weeks in the month and the months in the trip. I know this is a terrible way of spending my time and energy and I wish I could change it and it will likely change as time goes on but for now it’s just like that. The strange thing is that I made it happen on my own. Maybe now I will finally realize that I actually don’t like being on my own, I just like having some time to myself while being able to see everyone I love.
I’m so tired of the Quechua frown. It’s exhausting to see everyone with blank stares and wrinkled faces walking the streets so slowly as if there were no place they need to be today or ever. The shorter folks are usually older and have incredibly wrinkled and brown faces and walk with a waddle, their bodies swaying back and forth to make their way down the cracked and crumbling sidewalks. I started to read about Peruvian time in another book and just now I’m starting to understand what that means.
The bus to the glacier is a large transport van with 18 nice seats and an aisle in between. We stop to pick up more tourists and a woman holds up smalls packages of lemon candies to the window of the van to sell them. Is that really a days work? The packages of candy maybe cost one sole each at most, maybe she bought the big package and breaks them into smaller bags and sells them but how could that be enough money to live and eat? I’m so confused by the pace of life here and the tiny amounts of money that everyone lives on. Of course I am used to living in debt and with credit cards so what the fuck do I know?
Somebody on this tiny van is painting their nails it smells terribly caustic in here. Interesting decision…
I think I might be the only person in this van that speaks English besides a grizzly and tired looking cigarette smoking man that is reading a book called Encounters with the Archdruid. It’s 9 a.m. and we are finally about to leave the city for about 9 hours: two hours of hiking, an hour of sightseeing and maybe six hours of bus rides.
I need to keep a positive attitude it might be the only thing that matters in this life.
The grizzled man is from Switzerland but lives in Costa Rica.
“Need some mountains every once in a while,” he said as he cracked his second beer at our first stop at 10:30 in the morning.
We’ve only just left and now we’ve stopped in a small mountain village to buy coca leaves, water and snacks. I bought some crackers and a chocolate snack. Outside a family takes photos with a little white lamb that a tiny Quechua woman has brought from inside her home. She also sells gloves and snacks from a small basket shat she is carrying.
The guide has told us all a history of the glacier and a bunch of information about how climate change has affected the region and the weather up in the mountains…I think. The tour guide, Javier, only speaks Spanish.
The sun is hot already and I will certainly need some more sunblock before we continue on our way. Dogs bark from inside a house as I lean against the storefront in front of our van waiting to leave. I must look like a total asshole typing on my phone like this, I’m sure it looks like I’m texting people right now instead of soaking up the moment. Maybe I am. Maybe I’m texting myself in the future?
We stop again to see a bubbling natural spring and these really weird and tall plants that only live in high altitudes in the Andes and grow for 40 or 50 years, flower once and then wither and die after fruiting.
How much longer to the glacier? I’m sure the guide said in his twenty-minute long speech but I must have missed that part. Today is my last full day in Huaraz and under the care of this timeless beauty and I want to make the most of it by appreciating this time of my life.
The grizzled Swiss lights up another cigarette.
The mountains are desolate and inhospitable places. The spirit of the earth lives here, barely touched by the cruel and selfish hands of man. The wind and the sky take refuge here and commune with the sun and the water, the sources of all life. The mountains are pure. Life and death will escape to here when the lowlands are overrun with terror and spit. The last refuge of pure being. My sins are absolved, they never existed. I am washed clean in the shadows of these young behemoths. My muse. I was frozen. I begin to melt and slide down down down to the rivers and valleys below. I join my long lost cousins and aunties and great ancestors in the ocean below and again lift up to the sky. Weightless escape. I am air and water again. I am nothing and everywhere. I drift and float pure and clean as snow to the mountain caps of the Huascarán. I am reborn. I am frozen in time. I am timeless. I am breathless again. Breathe your great life into me o faceless one. O timeless one.
What a beautiful day. I am filled full of life and spirit and love and respect. It was an easy 2 km hike up a well kept path to the glacier and lake with incredible views of the mountains to the north. I cried when I saw the top. Now in this inexplicably pure and beautiful place all the pain and sorrow and loneliness of the last few days is washed away.
I sat in a rocky nook and ate my lunch, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and some water. After sitting there contemplating life and quietly meditating on the beauty of this world for a while it was time to head back down the path to meet at the van by 2:30. We loaded in and started the long bumpy gravel road down to the highway.
Tomorrow I start the long trek to Santiago: a six hour bus to Lima, a hostel for the night and then two 24-hour bus rides. I wonder how that will feel? Terrible, more than likely. But it will feel great to leave Peru for a little while and head to Chile.
Maybe people in Chile will smile a little. Maybe not. I’m ready for sea level, this altitude is confusing and draining.
I went to the mountains to search for god and I found her. I bawled in thanks for another day on this earth. Now to learn to find god everywhere , not just in these mountains or churches or wherever else people seek wholeness.
There is a nice family next to me, two sisters and their parents and the girls are best friends and it makes me miss my brother a lot. I’ve been thinking about an adventure that I can go on with somebody else and he would be one of my first choices for a travel buddy. When I get back I’m going to get my motorcycle license and start to try and find a motorcycle to buy. If you are reading this Alex, get ready.
How rude is it that I see a glimpse of these people’s lives and want to make it part of mine, a little ego fueled poem or online post. The little window for me is supposed to represent their whole lives? Am I selfish to want their picture or paint their portrait with my words just for my own fancy dream?
It’s 7:30 p.m in Akilpo Hostel and upstairs the common area and kitchen is jamming. There must be around 30 people in this room and it was hard to find a room on the stove at first. I have some soup from yesterday that I am heating up and it’s frozen solid so I put it on a double boiler in the plastic container to try and thaw it enough just to get it out of the plastic. I’m pretty hungry after the glacial hike today but mostly I don’t want to waste the delicious food that I made. Tomorrow I will ride in a bus all day and maybe it’s not the best idea to eat a huge meal but oh well we’ll see what happens. If I eat two big bowls of soup this will be the most food I’ve eaten in one day since I left Richmond.
Slowly everyone is starting to file out and head back to their dorms everyone likely has hikes and treks planned for tomorrow. They are eating salads and pasta and lots of ramen in this place. Everyone does know that ramen isn’t actually food I hope?
There are a lot of Swiss, French and German people here. They are all pretty white and speak strangely accented English. It’s surprisingly really hard to find Americans here. The fridge is still disgusting and totally jammed full of food that has been there since before the power went out and they keep adding and adding and adding. Probably one of the grossest things I’ve seen and I’ve seen a lot of disgusting kitchens in my day, home and professional.
There a lot of beautiful people here. They are all fit and adventurous and probably think they are super cool too. I should start asking people why they are traveling to see what kind of answers they have. It’s weird how I am a journalist and a curious person but so shy that’s it’s sometimes hard to approach and meet people in a big group setting like this. I really thrive one on one but I have grown so much in the past few years that I’m not worried about things like that right now. Life has a way of unfolding on its own if you let it.