My Mom is Tougher Than Yours: Part 1
When I asked Nate what we should title this blog post, he immediately shot back, “My mom is tougher than yours!” Offended, I retaliated the most mature way I know how… “Oh yeah?? I’m gonna tell her you said that!” “No, no, no” he replied, “That’s what you should title it. You know, that’s the standard child’s argument… ‘My dad is stronger than your dad’ Get it?” So, there you have it. Apparently, Nate’s mom is tougher than yours. 🙂
After being warned about the free-for-all driving in Lima, we mentally prepared ourselves as best we could and hit the road. Driving along the coast, our minds were racing. We now dread driving in any city after our incident in Cartagena. We were in the middle of making a game plan when we saw blue lights flashing head of us on the highway. As we got closer and closer, we noticed a few people standing on the side of the road. On the ground, was a body covered with a woven blanket.
“Nate?! Was that what I think it was??” “Yup,” was his reply. I couldn’t believe it. Of all the days that we had to witness a tragic death, it was on the day we were already nervous about driving into a city. We both sat up straight, tightened our seat belts and gave each other a glance that said, “Keep your friggin’ eyes peeled.”
Pulling into the first part of Lima, we were a bit skeptical. The streets were covered with piles of trash, the hills were lined with colorful, yet rundown, shacks and people swarmed the street trying to sell you anything from homemade jello to ‘refurbished’ mufflers; all while you are bumping along at 20 miles per hour.
The farther into the city we pulled, the better our surroundings became. Quickly, the buildings turned from dusty, cracked mud brick buildings to tall, glass, shiny business buildings. We saw our first McDonalds since Central America and became giddy with joy. (Note: At home, we wouldn’t be caught dead inside of a fast food building unless suffering from an extreme hangover. Now, when you are only given the option between a thousand different types of soap and a couple of bags of chips in the store, we become a bit over excited when we see establishments from back home.)
Driving in Lima proved to be much easier that we thought. With a functioning horn and my newly learned trick of sticking my hand out the window and flapping my fingers around when we want to switch lanes, we were golden. We eventually made our way to Miraflores, where we planned to spend the night waiting for Nate’s mom to arrive.
Before leaving on our trip, Robin had made plans to come visit us in two places: Guatemala and Peru. Last February, Robin made her way to Guatemala via airplane, two hour taxi ride and a boat ride across Lago de Atitlan. We spent the week with her finishing up Spanish school, horse back riding around the lake and visiting beautiful Antigua. One week was not enough for her in Guatemala, so she made a point to have a longer trip this time. We got to have Robin with us for two whole weeks!!!
Robin’s flight arrived just after midnight on New Year’s Eve. As we were waiting for her to appear through the gate, we watched the fireworks through the airport’s glass windows and gave each other a midnight kiss. We took a taxi ride back to the hostel and got Robin settled into her glamorous room. We stayed up until 3:00 am talking before we decided it was time to make our way to the truck for a few hours sleep.
We spent the next day walking around the park in Lima. Robin hadn’t realized that Lima was right on the water, and this was the first time she had ever seen the Pacific Ocean! We watched as paragliders cruised back and forth above us and asked Robin many questions about our furry children, Brady and Baer.
Nate and I had planned out a rough schedule of things we wanted to do in the two week time. Since she would be traveling with us from Lima all the way to Cusco, we had lot’s of exciting stuff to do and see and were ready to get out of the city! We crammed everything into the truck and took off, heading South to Pisco. We eventually found our hotel and a place to park Truck safely and made plans to go to Islas Ballestas the next day. That night, we made our way to a popular restaurant where we indulged in the biggest bowls of soup we had ever seen and, since we were in the town of Pisco, a couple of Pisco Sours to top it off. Pisco is the most popular liquor in Peru. It is made of locally grown grapes and usually mixed with lime juice, simple syrup, bitters and egg whites. To us, it tasted like a bitter version of a margarita.
Bags packed, we were ready for a day out tour Islas Ballestas. We all loaded onto the boat, strapped on our life jackets and set off toward the islands. About halfway, we pulled over to view the Candelabra, a design dug out into the sand centuries ago and, because that area never sees rain, the figure may last forever!
The boat cruised along the water until we got to the islands. We wove in and around the guano covered islands viewing hundreds of sea lions, pelicans, boobies and even penguins!!! Although there were only four, they were the first ones I had ever seen and boy, I was stoked!!
That afternoon, we loaded the truck back up and drove the short distance to Paracas National Reserve. Having a reputation as being one of the best places to do some serious off-roading, Nate was like a kid in a candy store.
We glided over the sand dunes along the coast, making occasional stops to see the breathtaking views of the cliffs and ocean. At one point, Robin squealed with joy, “Is that SALT??” She asked Nate to pull over, jumped out of the truck and broke off a white chunk from the ground. She came back to the truck and showed us her new finding. Still questioning whether it was salt or not, she licked it a couple of times. “It IS salt!!!”
Whizzing around the sand dunes, we spotted a cave-like rock formation and pointed the truck in that direction. All three of us hopped out and decided to explore. We spent a good hour or so taking in the tranquil sights before us. The golden dunes shone brightly against the crisp, blue ocean as it twinkled in the sunlight. That was a truly magical place and we were all so happy to be experiencing it together.
