End

“I had arrived. I’d done it. It seemed like such a small thing and such a tremendous thing at once, like a secret I’d always tell myself, though I didn’t know the meaning of it just yet.”


– Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Cheryl Strayed





As hard as it is to acknowledge, it’s my last few days in South America. That’s a really sad statement that took me some effort to type, not melodramatizing (or maybe a bit). It’s just that there’s a part of me that screams, FML, ITS YOUR LAST DAYS IN SOUTH AMERICA. I know it’s going to be difficult to come back, not within the next 5 years (I think) but hm, with my yellow fever vaccination, likely the next decade… There’s still so much to explore. I’m going to miss being surrounded by the Spanish language and being called a señorita and attempting conversations with my half-baked Spanish and feeling myself improving. Listening to Latin American music, learning new words, immersing in new cultures. Of course there’s things I miss back home, I don’t quite take care of my body well in the months. But I think opportunities like this don’t come. In all, I’m glad I stretched this for as long as I could (though, I wish I left earlier now, and f school and extend a few days longer so I could have perhaps gone to Ecuador / Colombia)
==
1.30pm – 1130am – 70 soles Civa economica
In this long and weaving bus ride I know it’s my last one in a long while
I am just not homesick. 2 months is too short.
Listening to the crooning of Latin American singers at the background of the bus
Figuring out the Spanish words
Thinking about how mine has improved
Going to miss this, all these – silly South America, the silly things that happen (random taxes), the silly traffic (van in salkantay zip lining), silly cab drivers (giggly Bolivian la paz), blasting music in our truck
Is it the last day already? Too fast. Not ready to leave. Feels really sad. When I go home I have to continue to listen to music, read Spanish, and so forth.
It’s also quite amazing how much my Spanish has improved. I can now listen to the tv shows and understand glimpses of it, as with songs. Conversations. I can carry conversations with locals, basic but also to some extent useful enough. Such a leap from when I first began. It occurred to me that learning a language isn’t really that hard, how silly I was to have thought otherwise. 2 years ago the self that said ‘I can never do that!’ She was wrong. Paco had said, ‘you know why you can’t? Because of what you just said.’ He was right. She was wrong, and the stubborn adamant self that I am can’t be happier than she’s wrong. Stupid girl.
I think about all the events that led me to this trip – exchange, couchsurfing, Barcelona at that time, making the decision to couchsurf with male hosts, Laura and friends, the conversations we had that planted this idea, and now this idea coming into fruition. The learning, and then the running – I remember one night after my 10km run I thought to myself, I wonder if I’ll ever have a version of myself this dedicated again. I was working for something, and I actually saw myself working for it – I was practicing and expanding my Spanish vocabulary on an active basis, I was running to get ready for my trek, I was working to earn some extra money to fund emergencies and extra gifts. I was working towards something, this trip I conceptualised two years ago. I love that version of myself – I saw someone persistent and someone working, someone chasing for something she wanted and I like it. I hope I always retain a version of that self.
I can just picture myself the next day lying at home, in singapore, on my ‘comfy’ bed, eyes closed and feeling depressed because I was back home. Withdrawal symptoms seeping in. Missing my Spanish and travelling and travelling from one city to another, one landscape to another, one revelation to another. And then I smile, because……… It’s time to plan my next trip, I think to myself as I grin, amused, my grin spreading itself wide across my cheeks.
In Lima only for a couple of hours and I hear warnings of ‘peligro‘ around me; I can’t help but feel a little nervous, though I do feel absolutely tranquilo walking around in the day. I asked for directions to the centro and a man advised me to walk in the other direction; I chatted with another guy and he said I probably shouldn’t carry so many things walking around.
In Lima I ate and walked a little, but not a lot, lugging my heavy backpack I now know is 16kg around miraflores. I had encountered miraflores in other cities as well; I now know it’s some sort of city centre, some touristy square. More than that I now think about miraflores as a Spanish word – Mira, look, Flores, flowers. Look, flowers. My brain, interestingly, has started translating words and sentences. Even as I think about things I often find myself trying to translate them. How interesting, immersing myself in this environment and the things it does to me. I like it, I like it a lot.
I walked into a book shop for awhile. I love walking into the book shops here because often I spot a paperback I recognize and I try to translate the words and titles. It’s like a game. Casually asked the lady about getting to the airport, if I need to call a taxi or if I could wave one along the road, since I’ve heard about the express kidnappings and all. She said it was alright, but it was probably better I called one. Another lady agreed, and started calling one for me. It was 45 soles, was I alright? Of course, it was less than 50 and it was my last day, last spending. Then the taxi guy hung up or something, and she couldn’t get others because it was Sunday and all was unavailable / busy, and they advised me to catch one down the road. The lady shopkeeper walked me opposite the street and flagged one down for me, near where a policeman was standing. This driver heard ‘aeropuerto‘ and shook his head. Sunday, I suppose it’s because it’s Sunday. Another cab stopped shortly after. She talked to the cab driver for me – 35 soles. Great! That’s 10 soles difference; that’s 3usd. It’s times like this I wonder about such differences – quite great differences, and almost inevitable differences.
