The first realisation that I was actually going somewhere completely new was when I was flying over the Amazon. There was a colour saturated sky outside the small window, thunder clouds in the air, the aeroplane was bouncing around from the turbulence. Far below through the pockets of rain, tropical clouds and rays of sun you could see a seemingly never ending expanse of dark green bush. The iconic meandering snake like rivers finding their way to the ocean through this impenetrable bush. Something completely foreign to me, I have seen bush before but never this never-ending forest.
I landed in Lima and got a taxi to Miraflores, a smart neighbourhood on the banks of the Pacific ocean. The unreal thing about flying is that it just happens so quickly, a few hours ago I was walking through cold grey Amsterdam, a bit reluctant to go because it was so nice and cosy with friends and family. Then in a few hours of bumping around and half sleeping though the day, I was in the warm desert of Lima.
The first night I checked into a hostel, and of course was not surprised to find a lot of travellers. One hostel completely booked out, the other one almost full. Loads of Europeans and Americans escaping the winter for warm weather. My Spanish was as good as I was able to learn on the aeroplane, and it is enough to get by on, unfortunately I realised that I will miss a lot with my broken sentences and minimal comprehension.
First night I got convinced to go out for drinks with a super excited young German guy, an Argentinian girl and a local Peruvian. It was interesting to see the city, but I felt like an old man, exhausted, stiff and not ready for the party. Would have been much more intelligent to stay at home and get a good sleep.
It took me a day for my mind and my body to figure out where they were, complete jet-lag and sickness almost developing. I got a night bus to Huaraz in the mountains, after much deliberations about where I should go. Cuzco, Macchu Picchu and all the other places are a full 24 hours on the bus South.
I needed mountains so decided that I should go North instead, the tourists scared me and in the mountains it was raining. Thus there could be less people on the trails and beautiful scenery to be seen. I half-slept on the bus through the night to wake up in the mountains, high altitude, relaxed people (not too many either). A good feeling, white peaks towering above the busy town of Huaraz. I slept the whole day, getting over the jet-lag, accepting the fact that I was back in travel mode. Trying to let go of the work.
Spent a day organising fuel, food and maps for the mountains. Then packed the bags, I was going to head out onto the Santa Cruz trek, the most popular in the Codillera Blanco. I had not met any people to go with, but as I was packing my bags in the square, two people walked past. A tall lanky guy with long hair and his shorter friendly looking girlfriend, both of them looked like they wanted to go walking. OK, breathe, you are travelling, its good to approach people, walking alone can be boring. Also I had heard so many stories of problems in Peru, of muggings and even killings, all the fear-monger's talk filled my head with doubt.
Thus I asked J&J what was happening, it turned out that they were also heading up into the mountains. They were going on the same trek, also without guides and were happy to walk with me. J&J turned out to be great hiking buddies and we hit it off and had a memorable week together, hiking the Santa Cruz and passing through the quaint villages on the Eastern side of the Codillera Blanco.
I continued packing my bags while the others went off to get theirs, then some time sitting in the sun feeling good, almost alive again after the shock of changing continents at 900km/h. We found each other got in a taxi and drove to Cuaraz. A smaller, quainter town one stop away from the start of the beautiful hike. We stopped off in the market and I could not resist purchasing a felt Cowboy style hat, which I grew to love through the rest of my trip. A good start to the holiday, two days from landing and I was already in the mountains and almost heading off on another high altitude trek, the places that I love in the world increasing to include Peru within the next few weeks.