I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Hasta Pronto Peru

I've fallen in love with Peru. It seems like everywhere you look there is another glacier capped peak or an ancient Incan ruin casually on the side of the road, a cosmopolitan city or a charming village, amazing surf, climbing, biking, geological phenomenons and really good cheap food everywhere. 

The people of Peru are quiet, humble, gentle, generous and kind. They work extremely hard but will share whatever they have without expectation of any return. They use terms of endearment with one another and complete strangers alike, which could come across as being overly friendly but I sense a genuine curiosity and openness instead. 

The first three pillars of the Incan symbol stand for love, knowledge and work. I can't think of any three tenets of society more noble than that. Peruvians are the antithesis of helicopter parents which has bred generations of self sufficient, hard working people. One day walking through a village I saw a girl of no more than three years old doing laundry by hand. She wasn't crying about it, as I would be. I've seen groups of kids roaming the streets, entertaining themselves with simple toys and the company of one another, or selling trinkets for their families. Yes, there is poverty in Peru and crime as well (although I did not experience any) but there is a sense of responsibility and creating one's own fate. 

Last night, just when I thought I was seeing a nastier side of Peru, I had a little encounter that changed my attitude. I landed in the Lima airport and had a reservation at a cheap hotel close to the airport for my flight to Costa Rica this morning. I got in a taxi which should have been a 10 minute drive, but the driver didn't want to pay the fee to leave through the normal entrance, so he took the roundabout way. We ended up sitting in traffic for an hour and a half and I arrived at a rather dingy hotel in an undesirable part of town cranky and hungry. 

After fighting with the receptionist that yes, I had a reservation and it was paid for (gracias adios that I had it printed out... thanks mom), they allowed me to check into my cubicle of a room. After killing all the mosquitos I could find I set out for some food. The neighborhood around the airport is quite shit to be frank, and being used to touristy places where everybody smiles at foreigners and tries to sell them stuff, I was taken aback at being essentially ignored. 

I walked to a restaurant where they accepted credit cards (had to save my last soles for the taxi the next morning), and had to flag down a waiter to get a menu. Nobody seemed particularly interested in serving me, but finally a guy came up to take my order. I drank a beer and ate alone, thinking that I was absolutely ready to get out of the country, when one of the waiters stopped by my table to ask me where I was from. We started to chat and he asked if he could sit down and talk, as he loves to learn about people from other countries. I was happy to chat and we ended up having a nice conversation. He works 7 days a week to save money for school and hopes to travel outside Peru one day. At one point a lady walked through the restaurant selling arroz con leche and he bought one for each of us because he wanted to be sure I tasted a typical dessert of Peru before I left. Maybe I'm a push over, but considering how hard he works for how little he makes, I thought it was a very sweet gesture. 

I'm now at the Lima airport waiting to board my flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. I spent 3 weeks in Costa Rica 12 years ago and have heard the country has been Americanized and is expensive, but I'm still traveling solo so wanted to go somewhere on the beaten path for a surf adventure. Chicken, I know. I've made friends who live in Costa Rica that I'm looking forward to meeting up with, as well as my friend Kera who is flying down to meet me in a few days to surf surf surf, so the adventure continues. I'll keep you posted. 

Christmas on Lake Titikaka

Solar rant aside (see previous post) I was staying with a family in a rural village on an island out in the middle of Lake Titikaka and it was Christmas Eve. We had been told that there would be a celebration at the village hall starting at 10pm and going til midnight, when (allegedly) baby Jesus was born. Not only were we to attend this party that was way past my bedtime, but we were to be dressed in traditional local garb by our hosts. Oh joy. 

After dinner I had a few hours to kill before the fiesta, so I sat out on the balcony dividing my attention between the meteor shower in the sky above and the lightning show going on across the lake in the mountain range of Bolivia. The stars were so incredibly clear and bright at that altitude with no moon that I could almost see the llama and alpaca of local lore, not to mention the Southern Cross and Orion's Belt upside down. 