I got in, and shot her a last worried grin before getting in. She nodded assuringly, knowing my fears, and waved goodbye. I sat at the backseat, wondering if I was going to be robbed at my last taxi ride, my last ride in South America. Especially since he had stopped for me with my backpack, rather than my flagging. I mentally wondered how I would feel; alright, my trip had ended, I had barely a hundred soles left, I just needed my notes in my phone, and if I had my sd card they could have the camera. But mostly I guess I’d be fine, because I had done everything I’d wanted. I suppose it’s under these circumstances that I realise I’m fine with losing the replaceables, except my words. They are pretty precious to me, testament to my state of being, my memories. The most invaluable (the irony).
These thoughts took place over a span of three seconds. I laughed nervously (though likely more cheery sounding) before chatting with him about living in Lima, how it was, about Peru, and all I’ve learnt – the Japanese president, cusco, the coca leaves, the altitude, how I was in Machu Picchu and South America and needed to improve my Spanish, how I wanted to go to Columbia and Ecuador and travel more. La playa in el ciudad. We laughed a little along the way and as I felt our camaraderie increased I felt a little more relieved – maybe he would like chatting with me, and maybe this decreases the chances of him driving to a secluded spot to rob me. Lol. I am paranoid, am I not? On hindsight I feel I am paranoid – or am I? Nah, frankly not really, in alternative universes I might have been less lucky. We drove into streets (where one flash of a moment I wondered if I should jump off if it was absolutely secluded) and then out into crowded lanes, and when we drove past the blue sign that said ‘aeropuerto‘ pointing ahead I felt a part of me sink with ease. Hurray! Hurray! I chatted more cheerily after. It’s nice to know I can actually converse a little now, though still not completely understanding at times but managing fine. Being able to ask some questions at least, and getting to know someone, about someone. Think about week 1 and week Now. We reach the airport and I thanked him and got off, stepping into the airport, my final destination in South America. This feeling washes over me.
But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me — Pablo Neruda
Bought Spanish poetry books because I’m certain I’ll be able to read them within a decade. Gonna miss being surrounded by Spanish all the time, gonna miss the Latin American music and feeling reminded of my smallness in the vastness of the world. 😢
I gazed at the person in the mirror. She was a little slimmer than I remembered. As I had expected, and was slightly pleased to say. After all, all that exercise! Looked the same in general, one can hardly tell how transformative the weeks have been.
And has it really been ‘transformative’? Is that the right word? I wasn’t ‘transformed’ – perhaps what I mean is… Tweaked. My life course tweaked a little further from my initial conception of my future prior to my trip. I had plans, future plans of what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go that did not exist prior to those weeks. I now knew I had (not only the ability to, but also) the – confidence? – to do so.
Glanced at the mirror again. Dark circles. I didn’t even care that I was washing my hair in the airport toilet. Or that I was sleeping here. It’s better than a rocking bus. My minimum level of comfort required has dropped, I think. The toilet has toilet paper, and hooks. I couldn’t help but notice how it looked new and shiny. I was happy to be in a developed country again; I suddenly recalled that I could drink from the tap water at ease and for free. Hurray!!
The girl in the mirror looked young, and I was pleased, and proud of her. I was pretty proud of her. When I’m 70 I’m sure I will remember her. ‘Remember how you were when you were 23…?’
There is a part of me that is almost delightfully surprised that I didn’t die – I’m alive, i’m alive! There is a part of me that mocks that ridiculous week 1 self that was so scared, and there’s the other part that knows I can think this only because in many ways I got lucky (or is it?) that I’m fine with only scratches from the tree branch. What is danger? This trip calls into question.
Mainly I’m thankful to be alive – and being alive more than ever feels like a great gift, a blessing that I cherish, I really really do. Prior to my trip and during my trip and now after, it is clear that I love life and I’m happy to be alive.
Yesterday when I arrived in London I could still hear Spanish everywhere – in Primark, along the streets, I could hear Spanish. And hearing Spanish brings me some sort of wistfulness. It was still nice to be back in a developed country though. I stepped into the toilets of the airport and couldn’t help noticing how bright and shiny it was, and how it had toilet paper. Been a while.
Flying home, my flight home. At the airport I overheard people conversing in Spanish (again). On the plane I felt my ears pop along with the altitude and it reminded me of Peru. I really do miss South America, particularly because it’s so far away and inconveniently inaccessible. I try to picture the next time I return, when I’m older. South America will always be a special continent to me, tremendously special because upon this continent locks the person that I was once upon a time, a version I don’t quite want to lose.
Tucking this chapter of memories into a box to peep into if ever I feel down and defeated
Pinning it onto my chest like a badge of honour I proudly sneak a peak at proudly
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Wayna Picchu

