25 August 2007

Lake of Silence

I found out what "Churup" means. I asked the receptionist at my hotel, the Albergue Churup, "¿Que quiere decir "churup"? She answered, "La significado es silencia." That was totally just an excuse for me to use the crazy upside-down question mark. Today, I visited Lake Villacocha. I think that's the name. Anyway, it was more of a pond than a lake, but the views were breathtaking. The closest to it I've seen before was in California. Think wheat-yellow high plains backed by jagged, snowy peaks.

This will be my last post for at least 10 days. Did I groan before about leaving tomorrow for my hike at 5 am? Well, I found out it's actually 4 am. The day I return, around 5 pm a week from Tuesday, I will probably take the night bus back to Lima and then fly to Cuzco the next morning just after it arrives. A little insane, but within the realm of possibility, and it's in that realm where I live most of my life. I may even use that as the title of my memoirs, i.e. The Realm of Possibility: How Steven J. S***k Just Barely Got Things Done. Or I'll stay in Huaraz and delight in other outdoor pursuits. I met a Malaysian-Australian woman who wants me to climb (as in, with equipment) some peak with her. But I have to get to Bolivia, so we'll just have to see what shakes out.

Another day, another lake

I just woke up at my lovely $3/night hotel and had a breakfast that also cost $3. Not an expensive country, this Peru. I´ve had to delay my departure for the mountains because the agency we finally settled on couldn´t get everything ready at 6 pm last night--not surprisingly. So today the Israeli guy and I are going to do another acclimatization hike up to another mountain lake at 3800 meters. We depart for the real thing tomorrow morning at 5 am. Groan. The altitude sickness medication is making my fingers tingle. It also causes excessive urination and impotence. I saw an Asian lady in the computer room at my hotel. Unfortunately she wasn´t Japanese, but she might join our hike, possibly lowering costs, which is even more exciting.

24 August 2007


It sounds like another kind of booze or maybe an exotic Latin American dance, but sorroche is not part of a good time. Still, it's a cooler name than the more generic "altitude sickness." Symptoms include headache, irritability, vomiting, and sudden death. So I'm spending a few days acclimatizing at 3000 meters before I tackle the Huayhuash circuit, which meanders to a maximum and worrisome height of 5000 meters. Today, I did a day hike to a beautiful mountain lake called Laguna Churup. It lay just beneath a lovely, snow-covered mountain of the same name. That was at 4500 meters, and I didn't suddenly die, so I'm feeling confident I'll survive the next ten days. If I'm incommunicado during that time, it means the internet hasn't made it to the traditional Andean villages of Ancash.

Get a village of women to chew the corn and spit it out

And you can make chicha, a traditional Peruvian alcohol. The saliva of the village women ferments the sugars in the corn. I don't think you can buy it in stores since it requires such a unique, dare I say unsanitary, production process. But it's available from people's homes. I met a Canadian woman who tried it but didn't know how it was made. We told her.

I added a poll to see how many of you think I should drink it. This is a test of friendship.

23 August 2007


Last night, I took an overnight sleeper bus up from Lima to Huaraz, in the province of Ancash. Ancash is awesome because it contains the word "cash", which everyone likes. When I leave, I am going to say in front of as many people as possible, "I have just cashed Ancash!" Only I will find this amusing, but I'm doing it anyway. I met an Israeli guy on the bus, and we hit it off pretty well, so we're going to go trekking together. The plan is to do an 8 or 9 day circuit in the Cordillera Huayhuash, where occurred the events of Touching the Void. This trek will be the highlight of my trip, much more so than Mucho Turisto Picchu. I, however, won't be touching any voids. We have to rent burros or something. I washed my pants today for the first time. They're already dry! Awesome!

22 August 2007


I spent the day as a volunteer in front of the Miraflores municipal building. We sorted clothes, packed boxes, and organized relief supplies for the victims of the recent earthquake near Pisco and Ica. We had quite an international group, too, with participants hailing from such far-flung places as Ireland, Canada, Spain, and France. There were also some Peruvian medical students and other interesting locals, including this one guy who put on a clown nose and played the trombone for us. I asked one of the med student feminas to take me to a peña (folk music bar) when I come back to Lima. I think she thought I was trying to pick her up, but she agreed when I suggested she bring her friends. Sadly, I couldn't stick around for the celebratory pisco sours after the volunteering day was over.

20 August 2007


Arrived Lima, Peru on Sunday 19 August. This city has a bad reputation, but I think it's quite charming in its way. The air is incredibly dirty, though, and makes my eyes itch. I stayed in the "bohemian" neighborhood of Barranco, which was once a resort area for Lima's rich. Like most wealthy neighborhoods in South America, the spendier houses are surrounded by walls, barbed wire, grilled windows, security cameras, and dogs. Outside these fortress-homes, the regular limeños shuttle to and fro in jam-packed collective taxis, a most interesting way to travel if you've never done it. The normal taxi fare to and from the airport is $10-$15, but you can take a collectivo, if you're patient and don't mind sitting on elbows, for about 30 cents. Naturally, this is what I did.

19 August 2007

Everyone says I should write about my travels

I have finally broken down and created that most loathesome of adventure travel outgrowths--a travel blog. Everyone has one, I don't feel like I have much to add to the heap, and yet I have for too long lumbered under the strain of persistent pleadings. So here it is: my travel blog. I don't have a good reason for calling it My Smooth World except that the name was available, and I think it sounds cool. Sexy, even. My world goes down smooth, baby. Anyway, I plan to write only brief entries so as to forestall tedium (in myself and my readers).

For those who don't know exactly what I am up to, allow me to provide a précis. I left graduate school in 2006 with M.A. in hand to teach English in Japan for one year. I concluded that at the beginning of August and promptly headed to Peru. I'll be in South America until the end of October, at which point I have to return to New York for a wedding. Shortly thereafter, I'm off to Beijing and the beginning of an eight or so month odyssey across Asia to Istanbul. Then I will slink back to graduate school and, someday, finish my Ph.D., get a job, have babies, etc.

Thank you very much for your interest in my life. I hope you enjoy reading about it.