Soon enough 10pm came around and our hosts brought out the traditional skirts, shirts and shrouds to dress us in. The three of us roommates had a good laugh at ourselves wearing poofy skirts and bright scarves sinched tightly around our waists, which didn't help with the whole breathing thing. Then we followed our host mom up in the pitch dark through the paddocks, over the stone wall, across the path and finally to the town hall, breathing heavily by the time we arrived. 

Musicians at the party

What ensued was one of the weirdest parties and certainly the most different Christmas Eve party I ever attended. Not many of the local villagers showed up but most of our tour group was there, all dressed in traditional clothes with regular pants and shoes sticking out from under panchos. There was a band of two flute players and one drummer who played traditional songs which we all danced to. Fortunately my roommate Clarey brought a bottle of vodka to share so the five minutes in between songs where everybody caught their breath in complete silence (dancing at 13,000 feet is no joke) were a bit more bearable. Like I said, it was a weird scene. But fun and heartfelt. 

At midnight our host families presented us with necklaces of fresh flowers and around the village fireworks that could easily blow off a finger or two shot off from random locations. Our host mom walked us back to our house through the paddocks and over the stone walls, which I was grateful for because I never would have found my way alone. I took off the traditional clothes with a breath of relief, took two sleeping pills, fell into my moderately comfortable twin bed and fell blissfully asleep. 

Rofino's house

The next morning was Christmas, which didn't seem to be different than any other morning except that Clarey shouted Feliz Navidad!! and gave me a big hug when I came down for breakfast. Gotta love the Brits. Our breakfast consisted of fried bread and instant coffee, and shortly after Rofino headed out to work in the fields. Christmas isn't really a big deal in Peru and this village only started celebrating a few years ago. Carnival, which coincides with the indication of how their crops will fare for the year, is their big celebration. I found their lack of enthusiasm for Christian holidays delightfully refreshing. 

Our host mamas

After saying our goodbyes to our families, all 23 of us piled back into the boat and headed to the island of Taquile, which is famous for their knitting men. We took a beautiful walk around the island, learned about some of the rather archaic traditions of the islands (at church men sit in the pews and women sit on the ground, women always walk 5 meters behind their husbands, they can't drink alcohol or chew coca leaves until they're married...), had a nice lunch, piled back into the boat and headed back to Puno. 

1 sol for a bracelet and a photo (about $0.30)

The group that I was thrown in to for this portion of my trip have been traveling together for weeks and are all quite close. They made arrangements to do a Secret Santa and go for dinner afterwards. I didn't want to impede on their family celebration but in spite of the fact that I am somewhat of a Grinch, I really didn't want to spend Christmas night alone in my hotel room. I asked if I could join them for drinks after their festivities and of course they welcomed me with open arms. I arranged to meet them at their hotel, went and had an alpaca cheeseburger for dinner by myself, had a nice chat with mom and dad, and headed back to my hotel to clean up. 

When I showed up to the group's hotel they were wrapping up their Secret Santa with bottles of champagne and Cusqueña beers, and they informed me that Santa had come for me as well. I got to sit on Santa's lap (an Aussie bloke with a big beard and a pillow under his shirt) and open a little gift. I was truly touched by this gesture of being included by this close knit group of people who I had only known for two days. 

Wanting to return the favor (and being the little shit that I am) I convinced a few of them that it is an American tradition to shotgun a beer on Christmas night, so a few of us went out on the street and sprayed beer everywhere. I had forgotten that at high altitude carbonated drinks are even more fizzy, so chugging a whole beer at once was a painful but fun experience. Good times. 

After drinks I joined them for my second Christmas dinner and felt very loved and included by this cool and interesting group of travelers. I'm now in the airport of Juliaca - the bus ride here was much better than the previous one, thanks for asking - and head to Lima for one night before leaving for Costa Rica tomorrow. 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Lake Titikaka Homestay (and the virtues of solar)

Panaroma from the deck of Rofino's house and my home for the night

The area around Lake Titikaka is harsh. A cold dry wind sweeps across the massive lake, which sucks the moisture out of one's skin and lips and makes the land dusty and brown. Life isn't easy for these people, as I'm learning through my brief homestay. 

This afternoon after our arrival at the island of Amantani we were divided into groups of three and met our respective families. We went home with them, ate a quiet lunch and then reconvened with the group to hike to the top of the mountain on island for a better view of the lay of the land, which also put us at above 4000 meters, again. 

Snow capped peaks of Bolivia in the background 

As I sat atop the mountain, freezing, hungry and thirsty I wondered why I chose to do a homestay instead of, say, go check out Chicama, the longest left (wave) in the world or head to the party/surf towns of the north. The view was beautiful, with the snow capped mountains of Bolivia across the lake in the distance, but this wasn't exactly my idea of vacation. Except that I'm not on vacation, I'm traveling to learn more about other cultures and they way people live. Vacation comes next in Costa Rica and Mexico. 

After an hour atop the mountain waiting for the sun to set behind the Andes, we headed back down the mountain to our homestays. The two girls and I watched the stars come out with a brilliance that I haven't seen since sailing across the South Pacific. Then we were called to dinner which was held in the humble little dining room with four rough benches and a dirt floor. A plastic tarp made the ceiling and a wire poked through for a single fluorescent lightbulb to hang down. The itinerary had said the village has no electricity so this surpassed my expectation. 

Typical lunch - rice, potatoes, fried cheese and tea

Rofino, the father/grandfather of the house ate with us and was soft spoken but curious. The families here speak Quechua with one another but Rofino also speaks Spanish so were able to communicate. He asked each one of us what we do - I translated for the other girls - and his eyes lit up when I told him I work in the solar industry. He told me this story (all in Spanish):

"When I was young we only had candles made of animal fat for light at night. We made the doors to our houses very small and low so the cold winds from the lake wouldn't blow out the candles at night. Then, when I was older, kerosene lamps came to the village, but those made a lot of smoke and hurt our eyes. And still, when the wind came it would blow out our lamps and we would be blinded in the dark. About 10 years ago the first solar panels came to our village, but it was very very expensive. One house got them, and we saw how it improved their lives. Then another and another. The tourists who would stay at our house asked why we did not have electricity like the other houses and I told them it was because we could not afford it. But slowly I saved enough money to buy two panels and the materials for them. Now we have electricity at night. Now we can work at night, and no matter how hard the wind blows we still have light. It has made our lives so much better."

Geeking out on the inverter inside the thatch hut on the floating village

And then I remembered why I was here - to share in other people's lives - to gain a greater appreciation for everything I have and get a greater perspective on life. It made me feel proud to work in an industry that, while it might not affect the people who I am selling solar to, can vastly improve certain people's quality of life. 

First off, to everybody who has solar, thank you, especially if you got it through me. Going solar won't change your life. You already have electricity in your house. But consider the fact that you have the option to go solar, to power your home with an infinite resource that will save you money along the way, and let's have a chat when I get home. If people on a floating reed village with thatch roofs can power their homes with solar energy then you can too. 

Sunday, December 25, 2016

From Cuzco to Lake Titikaka

Floating village of Uros, Lake Titikaka

I'm currently on a boat crossing Lake Titikaka, heading to an island where I will stay the night with a local family, and coincidentally share Christmas morning with them. That should be interesting. I left off at Machu Picchu and have gone quite a ways since then, so let's back up a bit. 

After finishing the Inca Trail and visiting Machu Picchu, our group had a nice meal and a few drinks in the town of Aguas Calientes before taking the train and a bus back to Cuzco. We were all in quite good spirits after finishing the trek so there was lots of singing and joking on the train. On the train I met a guy from California named Scott, who told me his group was going down to Lake Titikaka, so maybe we would see each other. 

When you hike the Inca Trail you have no choice but to become very close with those you're hiking with, so the 16 of us became good pals. Back in Cuzco we had a farewell dinner and, as most of us were leaving the next day, said our goodbyes - with some people flying home, others to Ecuador, Colombia or wherever, and me down south to do a homestay at Lake Titikaka. I made arrangements with one cool British chick to meet up in Costa Rica - she lives there and teaches English so we will go for a surf and have a night out. That's the beauty of meeting new people while traveling. 

