Peru, February - April 2006
A long time dream came true: I visited
Brazil for the first time! And while I was "in the neighbourhood"
I also visited Jolanda,
a friend in Cuzco, Peru.
Why not Brazil?? The Amazon rainforest, Carnival, the people, the music, the dancing, nature... African influence is big in Bahia and other parts of the northeast and people who know me, know that I have a thing for Africa and the slave trade of past centuries.
Brazil always seemed too intimidating to me, but now I'd learned Portuguese and I figured: I survived 'Nairobbery' in Kenya, I should be OK in Brazil. I was avoiding Rio and São Paulo this time.
Looking back it felt more like any southern European country and I needed not have worried so much. Definitely countries like Peru and Kenya feel less safe.
Why Peru for a second time? I always like to see countries from as many different perspectives as possible. And I hadn't seen Jolanda for 8 years! I am an avid supporter of her projects with street kids. I was great to see Peru through the eyes of a Dutch lady who has lived there for a decade by now, and who works so closely with Peruvians. All her staff (65 people now) are Peruvians, as a principle she never employs foreign volunteers. One Peruvian employed, is a whole family with a future.
She can always use extra donations! (hint...)
When I was there in 1998 she had just bought the building that is now one of the two hotels that help finance these projects. It was really nice to see what the hotel looks like now, how the boys have grown up, and the Childrens' Restaurants, and all the other new plans she's working on. And it was fun to meet her two daughters and many friends.
And I skipped Machu Picchu* yet again! But I got my ruins quota by going to the Sondor ruins in Andahuaylas. Ruins from the Chankas, the enemies of the Incas.
After that I had about a week and a half to get down to Lima. I took another route than the one I took in 1998. Back then I went via Puno, Arequipa and Pisco. This time I went through the less-visited towns of Andahuaylas, Ayacucho, Huancavelica, took the old train to Huancayo, and then to Lima.
* Machu Picchu: in 1998 I was in Cuzco after 11 months of travelling the world and seeing lots of temples and ruins everywhere. We just couldn't be bothered with Machu Picchu... :-) The more people told us it was a must-see, the more adverse we were to it. Instead we prefered to spend time with Jolanda and the kids.