Hide Your Cuy! I’m Back!

My mom and I thought it would be fun to post some more details about our travels around Peru.

My parents picked me up on Monday, July 14. That night we caught up and went through my belongings. As I mentioned, I didn’t have a lot of time to pack so my huge suitcases were a bit disorganized. The first thing my mom said was, “Why does it smell like I am unpacking you from scout camp?!” All of my clothing smelled like a camp fire because Maximo often washed our clothes on the same day that he dyed the costumes he and Olinda rent out. He hand-washed our clothes in a big plastic tub and then would hang things to dry outside, and usually had a big wood fire going. So, I smelled like a camp fire for seven months! I got used to it, and actually liked it.

On Tuesday, we had chifa for lunch took a combi to Cochas and then to Chilca. My parents were amazed at the experience!

Sitting on the combi!
Sitting on the combi!
Eulogio Medina, the expert mate artist and his Quechua speaking wife.
Eulogio Medina, the expert mate artist and his Quechua speaking wife.
The view from the combi window.
The view from the combi window.

On Wednesday, we checked out of the hotel and went to Jauja. The check-out was eventful because as I got into the elevator, my placa (name tag) got bumped and fell off. It didn’t land on the floor, it slipped between the wall and the elevator shaft and was GONE. We went down to the front desk and explained to the custodian what had happened. He took us to the basement and he crawled into the shaft with a flashlight and returned with the placa, no worse for the wear. That was the FIRST and only time I ever lost one!

My placa, safely returned to where it belonged.
My placa, safely returned to where it belonged.

After that near miss, we took a 45-minute taxi back to Jauja. My parents wanted to meet Maximo and Olinda.

The front of Maximo's and Olinda's costume shop. It is named after their daughters. The live on the main floor, and the missionaries are upstairs.
The front of Maximo’s and Olinda’s costume shop. It is named after their daughters. The live on the main floor, and the missionaries are upstairs.
I showed my parents the rooms, including these sweet rebar and plaster of paris weights some missionaries left behind.
I showed my parents the rooms, including these sweet rebar and plaster of paris weights some missionaries left behind.
What was left of my shoes.
What was left of my shoes.
Peruvian women make my 5'2" mother feel like a giant. Olinda gave her some nice gifts.
Peruvian women make my 5’2″ mother feel like a giant. Olinda gave her some nice gifts.
Olinda insisted we all dress up in her traditional Jauja dance clothes.
Olinda insisted we all dress up in her traditional Jauja dance clothes.

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We went to lunch at their favorite restaurant.
We went to lunch at their favorite restaurant.
We had time for a little drive, so Maximo took us out to his favorite place: Laguna de Paca.
We had time for a little drive, so Maximo took us out to his favorite place: Laguna de Paca.
Maximo's sweet Toyota. The starter is dead, so it needs a little help. My parents also got a kick out of his glasses with the sample lenses. His driver's license says he has to wear glasses, which annoys him, so he just bought frames and never bothered to get the prescription lenses. He can't get the sticker off that says "sample" though so he just makes do.
Maximo’s sweet Toyota. The starter is dead, so it needs a little help. My parents also got a kick out of his glasses with the sample lenses. His driver’s license says he has to wear glasses, which annoys him, so he just bought frames and never bothered to get the prescription lenses. He can’t get the sticker off that says “sample” though so he just makes do. Maximo is the BEST.

After lunch we went to the Jauja airport and caught a flight back to Lima. We stayed in a little bed and breakfast my parents had found really close to the airport.

Thursday morning we caught a flight to Cusco. Our tour guide’s daughter met us at the airport and got us settled at the hotel. Later that afternoon, another tour guide picked us up. We went to see Sacsayhuaman and nearby archeological sites, Qenqo and the Sun Temple Korycancha.