The next morning I packed my bags and said my final goodbyes, except that I wasn't leaving until the next day, which I didn't realize until I got to the airport. Oops. Fortunately the airport in Cuzco is in town, cheap and easy to get to, so I walked right out and returned to my hotel. It turns out I had an extra day in Cuzco (which I had really wanted) and spent it with others who had the day there as well. That night the Irish couple from our group invited me out for drinks at their hostel which turned into quite a night, i.e. they drank me under the fookin table. Combine happy hour, beer pong, mini Guinness shots, tequila shots and being at 13,000 feet above sea level, and you can imagine that my flight from Cuzco to Juliaca the next morning really, really sucked. My fault though. Of course the Irish folks and I made plans to do it all over again in Dublin someday. If hangovers are the only illness I get on this trip I will be one lucky chica. So far so good. 

After a quick flight and a very bumpy bus ride to Puno (ow my head) I checked into my hotel and promptly went to sleep, getting up only to get some dinner and watch Spanish TV. I thought about going out to try and make friends but I was being picked up by another tour group the next morning so really couldn't be bothered. After all, I've been going hard the past few weeks so I felt one night of pizza and TV was acceptable.

The next morning I woke up feeling like a million bucks, had the free hotel breakfast (which I'm a huge fan of) and got picked up by a tricycle bike taxi (scary) to meet up with my group. Sure enough, when I met up with my new group it was Scott and his pack of Brits and Aussies that I was to do the homestay with. They have all been traveling together for months but it wasn't too hard to fit in and make some new friends. 

If these people have solar then you should too. No excuses!

Our first stop was the floating village of Uros. These people live on legitimate floating islands made of roots and reeds. Walking on the island felt like walking on a water bed but I could sit on the ground without getting my butt wet. We chatted with the local family, learned about their way of life, bought trinkets and went for a little reed boat ride. What I was most impressed with was the fact that these little reed huts had solar panels installed on the thatch roofs, and inverters and small battery banks inside. I figured the solar panels improved quality of life because now these people could watch TV if they wanted, but later in the day I learned of the greater impact solar has had on these people's lives. 

While this could possibly be one of the weirdest places I have ever visited, I'm glad I did because I can't imagine people will continue to live this way much longer, even if solar panels are one of the few modern conveniences they currently have. And so, after the quick visit we headed off on the boat again for a three hour boat ride to the island of Amantani (where this post began). 

Friday, December 23, 2016

Peak Experience

I'm buzzing. And not just from the coca. The past four days have been some of the most majestic, trying, spiritual and physical days of my life. I didn't write much while I was trekking, but the one entry I wrote is as follows: "I found God on the Inca Trail. The majesty of nature always blows me away - combine that with extreme physical exercise and a mouth full of coca leaves and God will find you. I have a splitting headache from the altitude." That was written at camp on our second day at about 13,000 feet above sea level. 

If you know me you know I have a certain scorn for religion, so for me to talk about finding God I must have been on a good one. And the Inca Trail is a good one. In fact, I can't recommend it highly enough. To be completely honest, it was easy. I was prepared for the absolute worst - I bought DAN insurance just in case I needed to be air lifted off the mountain - but it was not needed. 

Over four days our group of 16 people and 25 porters trekked 26 miles along the Inca Trail, a lot of which is original stone steps built by the Incas over 500 years ago. We hiked under glacier capped peaks and through ancient ruins, camped by waterfalls and arrived at Machu Picchu on the summer solstice (not planned, just coincidence). 

Machu Picchu deserves a post of its own, but in case I don't get around to it I will tell you that it is as spectacular in real life as it is in the pictures, if not more. I thought I would be kind of over it after three days of 8-12+ hour hikes, but when I came through the Sun Gate that morning and caught my first glimpse of the sacred city, I immediately got the chills. Machu Picchu seems to float in the clouds, perched on a steep mountain top surrounded by equally majestic mountains on all sides carved out by a river far down below. In spite of the fact that I was exhausted, dirty, and had been woken up to start the day at 3 AM, I felt like I could have explored the city all day. After our formal tour I spent a few hours wandering around by myself, completely absorbed in imagination of Inca life 500 years ago. It was as close to time travel as I will ever get. 

