Niepos is a tiny pueblo perched on top of a mountain, also known as “The Capital of the Sky.” Most of the time it’s above the cloud line, so you get spectacular views of the mountains plunging down into the clouds below. It’s very likely that we were the first two gringas to ever set foot in this little town. Definitely the first Jews. By the end of our three days there, we became local town celebrities. Yes, the town is that small.
The ride in
High: Driving up a mountain through rice fields, bamboo forests, and tiny villages.
Low: About 4.5 of the 5 hours are driven on a one-lane dirt road that was incredibly bumpy. Also when everyone had to get out of the car so that it could drive down a steep slope without bottoming out.
Arrival in Niepos
High: Meeting ZZ’s sister Marina who we think may have the most beautifully photogenic face ever.
Low: At lunch, the walk from the restaurant to the bathroom went through the outdoor kitchen with all kinds of dead animals on display ready to be fried.
Exploring the pueblo
Low: The rapidly dropping arctic temperatures.
High: The homemade Peruvian version of moonshine called ‘agaurdiente’ we drank to warm us up. All 9 of us passed the bottle around talking, joking and laughing in the town center as the sun set.
The Niepos hotel (?)
Low: Washing each other’s hair using a teacup and small bucket of hot water.
High: Snuggling like bugs in a rug with Edgar and Nils and teaching them words in English. They also showed us the wide variety of American music they like, ranging from Katy Perry to Calvin Harris.
Dia de los Difuntos
Dia de los Difuntos is a holiday celebrated in Peru when families visit the graves of their deceased relatives. Many people spend the whole day at the cemetery praying, lighting candles, singing, talking, eating, drinking beer and catching up with friends (dead and alive). It’s an incredibly colorful, vibrant event that brings together the whole community. Celebrating this event for the first time, we found it an unbelievably meaningful and surprisingly rowdy day. In Niepos, following the cemetery, the whole town spectates a local futbol (soccer) game. This game was particularly hilarious because the town drunk, Chooki, was running through the field pretending to referee the game and doing flimsy handstands, cartwheels and flips, more often than not landing face-first on the ground. Lauren, already considered a big shot photographer in Niepos, was summoned onto the field to take the winning team’s picture and join them for one herself. After that, we witnessed another breathtaking sunset above the clouds. That night, fireworks were lit and a live band played in the town square until the wee hours of the morning. We only made it until about 3 thanks to a long day and some strong aguardiente.
The next morning
Low: Slight hangover
High: Watching everyone else be hung over
Visit to ZZ’s childhood home
ZZ was raised in a small house on the outskirts of town by her great aunt alongside her brother Jorge and several of her cousins. Her mother died when she was 18 months old, which led to ZZ and her 7 siblings being split up and raised by various family members for the majority of their childhoods. ZZ brought us to her childhood home, which is still owned by a member of her family, but hasn’t been lived in for several years. It’s hard to describe the experience of seeing where ZZ grew up, but it was an emotionally intense experience that left us deeply thinking about the challenges she has faced in her life and what she has overcome in order to get to where she is now.
Our road trip came to an end with another incredible sunset as we pulled into Nueva Arica. We both had an amazing week getting to know some beautiful people and places. Despite being two gringas who are still far from fluent in Spanish, we were lucky enough to spend our time connecting with ZZ’s family and sparking friendships that have had a great impact on us (sorry this is so corny, you try and find better words to describe it).
High: Incredible dashboard sunset
Low: ZZ took a giant swig of what she thought was water in the back of the car. Turns out it was aguardiente! Oops! (This was also kind of a high, we have to admit it was pretty funny)