Patita con Mani – Peru, South America

Some of Peru's mountains

Mountains of Peru

We arrived in Lima, Peru on Wednesday and reality (or my lack there of) finally began to set in. Our Spanish is pretty bad and our Quechua (the indigenous language) is nonexistent. It is easy enough to get around, but reading el menu ($1.00 to $2.00 set lunch menu) can be a challenge. I usually just ask the waitress what her favorite is. A few days ago, her favorite was the patita con mani. She assured me it was muy rico. Sounds great. Turns out it was a clear something that resembled chewy squid with cartilage, but perhaps less appetizing. When I asked a local later, they giggled as they told me it was cow foot.

From Lima we took an overnight bus to Arequipa. The bus was great and included nonstop entertainment, even a game of BINGO where the Peruvian winner was asked to give a short speech. He spoke for about 10 minutes, thanked everyone (especially the bus company) for giving him this wonderful opportunity. It was almost like the Oscars.

Locals in their colorful attire

Locals in their colorful attire

The highlight so far was our trip to Colca Canyon, the second deepest in the world at about 3,500 meters. We hired a guide to take us on a three-day trek through the canyon. The trip included several bumpy bus rides (sometimes standing for two hours), steep hiking, and swimming at a gorgeous oasis. The first day was a holiday for the indigenous people of the Andes. They packed into our bus in their colorfully embroidered dresses and hats headed from the farm to the town to dance in the streets.

When we arrived in Cobanaconde, we hiked down the gorgeous canyon towards the handful of villages below. The steep three- to four-hour hike is the only way the locals can access their homes and the village above. Mules and llamas help to make the job a little easier. That night we stayed in cozy cabins, complete with a soccer field perched in the canyon walls. Day two and three involved more hiking, swimming in hot springs and views of the Andean condor (the heaviest flying bird).

A few more days in Arequipa and then it's off to Bolivia.

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