When I first came to Peru, I lived in Arequipa for more than four months while studying Spanish. Although I grew up on a farm in Minnesota, I lived in Tokyo and Los Angeles for about 20 years, so I was used to living in the big city. But after living here in Kotawasi for more than a year and a half, I became a village boy again. When I go to Arequipa, I usually try to make it as short as possible. Planning to take a short trip there, I left Cotahuasi at 7:00 on Wednesday morning. I decided to check on the road to Koropuna, as I was driving right there. In a few weeks we were going to climb it and wanted to get a little more information, especially since there was fresh snow from the last time I was near it. I was a little nervous about the climb as well, because Koropuna is 21,079 feet high.
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I looked around and found a different path and was able to move closer to the base of the mountain from last time, finally stopping when stones blocked the elevation of the elevation for about 16,000 feet. I then climbed nearly 3,000 feet on what seemed to be the best route of the approach, to about 18,800 feet. It was only about 2,300 feet below the top, so I was very pleased with that. It took me three hours and 35 minutes to get there and two hours and 15 minutes to get back to the car. Of course, where I turned was where it really got steep and I was already starting to really feel the effects of the altitude. I was still below the line of snow, so this would slow things down considerably when we reached this point. Anyway, it made me think that it might even be possible to do a day trip! We’ll have to see how it goes this time as a two day hike, and then decide if it’s possible to do it as a day trip or not.
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I arrived in Arequipa around 10:00 that night and was in Marcio, where I was staying, and in bed before 11:00, hoping to get a good night’s sleep. Of course the dogs in the neighborhood had other ideas (they bark all night), I always forget how noisier it is in Arequipa than in Kotawasi. And then the van and taxis start very early in the morning, bouncing and humming for passengers, and the room in which he sleeps is right on the street and definitely not sound proof!
In the morning, I went to the main post office to pick up a package that was being held at customs. After about an hour of waiting, filling out and signing forms, I finally received my package, surprisingly, without having to pay anything. Why they couldn’t send him to Kotauasi, I don’t know.
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Then I started shopping, buying things that I couldn’t bring into Kotahuasi or that were more expensive there. I was talking to a friend of a store in the Central Market and she warned me that there were more pockets and thieves than ever and to be extra careful. I have learned to take such warnings seriously. Unfortunately, I was out of money, so I had to go to the bank before I could finish shopping. I took my money in dollars from the ATM and then went to the exchange offices to exchange them for soles. When I got my soles, I put most of them in a money belt that I wear around my waist, tucked in my pants. Of course I was trying not to be too obvious about this, I didn’t want people to see where I was putting my money. I carefully fastened my bag and then headed back to the shopping area, crossing the street just outside the money exchange office.
When I got to the other side, I noticed several men running down the street and taking money, I soon realized that it was mine! Here I was, trying to get my money back, trying to get some who are still on the street, and then I realized that more money was falling on the street as I moved around! I was completely puzzled as I knew I had fastened the bag and was sure it had not got a hole in it since I last used it. I returned to the coffers to get off the busy street and checked the bag; there was no money in it and no hole. Finally, I realized that when I was trying to get the money inside there discreetly, I should not have put it in my bag, but between my bag and my pants!
There is certainly more money falling down my pants legs, so here I was trying to get it out and make sure I got it while I was standing in the corner of the open office! I’m sure I made quite a sight, the man behind the counter kept looking at me strangely. Finally, I am sure that I have secured it; I left the office. Then I realized that it was possible for a “ladron” (thief, pickpocket) to see me and just wait for me to go out. I left the shopping area, often looking over my shoulder, and quickly threw myself into the open yard of a museum and office complex to collect my shit and count the money. I was about 130 soles short (about $ 40), but I was grateful I didn’t lose any more.
I felt it was a good idea to walk back to the shopping area, so I decided to go get my car and go shopping with this, especially since I had to get some heavy stuff like sugar, fed milk, popcorn, a big cereal porridge crops, as well as a large pack of toilet paper. I parked on the street in a busy shopping area and first walked into a store to pick up a dozen packets of my favorite cookies, sort of like a vanilla oreo filled with strawberries. I had to wait a few minutes until she found 12 packs of all the strawberries and just as she put them on the counter, a woman on the street searched for something in my car. I was afraid a cop was coming to give me a ticket, so she ran out of the store to see my car hooked up and just started to drive! I ran to the truck and begged the police officer not to pull it, but to no avail. He said I would have to go to the “deposit” to get it. Of course, I had no idea where or what the deposit was, so he said I could ride them in the truck.
To cut a long story short, 142.50 soles, and about an hour later, I drove my car out of the enclosure after having to fill out the forms around the corner to make copies for them. Almost all government agencies here require photocopies of all paper work, but they do not have copiers, so you have to go to the store and make copies. Fortunately, there are copiers everywhere, in all kinds of shops, so it’s not too difficult to find one. I had thought to bring a copy of my passport to the post office in the morning, and sure enough they wanted it too.
Later in the afternoon I met my friend Moraima and she went with me to come back and get the cookies I had left on the counter when I was pulling my car and the rest of my shopping. Then I met another friend of Maribel’s on the square and told her what had happened, so she invited me for dinner with roast chicken. It was an expensive day, but I learned a few more lessons about living in the big city and had a good time with two good friends. I hope it will be unimpeded tomorrow as I finish my shopping and then head back to Kotahuasi.