Settling in to Peru, Part I of III

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It’s really August 1st, but I will backdate this to 6/29 once I get it posted.

Kelly and I returned from Peru a little over a week ago. What a privilege to be in the the middle of the two highest mountain ranges in the world in such a short span of time. I have a full set of pictures at https://picasaweb.google.com/wolpin/  and a few ones scattered around.

Big thanks to Kelly for handling virtually all of the logistics on a great trip, and for letting me post her first email update here (and two more in the coming days) along with some pictures. More pictures are at https://picasaweb.google.com/wolpin/  A bit behind the times here and I couldn’t have said it any better myself….  Seth

Date: Wed, 29 Jun 2011 10:28:20 -0700

Hello loved ones!
It´s been almost a week since we left for Peru and I thought I´d check in with a short update.  E-mail access has not been super convenient so I´ve been pretty out of touch – and will probably continue to be so throughout the trip.
Seth and I spent Saturday exploring the Miraflores area of Lima before catching our flight to Cuzco on Sunday morning.

Lima was socked in!

Cuzco was not!

In Cuzco, we moved into our homestay for the week and began exploring the city.  Our homestay is great – the bed is pretty uncomfortable and we´re having trouble sleeping, but the mom (Diocy) is incredibly friendly and a great cook, and her son (Hans) is a gregarious and totally entertaining 8 year old.  The father of the family works far from home and so is only there occasionally.  The house is an exciting bus ride from the historic center of Cuzco, and the school is a nice walk south from there.  I´ve been doing 4 hours per day of language instruction with 2 different teachers – really the instruction is just taking the form of 4 hours of intensive conversation – some in the classroom and some out and around town, which is great for me.  Seth is working remotely on some projects he still has at UW.

In the afternoons we´ve been walking through the city doing various projects related to setting up the trek we´re planning to embark upon this weekend.  We´ve been doing a lot of research trying to figure out whether we need to go with an agency or whether we can do the trek independently… at this point it looks like we´re going to be able to go on our own.  We may need to hire a mule and mule driver to help carry out gear over the high pass, because the altitude is just a little over 15K feet there and I´m not confident that I´ll be well enough acclimatized to carry a 50lb pack in any kind of efficient way over that pass.  But if we go with an organization, it´s either incredibly expensive or we´re participating in the exploitation of guides and porters who are getting paid almost nothing by the company – and either way we´re stuck in a group of anywhere from 8-20 people, which just doesn´t sound that appealing.  So today we´ll be doing final arrangements, but I feel confident we can do this on our own.  
The trek is called Salkantay – it will take us 4 days to walk and then we´ll wind up at Machu Picchu, which we´ll visit before making our way back to Cuzco.  Our plans beyond that time remain a little fuzzy – we´d like to head to another part of the country to get into the Cordillera Blanca – a mountain range that´s supposed to be absolutely spectacular – but that will depend on being able to change some of the travel arrangements we reserved in advance.  Who knows?
In any case, life is treating us well here – Cuzco is at 11,200 feet so my primary job is to rest, eat well, practice my Spanish, and gently try to get my body used to this altitude.  Not a bad task!  I´m enjoying lots of fresh pineapple juice, delicious avocados, and the occasional pisco sour (a popular Cuzcan drink that is remarkably similar to my own favorite Whiskey Sidecar).
I hope all is well with each of you, wherever you are!  I´ll write again with another update sometime after our trek, which will probably be in a week or more.
Besos,
Kelly
Some selected pics from https://picasaweb.google.com/wolpin/ 

Lots of sleeping pooches in Cuzco and around

Baby alapacas may just be cuter then kittens

The crowd celebrates Kelly’s arrival

Hip hop kid

Alapaca above Cuzco
Plaza de Armas

Feedback welcome