Really happy and fortunate because I got tickets to WAYNA PICCHU!!!!
The maximum capacity to go up to Huayna Picchu is 400 people per day divided into two groups of 200 each one.

As one of the 400 people, I must say I’m honoured. – bows –

It was about another hour’s climb though, and I was soaked. Soaked, and my brain was hardly working I think, because all I could think of was mindlessly taking another step up, up… it was quite therapeutic though, that sort of zoned-out feeling.

Machu Picchu

After 5 days and endless steps I (finally!) reach Machu Picchu, one of the 7 wonders of the world, built during the Inca empire in 1450 – what will always come with the memory of this site will be the days of passing waterfalls, crossing streams and picking wild strawberries, accompanied by the rhythmic clacking of my hiking stick.
How many generations have these stones stood witness to over the decades? Times like this reminds me of the minuteness of our lifespan in the history of the world.





Salkantay Trek: 5d 4n

Space

I love hiking,
I think it’s very clear and understandable why I love hiking, if one knows my personality
I picture myself walking with nature, a single bubble around myself
Walking with a purpose, a final endpoint
Yet granted with the luxury of Time for daydreaming,
punctuated by the occasional bouts of pain from a blister or a toenail to draw me back to reality
How therapeutic
I can picture my future self, stressed with the need to escape, and turning to this avenue for a breather
You are rewarded so long as you keep moving
I like that idea
(As long as I don’t let myself feel pressured by the imaginary expectations of others)

 

