Soccer Con

Ston and I agree that Arequipa is our favorite city thus far in Peru. Tons of attractive people, great restaurants, little crime, excellent accommodations, and cobblestone paths everywhere that make the city seem like a larger version of Charlottesville, a great town with incredible pride and spirit. In fact, Arequipa has such pride in itself that it is only reluctantly part of Peru, and Peru´s history is laden with threats of Arequipa´s succession. I understand their feelings, this city really is head and shoulders above the rest.
Unfortunately, because our camera broke when when sand got in it in ICA, there won´t be anybody pictures of some of the most beautiful landscape I´ve ever seen. The Colca Canyon, Arequipa´s main tourist draw, is twice as deep as the grand canyon and the second deepest canyon in the world (the deepest is only 130 meters deeper and it is right next to Colca but apparently less spectacular), and Ston and I hiked up and down it in less than 24 hours. It was definitely the hardest feet I have done all year. Here´s the story.
At 12:30 AM in a bar, Ston tapped me on the shoulder and said ¨Hey, Watt, we need to be at our Hostal in 10 minutes¨ At 12:40 our guide picked us up and took us to the bus station, where completely hammered, we caught a maximum of two hours of sleep during our freezing, miserable six hour busride. After hours of praying for either my own death or a chance to pee, we were finally let off in this small town in front of the Canyon. Ston and I were led to a table in what looked like a retaurant/house of an old woman, where she laid a plate in front of us. Using the only part of my brain wasn´t focused on lack of sleep, alcohol, or suicide, I observed the contents of this plate to be some sort of tomato sauce and cheese. So, starving, without even tasting it, I dipped three pieces of cheese into the red sauce. Only after a lady brought us some bread did I realize that I had just eaten three cubes of butter dipped into jelly. At first I was angry at my own stupidity, but I quickly took refuge in the hope that a heart attack could end this nightmare.
We ate a couple eggs, and then hiked until I had sweated my anger, hangover, and desire to sleep right out of my body, and within a couple hours I realized that I was seeing some of the deepest valleys, most beautiful birds, and greenest grass I had ever seen in my entire life. We ate lunch at a school, where Ston accidentally ordered Alpaca and I got some kind of soup. When the first course arrived, Ston and I realized that we had just slept for an hour! After our nap and our meal, we felt great, and we hiked the rest of the day crossing powerful waterfalls, jumping boulder to boulder across rapid water, and learning all about local plants, animals, and populations. The bottom of this mountain canyon was amazingly tropical, and I could see birds flying from cacti to palm trees.
At around 4 we reached the ¨Canyon Oasis¨more sore than I had been since high school early ball, and instantly the local canyon dwellers challenged us to a game of 4 on 4 soccer. 4 Peruvians versus Ston, 2 guys from London who were in the Oasis, and me. What started as a tiny game turned into a two hour marathon match because the Peruvians insisted that we play to 25! The final score was 25-22 in our favor, but we definitely didn´t feel like winners walking back with legs as stiff as boards.

Here’s the con: the dudes that challenged us to the game also ran the only general store for miles.  They sold us 20 ounce bottled waters for $3 and Gatorade for $4.  We got hosed.

I knocked a couple delicious mangos from a mango tree next to my cottage, then I instantly fell asleep (missing what Ston calls “an awesome dinner”) at 6 PM, waking up at 3 AM to finish out the hike up the canyon in the pitch black of a night surrounded by mountains. The canyon´s peak was very deceptive because what we thought was the top, ten times in a row, turned out to just be a ridge. It became easier to tell our progress by how well we could hear the river at the bottom or how much closer the stars seemed. Not to sound like a sissy who cries at Titanic (which I did) and is obsessed with dolphins (which I am), but the stars were the highlight of the hike. I´d never seen a sky that looked like this one. I was seeing 20 times the stars I normally see, and I swear I could even see the faint outlines of galaxies by their subtle milky color of diffused light from very distant stars. Clusters and groups were everywhere, and the amount of darkness seemed dwarfed by the amount of light up there. Also, every constellation I knew was turned sideways… I guess that has to do with where I am in the world. I want to look that up.
We reached the top of the canyon at about the same time as the sun rose over the town, with our mouths whistling from heavy, dry breathing and calves singing in agony but so envigorated by our accomplishment that we both somehow found the energy to run out of the canyon at full speed. After breakfast we walked back.
It has been three days since we left the canyon, and we are now in Puno next to Lake Titicaca, yet Ston and I still are limping around on stiff legs, walking two miles an hour and climbing stairs one at a time, like old men who are afraid to break their hips. Every night we go to bed hoping our muscles are back in action, and every morning we are seriously disappointed. Even now I am dreading having to stand up after I finish this blog… maybe that is the reason it is so long.
So… now for the annoying part. What did I learn?
Being so isolated from everything and everyone else in the world really gave me the time to be quiet and think about the things that I really want and the person that I really want to be. I feel like a lot of my desires are determined by the fact that I am made to believe that I want things because everyone else does. I spend a lot of nights feeling obligated to go out, flirt with girls, and live it up; however, I´m starting to learn that I might enjoy living it up in different ways. I love peace and quiet, solitude, learning, studying the world, and understanding the universe. I love the idea of love more than hooking up, and I love great friends more than many acquaintances. Now, I feel a lot more comfortable with making less popular decisions. Maybe in the future, I could spend a few Saturday nights writing short stories or reading an interesting book or learning more about film direction. Climbing that mountain also helped me realize that I need to take absolute charge of my life. Using my dad´s credit card to buy luxuries is just keeping me from feeling the pain that is necessary in my personal development, and it is shielding me from the satisfaction that self-reliance brings. The climb also made me re-realize the reasons I am so passionate about stand-up comedy, Ethiopia, and film direction. I can´t really explain the reasons to anybody else because they are so personal, but, on a personal level, I understand them better.
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!
Keep it real, and if you ever get the chance, GO TO AREQUIPA!

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: