Off to Peru!

September 27, 2008 - 2:46 pm 2 Comments

I find myself in a dreaded B seat. On an Airbus 320, this means that you’re stuck in the middle between the A and C seats. Not good for those like myself who are sleep-challenged even in a more comfortable window seat.

One row in front of me and across the aisle is a kid who is screaming bloody murder for no apparent reason. He is, I believe, the only kid on the plane and definitely the only one screaming.

The sweet lady to my left has never flown before. She was startled by the regular bumps and bounces of take-off, gasping and reaching for my leg just after leaving the ground. Any excuse to touch the Jeffrey. The sweet lady to my right is a bit younger, maybe a student. One of them is not wearing deodorant.

I’m off to Peru with my work buddy Josh, a guy I work with and a seasoned world traveler. After discovering we both had a passion for travel, baseball, and photography, we took a few weekend trips out of town over the summer and quickly made plans for a more ambitious trip out of the country in the fall.

It took us a little while to figure out where we were going. We knew we had about ten days to kill, so we had to pick somewhere we could thoroughly do in ten days and somewhere neither of us had been before. We considered every country from Argentina to Zaire, finally narrowing it down to Peru and Costa Rica. After checking into flights and hotels, we decided Peru was going to be the best choice.

And an interesting choice. Neither of us speak Spanish. Josh says himself that he is not really in shape, and he also has a problem with heights from time to time. Peru is probably one of the worst countries on the planet for that combination.

And I’ve never been to a third world country before. Not sure if you classify Peru as a third world country, but parts of it definitely seem like it. I’ve learned you don’t want to drink the local water or eat the local fruit, and when asking my Peruvian friends back home for advice, one of them suggested that I bring my own sponge “because you don’t want to use the one that’s chained to the wall.” I hear that crime is widespread and that it’ll be a miracle if I don’t come back with fifteen different kinds of hepatitis. Yesterday morning, I went in and got a series of immunizations. Five shots total, and now my left shoulder feels like Mike Tyson took a swing at it.

As usual, I’ve done my best to avoid learning too much in advance about the place I’m traveling to. In fact, before planning this trip, it would have taken me a moment or two to find where Peru is on a map of South America. But it seems to have its share of highlights, and I’m sure there will be some surprises. They have llamas. And I’ve never been to South America before. As a traveler, there’s a certain amount of joy that comes with visiting a new continent.

I picture Peruvian people as short, dark-skinned, and square faced, “Incan” qualities I guess I saw in a textbook somewhere. This was verified at least in part by arriving at the airport gate and scanning the people waiting to board. One thing is for sure: they have no qualms about touching strangers. While waiting in line to board the plane, a older Peruvian woman holding her carry-on bag pushed right up against me from behind, as if I wasn’t moving fast enough. I took half a step forward to give myself the personal space I needed, but she pushed into me again. I decided to turn sideways to see if pushing into me while I was watching would be any more awkward for her. It wasn’t. Finally, she decided that I just wasn’t moving fast enough, so she stepped right around me and worked her way right back into line in front of me. If I weren’t so psyched about the trip and overtired from the night before, I would have pulled her out of line with her hair. People pushing and cutting in line is one of the things that really aggravates me.

Josh and I worked out an itinerary that included most of the Peru highlights and discussed some of the basic safety precautions, but that’s it. I believe that a lightly structured itinerary that allows for self-discovery is the only way to explore someplace new. Here’s our schedule:

9/27 – 9/30: Lima
9/30 – 10/2: Arequipa & Colca Canyon
10/2 – 10/4: Puno & Lake Titicaca
10/4 – 10/7: Cuzco & Machu Picchu

We’ll be seeing quite a bit in a short amount of time, but we think it’s doable.

When it was time to pack, I knew I wanted to travel light. It was going to be a pretty physical trip, and I was already going to have a lot of photo gear. I considered not bringing my laptop, figuring it would be a pain to carry everywhere, not to mention a security risk. But I wanted to bring it so I could dump my digital photos onto it each day, get my football pool picks in, and I figured it was finally time to join the blogging revolution.

This isn’t the first time I’ve “blogged.” On my big Australia trip in 2000, I wrote periodic e-mails to friends and family back home, eventually creating a web page for my journal and photos. Now, of course, it’s trendy to “blog.” I just never jumped on the bandwagon.

And there is a reason I haven’t. The blogs that are the most interesting are the ones that are the most personal. Now do I want my most personal thoughts and feelings to be shared with my friends and family? How about the people I am traveling with? There is definitely a fine line when it comes to what you can say when you consider the potential audience, and I’ve had a hard time figuring out where to draw it.

In the past, I’ve found that nothing helps to preserve the memory of a trip more than recording all of the little things that would normally be lost if you didn’t write them down. So I decided that I wanted my laptop. I’m not going to feel comfortable leaving it in a room or on a bus, so I’m probably going to have to take it with me everywhere, maybe even on some hikes. But I’ve done it before. It’ll workout for sure, but I could probably use the exercise.

My ambitious goal is to blog and post at least one photo a day. The motivation is there, but a lot is going to depend on when and where I can charge my computer and get wifi.

We’ll be in the air to San Salvador for just over four hours, and then for another four to Lima. The kid stopped crying, the woman next to me stopped gasping, and I need to catch up on some sleep…

    2 Responses to “Off to Peru!”

  1. Dad Says:

    Two questions to start with…….

    Seasoned traveler that you are, how did you not have reserved seats?
    And how is it that you appear to have sent your opening blog after being airborne?

    Neat, clean blog……. The “Jeff” trademark! Even with nice straight justified margins that do not “converge!” Ha!

  2. Jeff Says:

    We DID have reserved seats, but it was a pretty full flight and we couldn’t gets seats together.

    When we stopped in El Salvador, I noticed they had free wifi in the airport, so I published it then!

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