I’m in the Colca canyon and my eyes are staring into the flames of a warming fire. No, I’m not being rustic on some campsite under a starry sky. I am living it up in Peru with Corien! We are tucked away under a blanket on a comfy sofa of our Colca lodge, glass of red wine in hand..Utter relaxation!
Sitting by those flames, it seems like the perfect time to write up some of the adventures that would otherwise be lost between unwritten lines.
When I tried to explain to a fellow traveller what I write about on my blog he understood it to be about the “realities of travelling”, to “let people know we’re not sleeping in the Hilton, but actually have to put up with stuff”. Not exactly, but it made me think. Travelling can get a bit uncomfortable, like when your sheets smell of stale men’s sweat, or the matrass looks like a crossover between a hammock and a mountain range. When buses don’t show up or worse; drive like they don’t have your life to care for. Or when you get ill and see more of the inside of a toiletbowl than you do of the city you’re visiting.
But for each inconvenience there are about ten unforgettable moments lined up to make you forget all about them. A small selection of examples, in chronological order.
Puking on the bus on my way to Chili feeling horribly ill, was positively overshadowed by an unforgettable desert moon party. I danced underneath a million stars, and watched them falling from the sky as I took a rest upon the sanddunes. In the Chilean desert I also visited Valle de la Luna which truly felt like being on the moon for it was the strangest (beautiful) landscape.
Then getting stuck in the town Uyuni in Bolivia (miners on strike) was perhaps not the best, as there was nothing to see or do in this town but eat pizza. Tourists made eachother anxious with stories of upcoming food shortage and former strikes having lasted for weeks. But what had brought me to this dull town was a tour through a landscape so spectacular that each day in Uyuni I could have spent dreaming about the lakes, geysers and volcanoes I had seen in the days before.
In the nightbus that took me to next destination Sucre I was in physical pain because my bowels wanted to releave themselves of that typical traveller’s problem but there was no toilet on board and no toiletstop for ten hours. It just made me appreciate the toilet more when I got to it. This painful journey was completely forgotten anyway in the two subsequent weeks I spent in Sucre, dancing, having barbecues, trekking through beautiful mountains, eating everything from the lively market and learning more Spanish.
Then on to La Paz, trying to keep the faith when I had heard so many stories about robberies, scary taxis, etc. In the nightbus there, I had a lovely Spanish conversation with my Bolivian neighbour, who shared his blanket and tea with me. Moving onto my hostel which was, I had by now learnt from fellow buspassengers, in the most unpleasant part of town. This hostel was dark and cold, I got very ill here and spent 24 hours with my head in its toilet, but I met some great people here with whom I had a night to remember. The city itself, which I had dreaded to visit, turned out to be one I loved. The streets are full of life with women selling everything imaginable, men (wearing balaclavas) polishing shoes, cars honking and nearly running you over, wandering tourists and kids jumping like monkeys to grab the coca cola from your hands. These streets filled my senses and drowned out my thoughts. As if that wasn’t good enough, walking in the street you have the added bonus of seeing thousands of houses scattered across the rocky hills, a sight which at night turns into a sea of a million lights.
I guess you get the idea: shaky bunkbeds keeping you awake, unfriendly hostel personnel, cold showers, having a cough forever and stomach aches every other day are minor inconveniences in comparison to what you get in return.
In fact, when Corien asked me what had been the highlight of my trip, my answer was this: the surprise of feeling so very happy, every single day.