Peru… and then we spill all the coffee

Last year researchers from Harvard University published a paper in Psychological Science about the social cost of extraordinary experiences. They contended that since most conversations center on common points of interest – books, movies, people, food – when people have “extraordinary” experiences, they risk being “alien and enviable.” They did an experiment to prove it.

I was fairly convinced of the results at time, but I definitely am now because I’ll be the first to admit that while Puerto Lopez was amazing, it made for a very boring blog post yesterday. I guess my writing is better when it centers on the ordinary, like choking on a ramen noodle while on a conference call or not realizing that my iPhone has been playing a Lana Del Rey album on repeat in my handbag all day long.

So without further ado – let’s move on to Peru. The faster we do, the faster we can get to a story from this morning about how I spilled an entire cup of hot coffee on myself.

***

peru llamasIf you think I was excited to go to Peru, then you should have seen my father. As soon as I sent him my itinerary, he dug out his back issues of National Geographic and proceeded to summarize every article they ever wrote about the lost city of Machu Picchu.

The day I arrived in Cusco, he wrote me an email: “You are so close. Almost within striking distance of Machu Picchu. Won’t be long now.”

I received his message shortly after taking this photo. At least one of us was taking things seriously.

 

***

If you’re looking for a vacation destination that presents ample opportunity to get stuck in a cave, then Peru is the place for you.

horsebacktourOn my first day in Cusco, I decided to take a horseback riding tour through the ruins just outside the city. The sales agent who I booked it with said that the group would trot around a few sites and also visit the giant white statue of Christ that looks over the city. But since I was the only one who showed up, the guide seemed to have other plans.

He spoke little Spanish and even less English so I didn’t know exactly what he said as he dismounted his horse and beckoned me to follow him through a crack in some rocks, but I gathered that it was something along the lines of, “Would you just come on already?”

That happens to be how a lot of episodes of Dateline start, so I hesitated. But after enough coaxing, I finally followed him into the crevice and through a series of small, dark tunnels until we ended at a giant stone altar that was flooded with light from a single crack in the rocks above.

No words necessary.

***

It’s a good thing that I liked Cusco enough to want to stay there indefinitely because a few days into my trip, I realized that I had thrown out my immigration card somewhere back in Lima.

“Is that a big problem?” I asked the hotel receptionist who asked to see it.

Yes,” she said. And she looked pretty serious about it too, so I believed her.

Just as I was working myself into a full panic about that, an American woman standing next to me at the counter said, “I’m sure it will be fine. I didn’t think I needed to keep that either, but I saved mine for my scrapbook.”

I found that to be helpful not because I believed her, but because it allowed me to take my mind off the lost card long enough pass judgment on scrapbookers.

For what it’s worth, it’s not a big deal to get a duplicate card. It takes 20 minutes and $8. But you do have to turn it back in when you leave the country, which could be a big problem if you’re holding space for it in a scrapbook.

***

If you enjoy hiking, I can’t imagine a better place to do it than Peru. It was absolutely beautiful and so peaceful and there was something mystical about it too, if you believe in that sort of thing – which, surprise surprise, I totally do.

Of course, I did my best to shatter all that the day I got ambushed by a flock a sheep while trying to go to the bathroom just outside the campsite. You can read all about it here. And as a bonus, you’ll also get the full story of Richard – as in, Irish Richard whose jacket I set on fire with a tea light this past November in Belfast– losing his passport on a train.

I’d say Richard and I are like two peas in a pod, but that doesn’t quite capture the looming sense of danger that we bring to the table. We’re probably more like fire and gasoline. Or jackets and candles.

***

machu2

 

They don’t call Machu Picchu a Wonder of the World for nothing. It’s amazing and if you have the chance to go, it’s well worth the trip.

I’d say there’s no other place in the world like it, but actually, I’m sure there is and when someone finds it, I’ll go there and trample it with a thousand other backpackers too.

***

I followed my own advice on my return trip to New York and didn’t listen to an airline representative who was herding people as they rushed through Customs and tried to catch a connecting flight to JFK.

Instead, I ran right past him with my belt still in my hand and my backpack bouncing wildly behind me. I made it to the gate just in time to see the plane pushing back, which I would have had something to say about if only I knew how to say it in Spanish.

When no one else from the group arrived at the counter, I worried that I had been the only one to miss the flight and therefore the only one who had to spend the next six hours sitting on her luggage. But as it turned out, the rest of the group who had assembled at Customs got put on a flight that left an entire day later. Thank god for making a run for it. Thank god for gate agents and their superior re-booking powers. And like I said: listen to no one.

After all, that’s the only reason I ended up going on this trip in the first place.

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