During a walking holiday in Peru, writer and hiker Nancy King found that her most powerful and memorable moments occurred in quiet solitary interactions far away from the tourist throngs at Machu Picchu.
by Angela Smith Kirkman
“Meet us at El Embrujo in 30 minutes,” the voice on the other end of the line says in Spanish.
“Yes, I’m here with Marlith. We’re sending a taxi to pick you guys up. It’s your last night in Peru—our last chance to boogie down.” [My translation.]
“Thanks for the invite, Gloria, but I’m sorry, we just can’t do it.” I say, glancing toward my husband, Jason, who’s busy making sure all of our passports are in order.
I still haven’t quite figured out how to dance to Peruvian pop music, but I’m giving it my best shot.
I was 22 when a friend persuaded me to see a psychic in my home town on New Zealand’s west coast. At the time I was studying science and psychology at university, so I told myself psychic predictions were fanciful. But I was curious too. Like most young women, I wanted to know when I would meet the man of my dreams.
by Kate McCahill
For six hours, the bus creeps south from Cusco towards Lake Titicaca, crossing arid, wintered plains and sprawling Peruvian cities littered with plastic bags in a hundred colors. It’s late afternoon before we reach marshland, and then we round a bend and here is the lake, ocean-blue and ocean-huge. The road tips down into Puno, a rippling, clay-colored city pinched into the shore. The woman beside me says that you can see Bolivia from here.
“So, when exactly are you coming home?” my father asked.
“I don’t know, Dad. Our visas allow us to stay in Peru for at least three months, then we’re thinking of heading on to Argentina and Chile...”
The broken and sputtering magicJack connection at the South American Explorers Club in Cusco broadcasted about every third word of our conversation, but the message that traveled down the steep stone streets of the ancient Inca capital and across the continents to the lush green lawns of Newark, Delaware, the college town I’d grown up in and where my parents still live, was crystal clear: We weren’t coming “home”.
The truth was, my husband, Hank, and I had no idea when, or if, we were going home. We didn’t even know what “home” meant anymore. We’d been winging it, temporarily inhabiting Mexico, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Peru: itinerant and loose in the world in a manner that both worried and intrigued family and friends back home.
We were four thousand miles from our homeland, eleven thousand feet above sea level, south of the Equator where summer is winter, and living in a fourth-floor walkup without heat. Yet, life felt sweet and rich and fortunate.
Squeezed between napping young people in a tour van, I doubted that this Virgin del Carmen dance festival weekend was a good idea. I’d finished my bottle of water. The driver was swerving down rough roads toward a Peruvian village 3,200 meters high. Weak and dehydrated from several medications, I felt nausea with each lurching switchback.
When I planned this July weekend in remote Paucartambo, I imagined the fun I’d have. Tripping around in my long, ruffled skirt—while sipping a pisco sour--I’d hitch up my skirt and join Peruvians, dancing in the street.
Paucartambo, jammed with visitors for Festividad de La Virgen del Carmen, had limited lodging options. In the rear of the van, my back-up bottle of water was buried under luggage. Trucks, vans, cars, carts and visitors with daypacks blocked our way. We parked near a school so we could camp there for the night, but could not unload. After an hour in the parking lot, a tardy local woman unlocked the school room. I unzipped my duffel and gulped all the water I could hold.
Before I left home, my younger sister, Judy, who seldom travels, had shared her concern. “Isn’t Peru a developing country?” she asked and then began scolding, “You’re 78 years old! And you’re going to Peru?”
During the six-block walk to the plaza, we strolled past market stands stacked with alpaca blankets, fuzzy sweaters, striped ponchos and ear-flap hats. We were clearly in Peru. Two-story buildings with blue balconies overlooked the plaza on all sides. Standing on the sidewalk, I strained to see costumed performers parading down the street. My sister had said, “What if something happens?” Yet, as I surveyed the crowd, the festival scene looked safe enough to me.
Spain is Earth’s version of The Biggest Loser.
It’s hard to believe that Spain, a country that today is smaller than the state of Texas, once ruled an empire covering all of Central America, much of the US and South America, parts of the Caribbean, bits of Europe and even some outposts in Asia.
That’s a lot of empire to lose.
Remnants of the former empire are everywhere evident in Latin America, however, where Spanish remains the dominant language, where the culture and food retain heavy Spanish influence and where Roman Catholicism, the religion imposed on native civilizations at the often bloody point of a sword, remains the overwhelmingly dominant religion.
Even Cusco, a small city today but once the capital of the mighty Incan Empire, boasts 17 cathedrals for its 350,000 residents.
A couple of them are particularly fascinating, and a little funny.
You might characterize me as a casual birder, which is one-step up from an armchair birder. I am married to a man who once headed the Sapsucker team for the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the World Series of Birding so just through sheer osmosis I should be a much better birder than I am. But that would mean I’d have to pay attention.