My mom and I enjoying a little winter sun in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.
My mom and I enjoying a little winter sun in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco.
My dad couldn't believe it when we found Eulogio's cousin in Cusco. He told us he took a 32 hour bus ride from Cochas to get there.
My dad couldn’t believe it when we found Eulogio’s cousin in Cusco. He told us he took a 32 hour bus ride from Cochas to get there.
Seeing some of the cool sites around Cusco.
Seeing some of the cool sites around Cusco.
My first really good hamburger (hamberguese) in two years. Yummo.
My first really good hamburger (hamburguesa) in two years. Yummo.

On Friday, our actual tour guide picked us up. My parents had heard about him from other missionary parents and he was awesome. He took us on a tour of the Sacred valley. We visited Chinchero, a local home where the women dye and weave their own handicrafts, the Moray Agricultural Terraces, and had lunch in Urubamba.

Our most excellent tour guide, Betho Rojas.
Our most excellent tour guide, Betho Rojas.
My dad is always happy to dress up.
My dad is always happy to dress up.
Betho had so many great insights about the Quechua people. We learned a lot.
Betho had so many great insights about the Quechua people. We learned a lot.
It is hard to understand how massive and intricate this place is. The Moray Agricultural Terraces are huge.
It is hard to understand how massive and intricate this place is. The Moray Agricultural Terraces are huge.
We had lunch at a gorgeous place in Urabamba.
We had lunch at a gorgeous place in Urubamba.

Betho and his driver dropped us off in Ollantaytambo so we could catch the train to Machu Picchu Pueblo (Aguas Calientes). As we were getting on the train, Elder Hartvigsen and his family were getting off. Elder Hartvigsen had been on my floor in the BYU dorms, and in my MTC and CCM group, but went to Peru Lima South. His family had picked him up at the end of his misison. Betho was their guide, but they were a day ahead of us.

We spent the night in a little hotel room in Machu Picchu Pueblo, and got up the next morning for an early (6:30am!) bus ride to Machu Picchu. Betho’s brother-in-law Paul took over the tour guide duties, and we learned a lot from him, too. He told us right off the bat that he doesn’t like to tell myths or legends, but wants his clients to understand how complicated the Quechua people were at the time of the Inkas.

My dad and I hiked Wayna Picchu. It was so high, so steep and so beautiful.
My dad and I hiked Wayna Picchu. It was so high, so steep and so beautiful.

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We were pretty tired on the train ride back.
We were pretty tired on the train ride back.

We took the 90-minute train back to Ollantaytambo and then a driver met us to take us the rest of the way back to Cusco (another 90-minute drive). It was a long but awesome day!

On Sunday, we went to church in Betho’s ward. That was cool. That afternoon we went to see two animal reserves and saw condors, llamas and other animals up close and personal.

IMG_3201On Monday, we boarded a double-decker bus and headed to Puno. It was a long day but we saw some cool sights. We went over La Raya pass which tops out at 14,700 feet. We stopped at Raqchi and saw some interesting ruins, the Wirachocha Temple and saw the beautiful Andahuaylillas church. It was a long day, and we got to Puno just as the sun was going down (about 6:30pm).

My dad at La Raya pass.
My dad at La Raya pass.

Tuesday was our last full day of touring and we were excited to see Lake Titicaca. We were surprised to find Betho waiting for us at breakfast at 6:30am. The tour guide he had hired had a family emergency come up, so Betho took the bus overnight to arrange for a replacement and let us know about the changes. We couldn’t believe his dedication! He hired a nice, young student who is studying for her guide license named Giselle. She took us to the dock and we met our captain for the day, Wenceslau and his brother Oswaldo (who is also the mayor of the island Amantaní).

They took us to the floating island of Uros, and then out to Amantaní where Betho had arranged an overnight stay with Wenceslau’s other brother Bautista and his family.

Our boat for the day. My parents, our guide, our captain, the captain's brother and I were the only ones on board.
Our boat for the day. My parents, our guide, our captain, the captain’s brother and I were the only ones on board.

