Taxi!

Edgar Rodriguez.

Finishing a late night dinner @ PaCa PaCa in Urubama, Perù, we asked the restaurant owner to call us a taxi. It was only a 5-10 minute walk back to our hotel, but it was late, and we were in a foreign country without a grasp yet on our surroundings.

Taxi!

Edgar arrived in his prestine Toyota Camry.

Edgar drove us to our hotel, and in those few minutes, LCP, our only Spanish-speaking family member, spoke with him about the area. LCP asked Edgar about a festival in Chinchero that we had read about online prior to our trip.  Our hotel concierge had said, “that isn’t going on.”  Edgar told us this festival happens every September 8th, and that he would take us there the next day.  It’s a holy festival, Virgen de Navidad! Edgar told LCP that his son and he had performed in such a festival years ago. He’d bring photos to show us. LCP arranged for Edgar to return at 8 am the following morning to drive us to Chinchero.

Edgar was 10 minutes early. He greeted us and opened the door on the backseat passenger side for me.  KAP got in the front passenger’s seat, and SKP & LCP hopped in the back with me. As we pulled out of the hotel drive, Edgar handed LCP photographs of his son and him during the festival performance he’d mentioned – we knew immediately,

Edgar is a man of his word.

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Noticing his spotless car, I told him in my elementary Spanish, that his car was “muy bien” – Edgar told LCP that he’d been up since 1 AM, making sure that it was clean for the day’s drive.

We drove to Chinchero (elevation 14000ft), where Edgar stopped at the village’s center to show us the villagers as they prepared for their parade toward the church on the hill. Edgar parked, and we met some villagers. Young and old.

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Edgar suggested that we follow the parade up the hill, and he would follow with his car.  He would meet us at the church. He did just that.

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Yes, yes indeed, the Virgen de la Natividad festival happened that day, September 8th (story to follow.)

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Edgar then drove us to Maras, and on the way, he stopped to allow us a closer look at some donkeys tethered in a ravine. Again, parking the car and jumping out to open my door, Edgar stopped, without question, whenever we said, “una photo.

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In Maras, Edgar stopped on the tight, one-way street for me to photograph villagers.

IMG_0397Edgar took us to Moray, the Inca Ruins, just west of Maras,

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and to Salinas de Maras, Salt fields of Maras.

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In less than 24 hours from hailing a taxi, we had not only been taken on such an intimate tour of Peru’s high country, but we had made a lifetimer friend with our driver, Edgar,

IMG_0430Edgar Rodriguez.

High In the Sky

After a quick, but great night’s sleep in our Lima B & B, we had our “first taste” of Perù – breakfast.

The subtle sounds of breakfast preparation summoned us to a private dining table set for 4.   In the kitchen, a Peruvian woman, the B & B’s wife, made us eggs to order and brought us a heaping plate of to-die-for bread. Bowls of fresh fruit – cut pineapple and cantaloupe- were set at each plate (prior to travel, we’d been told only to eat cleaned, peeled fruit to avoid getting sick.) In the center of the table, a ramekin full of butter, a wooden bowl with miniature wooden spoons for salt & pepper, and a ceramic container of packaged teas were offered.

Our Peruvian hostess only spoke Spanish, so Logan translated for us,

¿café o té?

Coffee or tea?

Choosing tea, I began to look through the tea packages, as the hostess poured hot water into my cup:

“Mate de Coca, gracias.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coca_tea

Having read about coca tea before arriving in Perù, I was glad to see it on the table.  In the comfort of the private Peruvian table and with the guidance of our Peruvian hostess, I made my first cup of coca tea. I placed a tea bag in the tea cup full of boiling water, let it steep for 3 mins and then took a sip. Appearing and tasting quite like green tea, my American Starbuck’s go-to, the coca tea was good!

In Peru, coca tea is used as a cure for altitude sickness, and although Lima is at sea level, the Andes mountain villages have 11,000 + ft elevations.  It’s thought that coca tea “takes the edge off” high altitude symptoms.

As my Perùvian travels continued, I found that coca tea is served everywhere in Perù- on the airlines, in remote villages, on Peruvian Rail, in hotel lobbies, and on most tables.  It is available in tea bags, but more often, I saw it served in leaf form.  Coca leaves, loose in baskets or bowls, were on almost all the counters and tables.

1  handful of coca leaves

1 C. hot water

Let steep for 3-5 mins and then drink

The high altitude herbal remedy did its job. No nausea, no headaches, no problems.

I left coca tea in Perù, but coca tea will linger with me –

a reminder of surviving the Andes –

way up high in the sky!

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 “Coca tea”

Lima Driveby

We flew from Phoenix to Dallas and Dallas to Lima, arriving after midnight. We were picked up @ the Lima airport by the man who rented us rooms in his B & B.  The Lima airport surrounding area hadn’t been highly recommended, but an early flight the following morning from Lima to Cusco, Perù, made it necessary to spend the night close to the airport.

The B & B owner waited for us at baggage claim and then drove us to his two-story house, situated across the street from a park. “Lima’s weather is pretty much overcast every single day,” replayed in my head as the car drove me through streets lined with trash, boarded-up buildings, stray dogs, and dead vegetation. The night was foggy – downright gloomy. The street lights were far and few between, but where illuminated, the light cast an eery impression. Gray, cool and worn. We pulled up to a stuccoed wall – a wall lined with multiple garage doors and gates.  The driver/owner graciously helped us unload our bags, unlocked the gate, and gave us a tour of our space on the first floor of his home. The owner occupies the top floor and rents the bottom floor to travelers. He showed us the kitchen cabinet housing water bottles, and then disappeared upstairs.

The owner’s kind spirit and clean, secure B & B contrasted with the eeriness of the outside.

I grabbed a water bottle from the cabinet and used its water to brush my teeth and to swallow a Diamox (high altitude helper.)

With this first impression, I couldn’t help but wonder – who would we meet along the way in Perù? Where have I traveled?

The gloominess of this night would not continue.

Perù’s true colors were to about to be revealed,

but it’d have to wait until morning…

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