July 12, 2022

Arequipa




her name was Julia and we met at a small dinner party
my expatriate friend was having

in celebration of my arrival to Peru

with caramel colored skin, large brown eyes 

wavy black hair past her shoulders

she was somewhat quiet but had a pleasant manner

easy smile and gentle laugh 

she was easy to talk to and seemed genuinely interested 

in my poetry and I read her some

she worked in a bodega not far from where I was staying 

the conversation turned to seeing the Andean condors

which required a bus trip to Arequipa from Lima

I mentioned I would like to go sometime 

she surprised me by asking if I would like to go with her 

she was leaving in a couple of days and planned 

to go with a friend who backed out and really didn’t want to travel alone 

I was free of any obligations so I said yes

Julia spoke passable english 

as opposed to my unpassable spanish so we were all set

three days later, I got up annoyingly early and met her

at this hotel where the bus would pick us up

I was surprised that it was a comfortable modern bus

not like the decrepit 1950’s era train I had taken to Macchu Picchu last year

(side note: I traveled with three native peruvians who cautioned me

about altitude sickness, and we munched on coca leaves which is supposed to help. I was the only one of the group not to get sick from the higher altitude.)


when we arrived in Arequipa there was some kind of festival going on

there was a parade in the middle of town

dancers wore peruvian costumes and danced to traditional music

in the square and there was some high school choir singers

we were hungry so we ate some ceviche and churros at this literally

hole in the wall restaurant/cantina/craft store

where I bought this multi-brown pancho and felt like clint eastwood 

walking around with it and my black cowboy hat on

we hung around the town sipping hot cocoa and just milling about 

eating a late dinner of poyo and papas at one restaurant 

where the street dogs would slip in with the customers 

and go table to table for dinner donations 

until the owner would shoosh them outside

a few minutes later, another dog or two would get inside

it was cold and time to go back to the hotel and she had only

booked one room, but it had two beds so all was cool

it was freezing in the room and there was a space heater 

but it was practically worthless, so we bundled up

there were two thick, usually very warm peruvian blankets on the beds

I laid there about 30 minutes or so still hyped up about the day

I like a cold bed anyway so I was comfortable 

then I felt the bed jostle and Julia was laying next to me

“I’m cold!” she said with a shivering smile so we snuggled up against each other 

just about falling asleep until midnight when the town had a fireworks display

to cap off the day’s festivities 

bombs were bursting in midair close to our room for the next twenty minutes 

we looked at each other riendo histéricamente


the next day we were up early again (this has got to stop)

for cafe and pan (bread) in the hotel restaurant

there were a few people there with us no doubt going with us

I stashed a couple of pieces of bread in my jacket pocket

when we finished and walked into the colder than cold morning

I gave the bread to a couple of street dogs roaming around

I don’t know how they survive out there

I guess they know of a warm spot to sleep

we boarded the bus and headed up higher in the mountains

I’m told these condors only show themselves for like an hour

and then disappear the rest of the day

sometimes they don’t make an appearance at all

so it seems they got a pretty good contract

my friend went last year and after all the fuss saw one ONE, 1, uno condor

today though they were out in force sailing and swooping

darting and diving and soaring through the valley

after about an hour as if on queue

they made themselves scarce

we hopped back on the bus after pictures and a lot of video

stopping in a dirt road village for lunch

she had some kind of fish and I got fried rice (it came with hot dogs for meat)

there was a band playing inside some local peruvian sounding music

but Julia said some of the music was from all over south america

not that I could tell the difference, I did know el condor pasa though

we got back to town and took a long siesta

then out for dinner and visiting the craft shacks and then some frozen sleep

next morning (early again dammit) on the bus back to Lima