I woke up at 3am, snoozed till about 3,30am so I could gather at 4am, the meeting time. I clumsily pressed the stop button so my alarm would stop ringing; little did I know it’d be the last of it I’d see (for these few days). Strangely after I was done packing, with contacts only in one eye – the other is too sensitive at this time of the day – I realise I couldn’t find my phone, couldn’t find it anywhere either, not in my bag, not when I went back into the room, thrice. I wonder if it’s because I could see only from my right eye; it’s usually reliable. But i really couldn’t find it – the most likely suspect now is my backpack which I’ve kept in the storage room. Frankly, it does worry me quite a bit, weighing on me since morning. I tried to think what’s the most precious thing I have in it – in its broken state, what it holds of value is some of my photos (though I have more), and most importantly my notes, the ones recorded in my pure state. I hope I get it back. But if I don’t, here’s my past few days: (though it really won’t be the same)
– Puno – Arequipa – cusco
Love cusco and their integration with nature. Walking along the streets, seeing the inca ruins
Poignant reminder that these are real – history’s increasing relevance to me
Stones silently watching, unchanged, as generations after generations slide down the rocks
Pacha mama – ayewashca – coca leaves
San Pedro – it looks for you, not the other way round
Kintu –  3 coca leaves, prayings and offerings
Cerveza – offer first to pacha mama and parents that passed
Mountain sacrifices in the past
Elongated skulls to indicate royalty
President was japanese ???
The sound of the river stream rushing by
The silence of the valleys, of the hills
Coca leaves – something rooted in their tradition, yet threatened to be banned by international bodies that are the ones that deny it.

-Day 1 of Salkantay begins!!

The first day was alright – I don’t remember much (already), but we basically walked uphill a little, then flat. It was alright, easier than Batur.
Woke up at 3+, reached breakfast site perhaps 630++, had breakfast, started our hike at 8?
We reached the tent site at about 1+ or 2pm for lunch; lunch was delicious, had hot drinks and llama meat and avocado with meat in it, and mashed potato – satisfying indeed. After lunch some of us hiked up to the lagoon; about an hour to 1.5hrs up. Optional, I went because it was only 3pm and I was far too restless to let my day end like this; The day hike was surprisingly short. Did 6 hours really pass by?? Didn’t feel like it.
We stopped several times on the way, I thought my guide’s pacing was good, it was manageable. We were well rested. I realise I like hiking alone, with my own space, like a bubble. Just me walking relentlessly, my feet upon nature, with the grandeur of the mountains next to me, the sound of the running stream, my stick clacking in rhythm as I slowly ascend. Me and my head, me and my thoughts. It’s therapeutic.

I suppose what I like is simply blanking out and letting my mind wander. Maybe that’s why I like long bus rides where I can dawdle and do nothing.
By the time I got down, sat on the grass and chatted a little with the girls in my group, and came back it was about 6. Served popcorn and biscuits for tea break, then served dinner shortly after. Life is good.
I love sleeping in a tent. In a big, spacious comfy tent. I suppose I associate it with a bubble around my World. I can listen to the world outside, but I can reside happily, anonymously, in mine.
About 545pm – my first night of the salkantay trek ends.

I’m actually a little nervous about tomorrow’s 21km if I let myself think about it. The supposedly ‘hardest’ day. But then I think about Agung and I think, can it really be harder than that??? Batur and agung?? I still take Agung as one of the best things I’ve done in life.

 

I also had a thought last night: when I was showering I heard some knocking above me. Frankly, it scared me because it was dark, and the shower curtain was around me, reminding me of a movie scene. But later I asked myself, alright, what’s the worst that can happen, I shall just keep calm. After all, I’m alive, and no matter what that’s the most important – that I’m alive. In that sense I’m more afraid of humans now, I really am. It’s another mark of growth

Day 2: Supposedly 21kmThis was supposedly the toughest day of the trek.

It wasn’t, though. I was pretty nervous after reading the reviews, but.. the expectations I suppose, made it more manageable than i expected. The toughest part was the optional bit, where we could hike for another hour up to see a lake. Some people rested in their tents for that bit. It was, however, a gorgeous day.

Photos from days 2 / 3:


The lake!

