The Odyssey

 
 
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An Offering to the Odyssey Reading Gods and Goddesses

So that's what the Andes look like from the edge of a cliff...

Ode to Vilcabamba

Cradled
in the Arms of the Andes
Oasis
for lonely travelers
and searching souls
Vilcabamba
sleepy town
where the Wilcas grow
and the people
grow old.

What of life,
that is so good
allows this longevity?

Green mountains
reach into the clouds
capturing the eternal
flowing down,
clear and pure
to living river.

Drink deep,
in Vilcabamba,
for the love of life.

If I were an Inca from the Andes, I would have made an offering of coca leaves to "Apus," the god of the mountains, before beginning this journey. That way, I'd ensure a safe trip and thank him for the good fortune I receive while I travel. I wonder if it's too late to make an offering now, and if he accepts e-mail (um, probably not!). Perhaps I could just tell you about my journey, and you could use your magical powers to keep goodness flowing!

I spent Easter weekend high in the mountains of Ecuador visiting some friends of mine near Vilcabamba. This beautiful little town is nestled in a lush valley in the Andes, far away from everything. I spent the days on horseback, winding through rugged valleys where no roads go. We got so high, with water so pure, I could drink right from the stream. The only bad thing was that, since my camera was stolen in Quito, I have no proof of the majestic emerald mountains and amazing wildlife and plant life I witnessed. You just have to believe me (or come and visit it yourself someday!).

So that's what the Andes look like from the edge of a cliff...
caption
Vilcabamba is famous because people who live there often live to be well over a hundred years old. The people of Vilcabamba must not go very far on these awful roads, if they live that long! What would it be like to live in this sort of isolation? Would you seclude yourself from the rest of the world if it meant you would live many years longer?

On Monday, I kissed my friends goodbye and set off south towards the border of Peru at Macará. It's a little used border crossing, and now I know why! The road was precariously balanced on the side of the steep mountains. I lost count of the number of places the road was half gone or filled with rocks that had fallen from above. As if that wasn't enough, we constantly met with herds of goats or cattle in the road. The bus driver's method of dealing with them was to speed towards them and honk the horn loudly. Don't ask me how we managed to not hit any of them, because I still wonder myself. Maybe Apus had something to do with it!

Ode to the Bus

Humanity packs
our material selves
and worldly trappings
in a can.

Rumbling, bumping, jostling
over mountains and bridges.
Day and night
great ships of land
de ida y vuelta.

Children with grandparents,
husbands and wives,
extranjeros,
travelers all,
through a fractured world
held together by roads
plyed by great cans
of precious human attachments
weaving life's tapestry
on the winding paths
of the earth.

What happens again if the bus falls down there?
caption
The scenery, of course, was phenomenal. Sometimes we'd pass through clouds for long periods, and not be able to see anything. Eventually we'd emerge to expansive vistas of sharp, green Andean highlands. The plants were mostly grasses, with small shrubs and bushes. Little yellow birds and slightly larger reddish brown birds flitted all around.

The indigenous populations who lived in these very high lands, both the Incas and those that came before (you'll be hearing a lot more about them) raised goats, llamas, and guinea pigs for wool, milk, and meat on this stark terrain. Cuy, a traditional food I haven't yet dared try, is roasted guinea pig. Will you try it first and let me know how it is? Anyway, the highland people have, for thousands of years, traded with the people at lower elevations for the food they would grow, since the lower soil was more fertile. They all, in turn, would trade with the people on the coast for things like fish and salt.

Are we there yet?
caption
The next morning, after a bit of hassle at the little border, I crossed the bridge into PERU. FINALLY! It's been over a month now since we left Guatemala, saying, "We're going to Peru." I changed my Ecuadorian sucres and some U.S. dollars into Peruvian sols, which are a little more than three to a dollar. Then I hopped in a collective taxi and drove to the nearest big town, Sullana, which is on the coast.

So here I am, on the coastal desert of Peru. What a change to be somewhere hot, flat, and dry so soon after being in the mountains. The main thing I've noticed about Peru, though, is how nice EVERYONE is. I make friends on buses, on the street, in restaurants, and in my hotel. It's amazing. I think I'm going to like it here.

The friendliest city on earth - Trujillo
caption
My first night in the hotel, I cleaned out my backpack. In the bottom I found small change from all over, Ecudadorian sucres, Colombian pesos, Panamanian Balboas, and even some Guatemalan quetzals. I should start my own bank!

So finally, for me, the dizzying, fast paced travel is over. We're here in Peru, and here is where we're staying. Thanks Apus, and thanks all of you gods and goddesses who read this Odyssey!

- Abeja


 

Team - Why in the World Should We Go to Peru?
Abeja - Raiders of the Lost Sandcastles
Kevin - Ancient Peruvian Fashion 101: Gold T-Shirts, and Three-Inch Earlobes
Monica - Inspector Monica Cracks the Case
Making a Difference - Violence in 'Peaceful Communities'
 
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