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Published: March 17th 2014
This journey I have been on with my mother has, in large part, been defined by my father. It was, as you know, supposed to be his trip with my mother, not mine. And the trips my parents undertook whenever visiting my brother always had a certain unalterable pattern to them, no doubt borne out of experience. It was a configuration they used when visiting my sister as well.
The pattern was a way for them of allocating their time between travel and seeing family. The time was divided up equally between both. It was nearly always a two-four-two pattern, that meant two weeks with my brother/sister, four weeks on the road, two more weeks back with my brother/sister.
But even the time spent with my brother or sister had a particular configuration, though not as stringent as the wider arrangement. What, however was always included, was a short trip with either families, or, at the least, with my brother or sister. A long weekend at the most, taking into account the fact that people might have to work, and therefore something more extensive would not be feasible.
When my sister was still living in Dubai this often
involved camping trips in the nearby mountains of Oman. In Peru, with my brother, it could mean visiting ruins, or wild-water rafting in the mountains, or just going up to a beautiful highland region.
And so it is that on this very special trip, the same old pattern has been played out once again. And why not? It has been tried and tested by the best, and found satisfactory. The only deviation was that due to the exceptional nature of this specific journey. We stayed longer with my brother than would normally have been the case. The two-four-two configuration was altered to three-three-two for this occasion.
Since we had not spent any time travelling with my brother before we left to Paraguay and Uruguay, time had to be allocated for it after returning from those countries. An appropriate slot was found, which in this case meant our last weekend in Peru. My brother asked for, and was granted one day leave from his work, so we could take off early Friday morning.
The destination would be Ayacucho, an old colonial highland town, which none of us had visited before. The drive up took 9 hours. To start
with along the coast, however after Pisco, you head inland and up the valley and over several high passes. The scenery along the way was spectacular and extremely varied.
The first part, along the coast, is bone dry except where rivers originating in the Andes make irrigation possible. But as you make your way up the river valley the totally lifeless mountains slowly start sprouting up some green. At first a few hardy cacti here and there, but eventually the heights become lush and verdant. A combination of small farms and pine and eucalyptus forests greet the eye. As you drive higher trees make way for the grass of the altiplano and farming makes way for herding. Here you will see sheep, and obviously llamas and alpacas.
Eventually you reach Ayacucho, which is situated in a valley at around 2800 meters, though the road to it takes you as high as 4700 meters. It is a wonderful city, full of old churches, colonial houses and cobbled streets. It is similar to Cusco but without the hordes of tourists, and therefore it is infinitely more enjoyable. We found ourselves a nice hotel with several dogs, including a three legged
one, and a variety of parakeets and parrots.
With our accommodation settled we set off exploring. Exploring not only the town itself, but also the nearby sights, made much more easy by having our own transport. And there is plenty to see. Ayacucho itself, is as I mentioned very well preserved. It is also known as the place where the Spanish royalist retreated during the war of independence and where they were eventually defeated in a village not too far away called Quinua.
Before the Spanish (and the Incas), the Wari culture had its capital about twenty kilometres from Ayacucho. They left us a ruined city to visit, located on a hill and only partially excavated. For the most part the ruins are overgrown and surrounded by cacti, which sounds worse than it is. In fact you can eat the fruit of this cactus, though it is better to buy it in a market than pick it yourself, unless, like my mother, you want to have tiny, hairy and painful thorns all over your hands and fingers. The fruit is called tuna, like the fish.
Continuing up the same road that passes the Wari ruins will bring
Pisco to Ayacucho
Brother's in arms
you to the aforementioned village where the Spanish were defeated. There is a big, rather ugly, monument up the hill from it. The hamlet itself, luckily, is picturesque, which makes up for the behemoth above it. If you decide to park your car there, be careful for intoxicated taxi drivers who decide to crash into your parked car as they drunkenly try to turn on the road where you have left it.
If this does happen to you, take a picture of his license plate, like my brother did, because he is not likely to stop, but will drive off. He might, however, return later to threaten some old man who happened to see the incident, not to tell on him. This won’t mean that the police will catch him though, because after said old man goes to the police station anyway, to explain that he has been threatened by the drunk cab-driver, the culprit will make a run for it and disappear to unknown location.
It does mean, that you, or in fact your brother will have to spend many hours at the friendly police station in the village as they slowly write and then type out
the report. That you will have to wait for the insurance man to come and assess the damage, and that you will see him leave again before the law enforcement officer has even started on typing out the report. If you wait long enough, you will undoubtedly have the honour of seeing a random group of locals playing instruments and dancing around the main plaza, all it would seem especially for your entertainment. Eventually, around sundown you will be able to leave, happy that the damage was relatively minor, but unhappy about the wasted time and with the nasty individual, still at large, who caused it.
Despite this incident, the trip was a perfect ending to our South American adventure. A journey which has helped us a little in the grieving process, at least it has helped me. When we left for Lima two months ago, I was still exhausted and in pain from the loss of my dad. But at the same time determined that I had to move on, and sure that my dad would have wanted me to, and would have approved of the means in which I chose to do so.
This was my
Pisco to Ayacucho
Interesting feature along the way
father’s trip, but it was also mine. I am glad that we could do this, and am ready to face tomorrow. The pain and sorrow will still be there, it will ebb and flow like the tide, but there is no harm in that. After all, the tide also washes up new and beautiful things.
For now I bid you adieu, and to my brother, his wife and his children I say thank you!
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