Day 3

 

Sat on the roof of the truck and got scratches
— 345 took bus to hor springs
On the bus – they were playing all these music in the car
And we rolled along the side of the mountain
Pass waterfalls, pass streams
Everyone singing along
I thought, how do I freeze this moment?
I thought about how my trip was ending, I was down to my final few days in South America
When am I coming back? How do I feel this way again?
I know there’s many things that contribute to the way I feel that I can’t get back in the future
My age, my milestone
My first
My youth, my freedom
My lack of responsibilities
Could I really backpack Central America when I have a family? Central Asia? Africa? I had all these plans that I formulated in the lpst months
In 5 years’ time I would do a big trip, I decided
Already I have decided
Nicely planned, by then I’ll have finished my bond with a bonus to spare
5 years!!!!!!
And when I’m back I’ll cook my Singaporean dishes well, know how to formulate an app, desserts and calligraphy
I was so young, and I’m glad I’m actually so young–

Day 4
Night 3 we had a ‘party’ with inca tequilas and Latin American music
I woke up at 2am to the moanings coming from the tent next to mine. And erm. Jamie unzipping my sleeping bag and crawling into mine. I’ve heard stories of hostel sex and all, but this was quite a first – unabashed, almost. Amused, I tried to sleep, but was occasionally awaken by the noise. Eventually I fell asleep and morning came, and Jamie woke up surprised to find himself here.
Day 4 was lovely. And came so quick. Day 4 morning we had a birthday cake because it was Christina’s birthday. She had taken leave from her work to come on this trek, her 47th birthday gift. I think about the story Andre told us, about how the couple had climbed all the way up to the sun gate and the mum had a box with the ashes of her son. Machu Picchu is such a.. Special place, a sacred place, and one that holds such unique meanings to people, where people from all over the world come to possibly fulfill one of their dreams, to see the world-famous ancient ruins. It’s quite amazing, when one thinks about the number of tourists the stones have stood witness to. Inca trail requires booking more than 4 months in advance. Really.

 

Day 4 morning was zip lining. I went with another tour company – the one the trek was advertising seemed reliable m, with their equipments which they tout as of certified excellence, and costs 90 soles (~30usd) for 5 ziplines. Not sure how much I paid with Loki hostel. I reached my zipline site a little nervous, augmented by the fact that a nervous British girl was saying how this looked so disorganized and old compared to what she had in Costa Rica. After a short explanation the first lesson went down, then eventually me. See everytime I get so nervous i question myself – WTF am I doing and who is this person, why I am doing this, why – first zipline I put my left hand on top of the lock, then my right, and with a slight nudge I was off, swinging along a single cable, my legs dangling above the rocky stream below, along the valleys, I closed my eyes then I opened and stared in amazement then I closed again and then I opened again and I was there at the other end
Squealing with breathless excitement inside
I clambered upwards for my second zipline
The instructor grinned, that was good yes? Yes it was, mis primers vez, I said, beaming
Second one, I flew above the trees, the valleys
It felt awesome

 

Third one they called for ‘superman’ volunteers, so I did
I had to lean forward and tuck both legs between his
This time I couldn’t hold on to the cable, so that was scary
But this was of course the best
Because I was like a bird
Looking down on the view
Could flap my hands if I wanted
I suppose this is the closest I’ll be to skydiving
It felt really great, I can still remember the view
And then I reached the end

5 ziplines, drove back, drove to hydroelectric place, had lunch
Hiked 3 hours more to aguas calientes along the train tracks
I had read about this, I thought
It was a therapeutic walk, carrying my things and just walking nonstop on an almost flat plane
I liked that bit
Lunch at 1244pm
3 hours up
4 hours down today
Total = 7 hours
43km
Came down at about 440
If you ask me, I would much rather lie in bed and think of you
So I get those feelings and tinglings
I wonder if you think of me as much as I think of you
It comes in random moments, but particularly when the music plays
I suppose with music the mood carries with it that tinge of infinity, freedom and fleetingness, all meshed into one ball that tickles the corners of my heart
It comes, the knowing that every moment that passes is my final moments in this place
I feel – should I say I feel terribly sad? I feel terribly sad, but not ‘terrible’ – I feel sorrowful, but not ‘sorrowful’ – I feel sad, but sad is not the word apt for it. I’m not quite ready to leave. I want to add that ‘but I am’, and I realise i really am not. I could stay a month more or two, or three, or four, I’m certain. There’s still so much I’ve yet to see. When I go back this chapter closes, and another of mine begins.

