Talk about going off the beaten track! This has to be one of the most awkwardly amazing parts of our trip so far. Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me begin in the beginning.
Before we left on this crazy trip to Peru, Marin was told by a friend in China that she HAD to check out Parque de las Papas, or Potato Park, because they were cultivating over 1400 different varieties of indigenous potatoes and tubers in and effort to retain the biodiversity of the crop. He gave her the contact info of someone he knew worked there, so that she could set up a visit. This was all well and good, except that they don’t really speak English over there and Marin’s Spanish could use some work (it’s quickly improving).
This is where the misunderstandings began. While we were in Lima, it became clear that the person she was in contact with thought that we were tourists and gave us the price of the tour; about $150 each. We didn’t budget for this, so she had a local in our hostel write an email gently explaining that we didn’t want to pay for a tour and that Marin only wanted to know at little more about their work for her research. She dropped the names of the two guys her friend had met, hoping to get across that this would be more of a favor. It works in China, so why not Peru?
The day finally came while we were in Cusco. We were told to meet some folks in their office at 7:30 am and that they would take as to the Park. With these paltry instructions, we hailed a cab and headed off. They arrived a little after we did, prepped a few things, herded us into the truck and we were on our way. Our companions were two men and a woman. We chatted in broken Spanish about this and that, mostly sticking to the topic of her time in China, on the bendy, twisty, bumpy ride up the mountain toward the park. After what must have been an hour and a half, we got out of the truck and followed the younger man and the woman across a bridge and up the mountainside.
It was cold, windy and misty and while we shivered in our new Alpaca sweaters, we were finally informed that we could follow them to check on some potatoes they were testing at higher altitudes. We realized then, that there would be no reprieve from the cold, that the mist we were standing in was, in fact a cloud, and we watched in dismay as the truck we had ridden up in drove away.