As for the actual hike, I thought it was phenomenal. I booked my trip through G Adventures, and our guide Evert, helped us every step of the way physically and mentally. He made sure our group was introduced to all the porters - the people who carry 6 kilos of our stuff along with all the camping gear, cooking supplies and food needed for the entire trip. Evert does everything in his power to make sure his clients and his staff are well taken care of, which I can't say the same for all tour groups. 

The porters do the same hike as the tourists, but carry 25 kilos of gear in massive backpacks that would crush the average person. After breaking down camp every morning they take off running to get to the next camp site before us, to set up our tents and prepare food for our arrival. They are pretty shy and quiet, but Evert made sure we all introduced ourselves and showed our mutual appreciation for one another. You can imagine that 16 Anglos who aren't used to hiking or camping might be a bit needy, but they made us as comfortable as possible, and I thought they did a great job. We had three meals every day, the food was good and I didn't get sick once. 

The weather was amazing as well. It is the rainy season here in Peru but we only got rained on as we finished day 3 of the hike. It was quite dramatic actually - as we hiked down through a massive, steep stone terrace to camp, the mist turned into rain drops and thunder began to clap in the distance... the drops of water got heavier and the thunder closer... I booked it down those slick stone steps and essentially dove into my tent upon arrival as it began to pour. It made me realize how miserable it would have been to hike any portion of the Inca Trail in the rain - slippery, steep steps and heavy soggy gear - which has happened to groups in the past. We offered coca leaves to Pacha Mama (Mother Earth) at the beginning of our hike which is why we lucked out with the weather, I'm sure. 

In the beginning of our trip Evert told us it isn't about the destination, hiking the Inca Trail is about the journey, but for me it was about both. Every day of the trek was unique and stunning in its own way, and it ended at a pinnacle of the Andes in the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. If you're ever looking for a breath taking experience (in more ways than one), want to challenge and immerse yourself culturally and physically, I can't recommend hiking the Inca Trail enough. Who knows, maybe I'll do it again with you. It was that good

Saturday, December 17, 2016

The Andes

Tour guides and busses full of English speaking people aren't really my style when it comes to traveling, and if I was to continue with my style I would probably be driving down the coast of Peru with Alberto and his friends looking for surf (which he offered). While this sounds totally awesome and like a potential surf trip for another lifetime, I would have missed out on the stunning beauty and cultural intrigue of the Cuzco and the Andes. 

Yes, I went inland. And up. Cuzco sits nestled in the Andes mountain range at 11,000 feet above sea level, which is really freaking high. Fortunately, a big basket of coca leaves greets visitors as they walk off the plane so people like me who live at sea level don't die immediately. Coca leave are said to relieve altitude sickness as well as put a little pep in your step and make you think that everything is awesome. Which Cuzco is, probably with or without coca leaves but I wouldn't really know. 

Back in Lima I had met up with my tour group the previous night and made fast friends with a bunch of girls around my age. One of the best things about traveling is meeting like minded people that tend to be unattached and ready for adventure. That's also a perk of traveling solo - I'm either forced to make friends or will eat a lot of meals alone - which I'm not totally opposed to but drinking alone is no fun, so my new friends and I went out for dinner and drinks for our first and last night in Lima together. We hopped on a plane to Cuzco the next day and have been exploring this unique part of the world since. 

Cuzco was the center of the Inca Empire from the 1300's-ish til the Spanish, led by Francisco Pizarro came through and fucked everything up. South American history isn't my forte, but the combination of an ancient native history mixed with European conquest makes for some pretty interesting and gruesome stories. Cuzco brings this to light in a subtle way - you can find the ancient and perfect walls of the sun temple still standing, with a massive Jesuit cathedral built right on top, and a Starbucks next door just in case the coca leaves aren't quite enough. 