DAY 5:

Today was the hardest for me. It was steps, endless steps, and I couldn’t go up the steps relentlessly without stopping. That’s normal I know, but there’s a part of me that’s frustrated at myself, like why can the rest go up without stopping and I can’t? It makes me feel weak…….
Eli said it was considered a hard trek. I feel like I don’t know, because I have only done Agung to set the standard. I think in general it was alright, I could do tougher.
I counted 1645 steps

I was so excited when I saw this signTomorrow I would be seeing:

Other things and memories I love about the trek:

I like the flowers / I love the daffodils / I like the mountains / I love the rolling hills 🎵 I also like avoiding passing horses, grazing cows and the occasional mud-splashing truck with my (now) blistered feet. In harmony with Pachamama, soaking in the Andean history and philosophy

 

 

 

 

Joy

Seeps in as I race to the toilet immediately after I drop my backpack

Grab a fresh clean towel 
Open the tap and step into the embrace of the warm shower 
Sit on the tiled floor 
Step out into a tiled kitchen 
With no ants carrying leftovers crawling across a cement floor 
I step into the living room and turn on the fan and 
Lie against the cushion of my sofa 

Saqsaywaman

At the Inca ruins a family slides down the stones. How many generations have these stones witnessed already? Did the children of the Inas slide down these rocks as well? The site is once again a poignant reminder of how history and places are fixed, and generations and generations slip by. I didn’t register this in Easter Island, strangely enough. I suppose it could be because I read up more of the Incan history and so started picturing these. Also, I recall the mummified body of the child offering to the mountains, a salient reminder of its existence.

Peru business tip 101: carry your baby llama around and call out for señoritas to take pictures with you!


hot yummy giant ‘corn’ thingy on a cold day

Colca Canyon – Arequipa, Peru

i really like this picture for some reason

Tour to Colca Canyon – 45 soles on average, i paid 40. + 20 for buffet lunch; supposedly 25soles in other companies. 80soles for transport to cusco with cruz del sur.
Others paid about 70, it seems. My tour operator was:
I am actually noting this down, because i do recommend them. The guide was funny, and she was a guide whose English I could finally understand :p and obtain some insights about the place we were visiting.
Cevitur – Travel Agency and Tour Operator
we were lucky to have spotted so many condors that day!

 

 

 

 

omg. this ice cream, made of some cactus milk. tasted amazing, and yes it had that cactus taste. i loved it. so much!!!!

 

love these details

 

 

i feel some sort of affection for this photo and am always amused when i look at it because both of them are like ‘meh IDGAF’ LOL

 

look at these striations

Colca Canyon – nothing much, just another canyon. I do sound meh about it – i didn’t quite want to go, because I had seen similar landscapes and I (am sure!! I ) will visit the Grand Canyon someday; i still went anyway, though it wasn’t part of my plan. It was pretty interesting I suppose. I thought about the human sacrifices for the mountains, how people of the past may have walked the walk I am walking today. At one point she showed us the ‘tomb’ amidst the mountain, the terraces, and the rock; 3 different time periods, the environment bore evidence of 3 different time periods and ways of living in this place. See, we are so.. it’s like nature remains unchanged, almost, landscapes hardly change in centuries. But generations and generations of people like Me. And they quietly bear witness to it. Stories, repeated.

Notes: (yes, i take NOTES on many of these tours 8-))

Apu Andean gods
Human sacrifices to calm the volcanoes
List of requirements:
Impt family
Young
Completely healthy without sickness
Complete smile
Handsome or pretty
Most importantly, to be virgin
Children 3-12 common offers
1995 project to study offers in mountains –
Most Impt offer is a girl 12 year old
Walk for days to inca
Three more days
Die there
Sacred Exp with mountain
Drink special drink

Probably my favourite, though it’s darkened quite a lot by now.

I took two – I gave them the first, this was the second. I wonder how that turned out. And what they did with it.