Hopping back into the truck, Nate wanted to drive a little higher onto the next sand dune. Once at the top, he put it in park and decided to go back down to get a good picture of the truck. I told him that when we was done to wave his arms and Robin and I would hop in the truck and drive it back down to him. A few minutes after he made it to the bottom, we saw him waving his arms so we hopped into the truck and took off following tracks that would lead us to Nate. As we rounded the corner, I saw him charging at us waving his arms. Confused, I stopped and waited for him. “What are you DOING?! You just drove right on top of an overhang! You scared the SHIT out of me!! I was moving my arms to tell you guys to get OUT of the picture! Not drive!!” Oopsies… I guess this is why I have only driven about 20 miles in the 20,000 miles of the trip 😉
Turning around and heading back North, we stopped in a small fishing village and made some homemade pizza. Robin even got to take her first sip of Peru’s finest soda: Inka Cola. For those who don’t know, Inka Cola is a very popular soda in Peru that tastes pretty much like Bubblicious gum. Yummmmmy!
Continuing North, we found a wonderful stretch of beach to camp at. We set up the tent, got Robin settled in the back of the truck and fell asleep listening to the waves crash against the shore.
The next morning, we woke up to find fishermen gathering and drying seaweed right outside the truck. Seaweed is popular for cooking, as well as packaging seafood. Periodically, they would get up to fluff the seaweed, then would go back to lying down using a piece of cardboard for shade. We made some coffee, ate some breakfast and watched the men turn the seaweed to dry. I think all three of us could have stayed in Paracas for at least a few more days, but we only had two weeks and had many more adventures ahead of us!
Huacachina is known for it’s towering sand dunes which you can ride down on a sand board. Sand boarding is similar to snow boarding, except you are gliding down a big pile of sand instead of snow. You can ride them on your belly or standing up. After finding a man who rented out the boards for about a dollar an hour, we trudged up the dunes looking for the best ride. Nate’s mom was a little apprehensive at first, but we assured her that she would regret it if she didn’t try. So, she grabbed ahold of her board and was the first one to take the plunge!
Her first try was, well, a little slow to say the least. However, after a couple more tries, she got the hang of it and was bombing down those sand dunes like a pro!
Nate hopped on his board and slowly glided down the dune. I was next. After rubbing wax on the bottom of my board, I strapped my feet in, stood up and took off like a bat out of hell. After a couple of diggers, I reached the bottom and threw my hands in the air and yelled “That was SO much FUN!” Let’s do it again!”
And again, and again, we went. After about an hour or so of flying down the dunes, our shoes were so filled with sand that we were having a hard time walking. Once we were back to the stand to return the boards, we emptied our pockets, shoes, hair, etc of sand. We had sand in places that the sun doesn’t shine!!
Walking up those dunes wasn’t easy and we had worked up an appetite. We found one of the only restaurants open in Huacachina and ate a couple of sandwiches while watching children dance outside.
The town of Nazca is famous for it’s mysterious lines carved into the desert sand. The Nazca Lines can only be seen by flying overhead or by walking to the top of the sketchily built mirador. Taking our chances, and saving our wallets from too much weight loss, we climbed our way to the top of the tower. Again, because of the lack of rain, these lines have lasted for an astonishing amount of years. The lines were created by digging through the first layers of sand to reveal the lighter soil below. There are many myths as to why these lines were created. Some say that they were created to simulate astrological signs, some say that the shamans drew them when they were on hallucinogenic drugs and some say that they were paths leading to waterways. From the top, we were able to see the hands, lizard and tree figures.
The next two days were filled with driving, driving and more driving to get to our destination of Cusco. The first day, we quickly gained elevation from 1,500 feet to 15,000 feet. Living at sea level her entire life, we weren’t sure how Robin would do with the altitude. Surprisingly, she seemed fine, just a little foggy headed. No worries, Robin! We have coca leaves for that!! We taught her to devein the leaves, wad them up and pack them into her mouth. We made a point to tell her not to chew them but to macerate them. After about ten minutes, we added the baking soda to help release the alkaloids in the leaves. About twenty minutes later, she told us that her leaves were “all gone.” Confused, we asked her where they went. She told us that after chewing them, they just kind of vanished. You’re not supposed to chew them!! But, I don’t know any other moms who would just wad up some coca leaves and shove them in the corner of their mouth, no questions asked. Although, I guess she did ask us if it would show up in a drug test. Hmmm, good question… 😉
The drive to Cusco was filled with the most phenomenal scenery. The landscape went from desert to high plains to mountains. We experienced temperatures ranging from 90 to 38 degrees. We saw plenty of vicuñas, llamas, alpacas, cows, chickens, sheep and even flamingos! It was absolutely one of the most beautiful drives we have completed and Robin was in heaven. It was at this point that the word “texture” became a big part of Robin’s vocabulary in Peru.
“Look at all the texture we are surrounded with!!!” She would exclaim. She was so impressed with the colors, the different landscapes and the typical dress of the people. She observed the way the long, fine grasses swayed in the wind in the high plains. She noticed all the different flowers and plants that grow here and not at home. She couldn’t get enough of the vicunas and they way they so gracefully ate and leaped across the fields. She found a richness in the deep red soil that covered the mountains. She was in awe at the terracing alongside a steep mountain and how farmers took advantage of the land they owned and could grow their crops on these vertical mountains. The texture of all the different landscapes she was experiencing really struck a chord in her. The high plains so soft, the mountains so deep and rich and the terracing so complex and beautiful.
Although Nate and I know we are so lucky to be on this great adventure of ours, we sometimes forget how beautiful our surroundings really are. When you are surrounded by new sights every day, it is easy to take them for granted. Sometimes it takes just one person to make you realize how lucky and fortunate you really are to be living this life on the road learning about different cultures, meeting new people everyday, being surrounded by picturesque landscapes and most importantly, doing it all together.
To be continued……