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This cutie was our guide on Uros.
This cutie was our guide on Uros.
We tasted the reed that makes up the floating islands.
We tasted the reed that makes up the floating islands.
The water on Lake Titicaca is so blue!
The water on Lake Titicaca is so blue!
The view from our bedroom window. My parents couldn't believe how COLD it got at night -- down to about 28 degrees Fahrenheit. I told them to just do as the missionaries do in all the rooms with no heat -- pile on the blankets! The view was beautiful, though.
The view from our bedroom window. My parents couldn’t believe how COLD it got at night — down to about 28 degrees Fahrenheit. I told them to just do as the missionaries do in all the rooms with no heat — pile on the blankets! The view was beautiful, though.
Our hosts -- Bautista and Irma.
Our hosts — Bautista and Irma.
The pretty courtyard to their home.
The pretty courtyard to their home.

Once we got settled in, Giselle took us on a hike of the island. We hiked first to Pachamama then to Pachatata. The altitude was so high, over 13,500 feet, that my mom had a hard time. She managed both peaks, though, and the view was stupendous.

14758916643_562ed0a391_z 14739059795_7565b840b4_zIMG_3276 IMG_3277 IMG_3275We had a beautiful and simple dinner prepared by Irma and a nice talk about life on the island and the love of our Heavenly Father. We really enjoyed our stay. After the sun went down, we spent some time out in the cold air admiring the stars and the Milky Way.

Irma noticed that my mom had a cold with a cough and picked some fresh eucalyptus to make her some tea. She also plucked some fresh muña to make some of my favorite tea.
Irma noticed that my mom had a cold with a cough and picked some fresh eucalyptus to make her some tea. She also plucked some fresh muña to make some of my favorite tea.

On Wednesday morning, we woke to a nice breakfast. Bautista showed us where he farms and keeps his animals. Feeding the donkey was a highlight!

My dad did a little work for Bautista.
My dad did a little work for Bautista.

We had a long day of travel ahead of us, so we skipped a tour of neighboring island Takile. Instead, we went straight back to Puno (three hours by boat!) with Wenceslau at the helm again. We headed back to our hotel and made arrangements to have a room for a few hours to rearrange our luggage and take showers. Then it was a flight from Puno to Arequipa to Lima, and then a long wait for our 2am flight. We got through immigrations without any problem, although I was so nervous there would be a problem with my expired paperwork. We paid a $3 fine and were on our way!

After a long overnight flight, customs and a delay in Dallas (where my mom’s purple maiz was confiscated!), we were on our way to Salt Lake City. We made friends with the eight other missionaries on our flight and I was anxious to get home.

My brother and sisters were at the airport with my aunt, cousins and grandparents.
My brother and sisters were at the airport with my aunt, cousins and grandparents.

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My appointment with the stake president was not until 7:30pm that evening, so we had time for a late lunch at Training Table. That Thursday was Pioneer Day, and it was fun to be home to celebrate a little bit.

Cheese fries with my brother and cousins!
Cheese fries with my brother and cousins!

IT IS SO GOOD TO BE HOME! I miss Peru like crazy, but I am happy with my service and I know the Lord is pleased with me. And, now it is on to new adventures.

with many llamas,

David

David Van Komen Written by:

I am just a normal guy that loves the Internet, physics, and lots of other great and wonderful things. Though I don’t seem it, I enjoy writing about whatever interests me.

4 Comments

  1. Troy Cook
    August 9, 2014
    Reply

    I have really enjoyed reading your blog the last few months. The pictures were great. It helped give me an idea of what my son was experiencing. You probably did not know Elder Cook, he is in Mantaro right now. May the Lord bless you in your next adventures!

    • August 9, 2014
      Reply

      Thanks for the comment. I did know your son. I loved him. He was doing very well. He misses home a bit, but he is a wonderful missionary that is overcoming his challenges.

  2. Maxine Baker
    August 9, 2014
    Reply

    I will miss your Monday letters, David. I have been so impressed with your dedication, enthusiasm and positive attitude during those two years in Peru. I know you will be blessed throughout your life for your loving service.

    • August 15, 2014
      Reply

      Well, I hope to be able to write on this blog as often as I can. Hope that you can bear with me as I decide what to post.

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