Arequipa

Yay Arequipa. I remember this place fondly. 

 “Arequipa (Ariqipa (Quechua)) – a magnificent “white city” is located at an altitude of 2325 m in the southwestern part of the Country; between the coastal area of the coastal desert and the spurs of the western Andes. It possesses a series of volcanic cones such as “El Misti”, “Chachani”, and “Pichu Pichu”. This beautiful city is practically completely built out of sillar, a type of white volcanic stone. This is why Arequipa is called the White City (“la ciudad blanca”). It is a magnificent example of colonial architecture. The historic centre of Arequipa was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2000. 
Arequipa is located on the tectonic fracture of the Earth’s crust called “Ring of Fire” (“cadena del fuego”), known for its high frequency of volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The last several strong earthquakes were in 1958, 1960 and 2001.”
 

Bus from Puno to Arequipa with Cruz del Sur – 40 soles. Cheap and comes with a meal. I bought it from the counter on that same morning. Turns out bus to Cusco has a strike.

Impressed with bus – they have a pre-trip video safety instructions while introducing their facilities. Like an aero plane. Even a reading light, and a button to call for assistance. Apparently they monitor each bus using a satellite system. Serious?!?

Welcome to Arequipa!!! Or Arearearearrrrrrrquipa! (the bus companies tout)

 

Aww. Rather calm and peaceful! This picture pretty much conveys how I feel about the city. So much calmer than what I experienced in Cusco / Lima / Puno.

i took a picture of this because it was constructed hundreds of years ago.

The Monastery of Saint Catherine (Monasterio de Santa Catalina)  



Santa Catalina Monastery was built in 1579/1580. The monastery was expanded over the centuries until it became a city within the city, about 20000 sq./m. It is still functioning as a place of worship. At its peak, the monastery housed 450 nuns and their lay-servants, and was closed off from the city by high walls. There are approximately 20 nuns currently living in the northern corner of the complex.


 

 

 

 

i felt a little creeped out to be honest. in my head i was thinking, WHY am i here in this monastery. am i really interested in the ways the nuns lived. i started picturing them with their black veils sitting on this chair. and then i hurried out.

 

i took this picture because i noticed the hat. i wonder if there were figures like these with hats in the churches of other countries, or if this was uniquely tied to their local historical cultural aspects.

mmmm

a volcano this close. like, just at the side of the city. i stared at it for awhile. i wonder if they feel any form of trepidation at all, living this close. hmm. or i am too used to and too sheltered by Singapore’s almost-perpetual safety. this was an aspect i failed to consider in my thesis – the fact that Singapore is so safe it augments the danger in all parts of the world. re: natural disasters

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-480514/Preserved-mummy-500-year-old-Inca-Ice-Maiden-wows-visitors.html

The Incas believed in worshipping the mountains and children were offered as sacrifices. They walked for miles (chewing coca) for weeks.

I feel like… in this trip it hit me that the history of mankind stretches on a timeline so incredibly far back. it’s one of the things i already know, but it just sank in, like a stone at the pit of my stomach, the fact that this history existed and the Incas once ruled an empire so grand it stretched from the Andes to the Amazon, and they believed in gods that my pre-trip self would have dismissed. How our notions of gods has shifted, from nature and mountains and condors to Christ and others today. Culture and beliefs and norms are always changing, ever-changing in the timeline of history.

They spoke about the Incas throughout South America – i just kept hearing references to the Incas (or at least the later part, which is highly influential to my memory)

The Incans didn’t have a writing system. Can you imagine that? Not having a writing system? How do you record your stories? Your memories? Letters?

They had runners – they formed a relay system, messengers who carried messages from one place to another, from Cusco to Quito it took about 10 days, across bridges and slopes and stone pavements. Having climbed all the way up to Machu Picchu I can only say they are insanely fit. Gosh, I am ashamed.

Instead of a writing system, what they’ve found is that the tangible aspects of communication lay within the quipu – knotted strings that look like friendship bands.

