As we, two kids per grandparent and me with the baby, boarded the tiny plane I couldn’t help but feel butterflies in my stomach. One part of that was the uncertainty of handling the cold nights, cold water and very very rural area we would be staying in. The other part focused on seeing family I hadn’t seen in 25 years and seeing where my Dad grew up. His older sister inherited the family home and her children built their homes along side that home. It’s almost like a compound with the kitchen outside, a common area for all the children to run around in and connecting yards for the children to roam as they please. It’s always a little nerve wracking to immerse yourself in a new location with new people but it felt a little different since we were staying with family.
It was very much like we traveled back in time. Sheets hanging up on clothes lines, animals running around, water shut off at 7, very very limited hot water, kids playing outside, hardly any screen time…we did have wifi though so I was happy to be able to talk with my husband!
We flew from Lima International Airport into Andahuaylas, a province in Peru, which was a short flight, just shy of an hour and a half. The drive to our family’s home in Talavera was about an hour….if you get car sick pretty easily I’d suggest taking a dramamine and altitude sickness medicine with the winding roads and high altitude. I also would carry small bills or coins because your heart will ache seeing all the young children shining shoes or trying to clean your windows for very little money.
The first day, we were greeted by many faces I recognized but hadn’t seen in ages- they looked the same. This family has some good genes! I saw the cousins I grew up with and the youngest 80 year olds I’ve ever met. They partied on while I slept with my kids- we cheated and brought a mini space heater. One thing you have to know about Latinos is that food is their love language. They sit, eat and chat and eat again. It’s my heaven. We did have to be careful about what we ate because we didn’t want to risk getting food poisoning or any intestinal illnesses. Foods that are cooked and drinking/brushing teeth with bottled/boiled water, bottled drinks are usually safe. Also because you are so high up (9,600 ft!) food doesn’t digest as well. I found that out the hard way the last day we were there. I should have also avoided heavy fried foods. Drinking a hot herbal tea helps with digestion and it is custom to drink un mate along with every meal. Also, their gatherings always include loud music and dancing. They are a lively bunch!
On the second day we had an awesome breakfast consisting of rolls, the most delicious rolls that I am still dreaming about, butter, and other stuff but I just went for the bread and butter. Then we took off to Sondor Ruins. It is a realtively short hike up and if you are not living a 100% sedentary lifestyle, you can do it. I did it with a baby on my back- but take breaks (+ water) because the air is thin up there! The views are spectacular. I can’t even describe nor show you adequate pictures of its beauty. And you can see the beautiful Lago de Pacucha from there. When we were there there was someone offering a guided horse ride for the kids. You may want to take that Dramamine with you as the drive down was a little curvy.
The family had packed a picnic of a special hominy soup (patasca) that needed to be heated up. An old friend of my family joined us on our trip and was able to speak Quechua to one of the villagers there. Actually, what happened was that we stopped at a random person’s house and built a fire. The owner came by and our friend asked if it was okay that we were heating up our food. Fortunately, these people are super friendly and gracious. She even built a bigger fire in her hearth and heat up the second ginormous pot of soup for us. She was an elderly woman but her skin was fantastic and her spirits high. She was lovely and humble and I just loved listening to her speak a language that many no longer speak. She smiled and was excited to show us her animals and her hearth. You would have thought we were part of her family the way she welcomed us. She even asked us to come back and she would cook us her finest hen. I could just hug her! After our food was adequately warm we gave this gracious woman a ride to her nephew’s wedding. We drove through dirt roads, passing these tiny brick homes with metal roofing, stray dogs running around and kids playing soccer.
We ended the day at Lago de Pacucha. We picnicked on the grass overlooking the eery lake. The story about the lake is that it is a female lake because apparently only men have died while swimming in it. It was too cold so no one went in the water. We did, however, have a great soccer match with the kids and some of the parents and some dogs ended up joining as well. We would have stayed longer but the wind picked up and when the sun goes down it is cold! I wish I had more pictures of this lake but my camera was on its last limb!
We took one day to explore the center of town. We found a park the kids could play in and of course there was a cart vendor selling some of our favorite peruvian candy and treats. If you ever find yourself in Peru and ask yourself what Peruvian candy should I get, try these: sublime, cua cua, lentejas, ole ole and besos de mosa. Also bring some for me- haha! You can also check out the Plaza de Armas which is the city center. It has a fountain and a couple of statues. When we walked by there were dancers performing typical Peruvian dances in vibrant traditional dress.
Andahuaylas as a city is more low key. There are only a few key places to visit. Most people make this a stop on their way to or from Cusco. Since we were there with family, we spent lots of time talking, reminiscing and the kids loved being able to run around through fences, play soccer and learn a little español. What was beautiful to me was seeing the home my grandparents raised their kids in. Everything pretty much remained the same architecturally speaking. They made some additions but the original hardwood floors, furniture, doors were mostly intact. As I watched my dad look around at those familiar elements, I could see he saw his childhood- his parents. My paternal grandparents have both passed away so I knew this would be an emotional nostalgic experience for him. He was beyond thrilled to be sharing it with his kids and more so with his grandkids.
My brother served his LDS mission in the Cusco area and my dad was overjoyed when my brother served in the area he grew up in. My dad is the only LDS member in his family however my aunt, uncle and cousins welcomed all the missionaries every Sunday to their home for delicious home cooked meals. Most of the time, these young missionaries rely on the goodness of others to be fed or else they eat very meager rations as they don’t have time to cook elaborate meals. Feeding several young men every week is an arduous task but they lovingly fed them all. They even threw my little Adelle a birthday party with a clown to entertain us all and all the works. I felt so loved and cared for- which is amazing since we haven’t seen each other in decades. But they are my family and that family bond is never broken.
We spent 3+ weeks in Peru. You can read about the first part of our adventure here. I will continue with part 3 next week. Going to this very rural part of Peru wasn’t exactly on my bucket list but I am so so happy we got to spend several days here, in spite of the cold nights and lack of showers, because my kids met their relatives and their bond transcended any language and cultural barriers. Kids will show you how pure their hearts are and bonded almost immediately. Do you guys know or have visited where your parents grew up?