South, Way South
Last January, our local creek was still locked-up in snowpack up in the hills. I hadn’t been in my kayak in months, and I must have been getting on Sara’s nerves because one day she said, “Let’s go to Peru.” It seemed like a good way to get my mind off the frozen river and the bleak 10-day weather forecast, so I said, “Let’s do it.” I’d never traveled very far before, at least never off the continent. Sara’s been everywhere, and she’s pretty nice. Maybe traveling in Peru could teach me something worldly, or something about myself. Or maybe I could go boating down there.
We planned to spend 3 weeks traveling through Peru, and then a week off the north coast of Venezuela. In the 8 years I’ve been working at NRS, I’d never taken more than a week off at a time. I knew it was going to be weird to be away for that long, especially in a place so far away. When the day finally came for us to fly out, it was the first time in as long as I can remember that I didn’t have any idea about what to expect. It was like walking forward into darkness, with no way to see what’s coming next.
famous lines in the background.
We spent the first week headed south from Lima. We went through Pisco, where they make a unique wine and liquor using the small grapes that grow in that region. If you’ve never had a Pisco Sour, try one the next time you at your favorite watering hole. Or visit Pisco. They’re very proud of their national drink, and rightly so. We got in the habit of drinking as many as possible before the long, overnight bus rides. It’s hard to sleep on those buses without help.
After turning inland, we began climbing up into the foothills and eventually into the higher mountains. The further we went, the more rugged the lifestyle endured by the people living there. Across the whole section of the country we visited, there were two constants: poverty and friendliness. Most of the people of Peru live in conditions I couldn’t have imagined before going. They have less money, and yet have as much fun as any one group of people I’ve ever met. We were welcomed wherever we went, and exchanged email addresses with quite a few of the friends we made.
©Name If Any
In the end, if I learned anything worldly, it’s that people make a place what it is. We saw some amazing scenery, thick jungles, arid deserts, abandoned ruins made of rocks so big, no one knows how anyone moved them, let alone stacked them into a wall. But Peru’s true national treasure is its people. I couldn’t communicate with words very often when I was there, but that made it more interesting when some of what I meant got across anyway. And a smile breaks through any language barrier and speaks a universal language.
If I learned anything about myself, it’s that I want to travel more often. I want to see more of how my fellow human beings are getting along in other places, under different circumstances. I was extremely happy when we got back to the US. A month is a long time to be away from the comfort of routine. I missed our dogs, mostly, and ice and drinkable tap water. But I can’t wait to get out there again. The travel bug bit me hard, and we were already talking about where to go next while on the long flight from Miami back to Seattle.
I never did get to go boating, though. In Cusco, we visited the offices of one of the outfitters in Peru that buys their gear from NRS. We brought him some hats to give out to his guides, and he insisted we come rafting with him that weekend on one of their trips down the Urubamba River. After 3 weeks traveling by bus, I was looking forward to spending some time on the water. The night before the trip, I must have eaten something not-quite-right, because I was sick all night and all the next two days. I had to back out of the trip at the last minute. Disappointing at the time, but it's all right. I'll be back some day.
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