There are lots and lots of good things about having family come visit. There is also one down side. Having family visit means that eventually, they leave and you get left alone in a country that is still not quite home, no matter how hard you try. However, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.
Back in September, I never thought March would be here. Before I knew it, my family’s visit was a month away and there was a point when I actually thought to myself, “but wait, I just saw them!”. Two weeks passed much too quickly and I now find myself wondering if the next six months will go as quickly as the first six.
One of the great things about travelling with my parents is that we stayed in hotels that had hot water, clean sheets and private bathrooms. Long, hot showers meant I felt clean for the first time since September. I will spare you all the details and just give you the highlights of the trip. (If you feel like you are missing out on something, you can always shoot me an email.) I like to think that after these past couple weeks, my parents, brother and I are now amateur archeologists. Not only did we hit Machu Picchu, we also saw Caral, Chan Chan, Huaca de la Luna, Qorikancha and a well-hidden site in the heart of the Colca Canyon. We started out the trip with a trip to Caral, the oldest city in the Americas. After surviving what was the most nerve-wrecking taxi ride of my life, we got to enjoy the only partially excavated ruins that lie about three hours north of Lima. After Lima, it was a quick trip up to Trujillo to see the ruins of Chan Chan and Huaca de la Luna in one day. We made friends with a taxi driver who asked whether I was from Chimbote or Trujillo; one of the highlights of the trip.
From Trujillo, we headed down to Chimbote for a very short trip. I was able to take my family out to Cambio Puente and they got to meet some of the community agents that work with us on the project. These women are incredible. Every single one welcomed us into their homes and were genuinely excited to meet my family. I know how much I appreciate these women and how hard it will be for me to leave them in just a couple more months, but hearing them say the exact same thing to my family brought tears to my eyes. It is an amazing thing to be welcomed into somebody’s home to share food, stories, laughs and broken Spanish when you know how little they have. Peruvians give a new meaning to hospitality.
From Chimbote, we fought the altitude and headed up to Cuzco. After trying to use, what PeruRail told us were nonexistent tickets, we spent the next couple hours trying to navigate our way through the system. After lots of phone calls (the first time I have really been thankful for my cell phone down here) and talking to what seemed like everyone in the train station, we finally made it to Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu. I do not have the words to describe how beautiful Machu Picchu is, you will just have to come down and see it for yourself. Our second day at the ruins, we were there from when the gates opened at 6am and had to be chased out by the guards at 5pm. We got to see the fog clear over the ruins from the top of Huaynapicchu and caught a double rainbow from the Caretaker’s Hut in the afternoon.
We shipped Patrick back to the States in Cuzco and my parents and I headed down to Puno to see Lake Titicaca and the manmade islands of Los Uros. Then it was on to Arequipa. Arequipa is Peruvian Disney World. Everything was clean and bright and the garbage trucks sounded like ice cream trucks. We spent a day exploring the Santa Catalina monastery which takes up an entire city block and is a city in itself. There are still about thirty cloistered nuns that live in the monastery, but the majority of the building is open for touring. It is gorgeous and maze-like with hidden passages and dozens of rooms. Arequipa is the starting point for any sort of tour or trek of the Colca Canyon. The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and has countless ruins inside. We headed out to the canyon for a quick, two day tour and got to do some hiking, some more exploring of ruins and some hotspringing. We got front row seats to see condors fly over the canyon and were stopped in the road due to a llama crossing.
Unfortunately, Arequipa was our last stop on our quick Peruvian tour. It was really hard to watch my parents leave, but it was a really wonderful couple weeks. I am very blessed to have such a great family and that they had the opportunity to get a little taste of what my life is like down here.
A couple things my family got to check off their bucket list on this trip (some of them had to be added first):
- Having our bus stopped by the policia.
- Having front rows seats to watch a grown man wet himself on the bus from Chimbote to Trujillo. Gotta love Latin American transport.
- Eating alpaca.
- Eating guinea pig.
- Watching the fog clear over Machu Picchu.
- Watching sunrise over the Colca Canyon.
Thank you for a fantastic trip. I miss you guys already!