It’s incredible how vacations work. When we’re in them they’re all we know but upon returning home the vividness of it all melts away just as a dream slowly slips from our grasp as we awake to consciousness.
My trip to Peru was no exception. With ten days on my own in an unknown land the dream was more vibrant than ever, but now only three days removed I find myself tripping over my own memory as the moments fade away.
All I can do now is hold onto the impressions of my trip, which become my new reality, my new memories. And for you I want to bring these memories to life and provide you a glimpse into my journey.
Every moment of this journey was intense, from navigating the bustling streets of Lima to climbing the 15,000 feet to the Andes’ Salkantay Mountain. From the exhilarating views to the most excruciating altitude sickness, I was up and I was down. I won’t lie to you.
This was no cushy all-inclusive beach vacation. This was no trip to paradise. It was an extreme physical challenge. It was a cultural exploration. It pushed me beyond my boundaries, both physically and mentally. It was eye opening at times, terrifying at others. In the end, it was everything I wanted it to be.
Here are the impressions I’ll remember forever as the actual dream begins to slip away:
I’ll remember the deep orange sky as I descended to Lima on my first night, signaling to me the temporary pause to my normal life and an entrance into this new adventure.
I’ll remember the slums surrounding the Lima airport that sent shivers down my spine upon my arrival. Had I made a mistake?
I’ll remember the over-crowded streets of Lima with traffic so loud and congested that would make even the most daring New York City cab driver tremble.
I’ll remember arriving safely at my first hostel where I met Argentinian’s Mari and Juan who greeted me with smiles and cervezas as we hung out on the roof drifting happily into the crisp Lima winter night.
I’ll remember meeting up with Diego, a friend of a friend, who toured me around Lima as we ate the most mouthwatering ceviche the city had to offer, drank cheap beers along the beautiful Pacific shoreline park, bussed downtown to an illuminated urban water park and finally danced the night away in Miraflores sipping Pisco Sour until our eyes rolled back.
I’ll remember the fortuitous four-hour delay on my flight from Lima to Cusco that allowed me to meet fellow travelers from San Diego, Sydney and Matt. By the end of the trip we had ate coca leaves together, haggled with taxi drivers and swapped alpaca fur with the locals.
I’ll remember the pounding headache I felt just hours after landing in Cusco, a city twice as high in elevation as Denver. I’ll remember thinking it would pass… that the altitude pills I bought would work. I’ll remember being wrong.
I’ll remember shuffling through quirky San Pedro market where one aisle was filled with succulent passion fruits, mangos, avocados and plantains while the next had grotesque meats carved up in ways I don’t care to remember and generated a smell I can’t seem to forget.
I’ll remember the carnival games, performers, and street sellers in Plaza De Armas and Plaza San Francisco where I bargained for llama gear and had my sneakers shined.
I’ll remember going out to dinner alone upon arriving in Cusco only to meet three lively characters from LA in the waiting area, Tony, Sunny & Erlina who coincidentally were headed on the exact same trek as me! We broke bread together and formed an instant bond as they became my unofficial family for the trip.
I’ll remember going to lunch in Cusco one day at a tiny vegetarian restaurant where I inexplicably sat across from another American named Camile who turned out to be from Falmouth, MA, growing up only thirty minutes from me! We sipped chicha and ate pumpkin stew as she gave me the rundown on the local Cusco hot spots.
I’ll remember posting up for a bite of popular Peruvian pizza next to another solo traveler named Thomas from Iowa. We gobbled up our personal pies, complained over the terrible selection of IPA, and gave cheers to our independence.
I’ll remember quickly finding out that I was not alone on my trip at all. A community of fellow travelers was all around me. All I had to do was extend my reach.
To Be Continued…. (Pt. 2: The Trek to Machu Picchu)