Cathy is Going to Peru

Plaza de Armas, Arequipa, Peru

Cathy is Going to Peru!

In two weeks I am off to a new adventure. In October, I sold the family home of over 20 years and DOWNSIZED dramatically. I realized about a year ago that if I no longer had the responsibility of a house and the 5 acres on which it rested, I could be free to travel again and in a committed way–a way that would allow me to immerse myself in culture, food, art, and language. My first destination is Arequipa, Peru. By way of explaining the impetus for this trip, I will answer in FAQ format the questions with which friends and acquaintances have been bombarding me:

Why Peru?

About 8 years ago, I resumed knitting after a hiatus of about 15 years. My knitting has evolved into somewhat of an obsession. As I read the labels of my favorite yarns–especially the baby alpaca, I learned that many of the fibers came from mills in Peru. This was the very beginning of a dream to visit the country and its fiber mills. Slowly this evolved into fantasies of meeting native knitters and knitting with them and learning and sharing techniques. So my short answer to this question is I am going to Peru to study the fiber arts. But it is more than that. I feel that my love and obsession with knitting (and, to a lesser degree, spinning) will be an interesting avenue to connect with people there.

How long will you be gone?

My plan is to arrive in Peru on January 16 and I will return on May 5. It has always seemed pretty silly to me to spend a great deal of time, energy, and money to go a long ways away and only spend a week or two there. One barely gets a chance to catch her breath before being whisked away back home; then to wonder if the last two weeks were just a dream. (I’ve never seen the attraction of whirlwind tours!) I thought that 4 months would be enough time to make friends, experience the culture, have some down time to reflect. It will also give me the time to practice my Spanish, which leads me to the next question:

Do you speak Spanish?

I will be 60 in March and one thing that I have often regretted is not acquiring a second language during my lifetime. So, I am dusting off my remedial, muy pobre, Spanish and taking the plunge to live in a Spanish speaking country and make some meager attempt at becoming a bit more bi-lingual before I die. Wish me luck!

Are you going by yourself?

Yes, at least at first. I enjoy the freedom of travelling by myself and making my own decisions–and mistakes. (Ask me sometime about how I got led down the back alleys of the Old City of Jerusalem on the back of a donkey back in 1974! Sometimes the mistakes make the best stories!)

I am thrilled that in April, my daughter, Rebecca will join me for the last month of this sojourn. We enjoy many of the same things–especially food and hiking. Rebecca is a professional cook and is launching herself as a journeywoman to explore her favorite cuisines. Just as I hope my knitting will be an avenue into the culture, Rebecca expects to utilize her culinary talents to meet and interact with people.

You must be brave!

Not particularly. As I prepared for the trip during November and December, I have experienced enough anxiety to cause digestive upsets, back pain, dizziness, tingling in my limbs, abdominal cramps, leg pain, heart palpitations, floaters in my vision–fortunately, not all at once. I will arrive in Lima, Peru at midnight, for gosh sakes. And the bus from Lima to Arequipa (a 16-hour trip, by the way) does not leave until 3:00 the next afternoon. I expect to be disoriented and exhausted; I won’t know what questions are the right ones to ask; and my cell phone won’t work. Don’t think I have not poured over maps and websites to try to strategize the best course of action upon my arrival in a huge city in the middle of the night. But you know what? Tens of thousands of people do this every day; I’ve done it before when I moved to Israel for 6 months in 1974 (without the assistance of the internet or cell phone, thank-you-very-much); so surely I can do so now!

Planning helps. Thanks to the internet, I have a place to lay my head for at least the first month. And, because I plan to be in the country for so long, I will be able to rest for the first couple days in Arequipa and orient myself a bit, without feeling the need to jump into a whirlwind tour!

Yes, I am afraid, but nothing comes from nothing:  A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for. –Anonymous

Are you going to Machu Picchu?

No!  Way too many tourists! Way too expensive! And that is not the reason I am going to Peru. This I had already decided before I learned about another set of ruins at Choquequirao. A 4-day trek in and out is required to visit these somewhat remote ruins. I have begun my training and hope to be acclimated to the altitude enough to take on this challenging and exciting trip with Rebecca in late April. I’ll keep you posted.  (An aside note: The government of Peru is planning to construct a tram to Choquequirao to be operational by 2015. They are hoping to relieve the tourism stress from Machu Picchu. This may be the last year that a mob-free trip to Choquequirao may be possible.)

What made you decide to live in Arequipa? 

I first learned about Arequipa when I searched the internet for the locations of spinning mills in Peru. There is a large market here for the alpaca fleeces from the Andean highlands. This was my initial attraction. Since then, I have learned a lot about this large south Peruvian city that I think makes it a good place to start. Although it is located at an altitude of 2,328 meters (over 7500 feet), it is near enough to the equator that the year-round temperature ranges between 10 and 25 degrees C (50-75 degrees F); and because the area experiences 300 days of sunshine a year, it has earned the nickname “City of the Eternal Blue Sky.”  This will be an excellent antidote to Puget Sound’s January weather. Moving from sea level to 7500 feet will be a challenge, but it will give me an opportunity to acclimate to high altitude in preparation for trekking at 10,000 feet in the Andes. There is some great hiking in the nearby Colca Canyon (with its Andean condors) and Lake Titicaca (one of my not-to-be-missed destinations) is not so far away.

Also, through AirBnB I have been in communication with Manuel and Adela, the owners of the apartment where I will initially live and I think they will provide me with an important orientation and introduction to their city and country.

Where else do you want to visit?

First off, right now, I am not terribly attracted to Lima or the coastal areas or the northern rain forest. That attitude may change once I have lived there a while. However, Lake Titicaca, with its floating Uros islands, and the Colca Canyon are high on my list. I also want to spend some significant time in a small Andean village such as Huarocondo near Cusco. And Rebecca and I refuse to leave Peru without visiting the Chocolate Museum in Cusco!

Are you coming back to Vashon?

Yes, Rebecca and I will return here on May 5. Most likely, I will at least be here through the summer of 2014, but I can’t guarantee what will happen next.

Do you have more questions? Write a comment below and we’ll see if I have an answer.

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