25 March 2010
Thu 25 Mar 2010 - Thu 25 Mar 2010 69 °F
We headed down to the city of Huaraz to take a look around.
Huaraz is a fairly nondescript town outside of its beautiful surroundings.
For the first time in Peru we felt uncomfortable. We were being eyeballed more than we are used to and had instances that may have had worse consequences if we were not aware.
First, when we took money out of an ATM, we turned to walk down the sidewalk and soon noticed a group of four young men following very close behind us. We acknowledged their presence and quickly turned into a store, and allowed them to walk past.
At another time we pulled our small camera out of Seth's backpack and while Seth was attempting to zip it back up a man came right up into his face waving paper fliers. Seth seeing the man's knees in his face Seth finished securing his backpack realizing the man likely was trying to get into his bag. When Seth stood up, the man continued to crowd him and Seth said "no gracias" (no thanks) the man was relentless and seemed to be trying to get into position where he could get to the bag and Seth finally yelled at him - which seemed to upset him as he commented a moment later as he was walking away that "you have a nice girlfriend watch out for her for me." Seth really wanted to pummel the guy but we walked away instead.
This is a situation that any traveler should look out for as thieves have become very creative and work in groups of young and old.
One of our hostel mates told a story of her sister getting mugged in Ecuador. She stepped away from her group for a moment, a girl spilled a drink on her backpack, which then prompted her to take it off and it was gone in a second - by a second accomplice. A third accomplice yelled "they went that way" while pointing the wrong direction. As you can see, these groups can be large and they cover all their bases.
Thankfully we have made preparations and rules for ourselves and continue to make more as we go. When going to an ATM that is not locked from the inside one person is on the lookout and guarding one side. Money gets put away before we move from the ATM.
When opening bags we have our backs to a wall or pillar of some sort so that there is no access from behind. Also, if one person is getting into a bag, the other is again keeping watch. Lastly, we have placed security clips on all of our zippers so they cannot be easily opened.
If we have to stop on a street - for example waiting to cross. We face each other so it appears we are talking but we can watch all activity behind and around each other.
These are a few of many precautions any traveler should take. They've helped us not be an easy target.
We did have a nice coffee break at Cafe Andino. This is a very nice multilevel cafe with a library and trekking/climbing info for the area.
For the most part we have not had too much of a hard time adjusting to the altitude. We both had a headache the first day but think that also had to do with lack of sleep. We've definitely noticed shortness of breath and slight vertigo at times. The strangest effect the altitude has had was when Seth died the other night for 13 seconds. Monica noticed some strange breathing patterns coming from Seth when he was asleep. So strange she started counting the seconds between them. First he'd take two breaths that seemed to be coming from a person drowning, gasping for air. Followed by one normal breath and then....... nothing! For 13 seconds or so.
No worries though, this is a common effect know as Cheyne Stokes or PB (Periodic Breathing) .
Peruvian Country and People
It was not until we came to the Lazy Dog Inn that we started understanding what we were looking at every time we drove through the small impoverished shanty towns of the Peruvian Andes. Fortuneatly, Diana and Wayne, the owners of the inn have been generous in sharing their knowledge and experience from living here for quite some time. This has also inspired us to read and research more extensively the history, social aspects, culture, etc. of the country. We have had long discussions regarding the Land Reforms of the 1950's and 60's, the Ancash Earthquake, the Shining Path guerilla organization, Peruvian government and economic systems, etc. This knowledge has been fundamental in our understanding of Peru below the tip of the iceberg that are the tourist sites.