While scholars have yet to translate the quipu, we do know that information was embedded in the quipu in a number of different ways. The strings in a quipu were dyed in many different colors, and the strings are connected in many different ways, with a wide variety and number of simple and complex knots. Together the type of wool, the colors, the knots and the joins hold information that was once readable by several South American societies. Today we have only an inkling of what stories these amazing threads might be holding for us.”



The latest in a long history of South American societies to use the technique, the Inca empire used quipus to communicate a wide variety of political, economic, genealogical and other kinds of information to keep their enormous empire working. According to 16th century historians such as Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, quipu were carried throughout the empire by relay riders, called chasquis, who brought the information along the Inca road system, keeping the Inca rulers up to date with the goings on in their farflung empire”
I’m just so blown over by the Incan history, it could be this age or something (since i did learn about the history of civilisations back then but it just didnt register)

The Incas have never seen humans on animals prior to the invasion by the Spaniards, which could be a partial reason for the success of the Spanish conquest

What was Singapore like during the time of the Incas? Who lived here? Did it exist? I don’t even know. Hundreds of years later people / scholars are going to study our society and our ways of living. Maybe this blog will serve as an artefact. LOL. That’s a pretty cool thought HAHAHA

It sounds so crazy and morbid but I feel like I appreciate my life so much more now, now that I’m back, and I just know I’ll never take actions to disappear from the earth no matter how tough things get. I feel so thankful everyday for being alive. This could be partially attributed by the fact that I’m in lala-land, the first weeks of school (we’ll see during practicum) but whenever I feel crappy I think about how simply being alive is such a blessing. It’s such a nice thought, to know I feel like that. I truly hope I’ll still feel like this in my older days. But for now, this life is short, and this life is a blessing.

I mean, it’s times like this again I realise that I learnt and I just want to go back again to learning about everything, not in theory not on papers and pages (though they have their merits) but learning from everything around me

Off to Cusco! HURRAY! Highly anticipated, and the last activity-filled city. At last.

Departure Tax 2.50soles –
I took this bus called (Exclu)Civa from Arequipa to Cusco, and it was awesome. The seats were the most comfy I’ve had. I thought Cruz del Sur was the best, but i heard this company is pretty comparable. In fact this one is more comfy than the Cruz del Sur I took from Puno to Arequipa. 80 soles, i paid.
James, the Columbian guy I met on my Colca Canyon tour, apparently paid 120soles for his ticket (the exact same as mine) which is worth 80 soles. The tour agency ate some I suppose. Mine didn’t, hehe. I guess you have to be careful which company you buy from.

everybody loves llamas!!!

Sometimes I get flashes of memories

I took out the last of my llama keychains today. I was telling the L5SW girls that the colored ones were from this little boy who persuaded me to buy it.
When we fell quiet after our lively chatter this morning, the scene in Cusco crept to my mind again – it was a night dimly lit, the crowd was excited and the fireworks erupted in the festive air. I sat down for awhile, to catch a short rest from my incessant walking the entire day. He came up to me, and his tiny fingers clutched my arm. His other hand dangled the chain of llamas at me. He mumbled something I didn’t quite understand. Cuanto cuesta? I asked.
I bought 5, reluctantly because I had already bought so many from Bolivia. But what I remember is those clammy small hands against my skin, tiny fingers that skillfully opened the ring to pick out the ones I chose, his dark untaut skin vaguely reflecting the street light.
His little sister, younger than he was, came up to him awhile after, and I saw his mother coming up with other merchandises as I walked away.
While I do not want to pick on assumptions, I wondered: Would a parent allow so (even with cultural acceptance) if not under specific circumstances? How does my childhood fare in comparison?
Along the ride in Indonesia I saw people selling souvenirs and toys and food by the roads while the cars stopped. I couldn’t help thinking about the traffic light stops in south am. To me, it’s interesting that miles and hours away on another continent, the practices are similar. Just like that one magic trick of people ‘floating’ in the air as they sat on their metal rods with a plain cloth draped over.