I would have loved to explore Cuzco more, but after one pisco sour I was feeling like death -- which I blame the altitude for, although it could have been the ocean water in Lima, the side affects of the vaccination, the seafood I ate the previous night or the sick kids I played with right before I left -- in any case I called it a night early and contemplated asking the hotel if I could take a hit of their emergency oxygen tank that every hotel in the area has for kooks like me that never go above, say, sea level. 

Nevertheless I woke up in the morning ready to rock and was only slightly late (and the last person on the tour bus but whatevs). We were supposed to have packed the night before for our Inca Trail expedition but I was in no condition to contemplate hiking and camping at a higher altitude than Cuzco so I saved it for the morning when I promptly threw warm clothes and rain gear in my bag and left the rest at the hotel. Our itinerary said we would drive through the Sacred Valley, stop at a traditional weaving village, eat lunch at a restaurant our travel agency developed and finish in Ollayantaytambo. I don't particularly care for weaving, think tour groups are hokey and had no idea who or what Ollayantaytambo is, but in reality it was an epic day. 

The Sacred Valley in the Andes is stunning. The Incas built terraced farmlands into the sheer, green mountainsides that locals still tend to today. Our first stop was a weaving village where we learned about how wool is made and dyed which I found absolutely fascinating, but they also served us coca tea so that could have influenced my attention span. We all bought hand made scarfs and mittens and funny hats with alpacas on them and I couldn't help but laugh at my hilarious alpaca puns - alpaca bag when I get back on the bus... but you probably had to be there. Either way it was cool to buy textiles directly from the ladies who made them. 

Then, back on the bus. Next stop: Pisac. Awesome place. More terraces, ruins and insight into Inca life. It would be cool if like the Incas, in 500 years there are relics of our culture still standing that we can be proud of, and not just a giant garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean, but I suppose that remains to be seen. 

After that we were herded back into the bus (willingly because we were going to get lunch) and headed to a restaurant that G Adventures (our tour group) started, which made me instantly skeptical (because I'm cynical). It turned out to be a beautiful restaurant owned and operated by the villagers of a small town nestled in the valley surrounded by snow capped peaks, that served all local food grown organically by the villagers themselves, and the food was delicious. That shut me up real quick. Like I said before, tour groups and guides aren't my style, but this was a case and point for why I don't always know where and what is best. 

We ended the day in the small town of Ollayantaytambo where I never, ever would have gone to on my own. It is a town steeped in the history of treachery of Inca warriors and Spanish conquistadors that has living proof in the form of terraces and ancient stone ruins that sit above the city as a reminder of their badass history and ancestry. I could barely make it up the thousand stone steps (blame the altitude) let alone fathom pushing 100 ton blocks of stone up the mountainside, but if there's one stereotype of the Inca people it is that they were incredibly hard workers. Inspirational, really. And by this point I had stopped my intake of coca leaves because I want to sleep tonight, so it really was legitimately cool. 

Tomorrow we begin our trek on the Inca Trail, a four day hike through the Andes that ends at Machu Picchu. There are a few of us that are a bit nervous about the strenuous level of the hike, but we have guides and porters that will make sure we get there (first and foremost by waking us up with a cup of coca tea in the mornings, no joke). The adventure continues. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Lil Adventure: Day 1

Apparently you need a Yellow Fever vaccine in order to enter Costa Rica from a South American Country, and you have to be inoculated 10 days before you enter the country. I was made aware of this (thanks Janis and no thanks Kaiser travel nurse) the night before my 8am flight to Lima. Good thing I'm in Peru for 13 days. First order of business? Get that vaccine. Ha. 

The flights from San Diego to Lima were ridiculously easy. I forget how easy it is to get half way across the world when you're not on a boat. Take off your shoes, watch a few movies, have a drink, eat some mediocre food and bam! you're in Peru. 

I booked my entire time in Peru through my friend and travel agent Bobbie, of Bobbie's Travel, so for the first time in my life someone met me at the airport holding a sign with my name on it, took my bags and whisked me off to my hotel. I arrived at my hotel sometime around 1am kind of wound up and thirsty, so I walked a few blocks down to a 24 hour grocery store to buy some snacks and drinks. I thought I was being very dainty by only buying one can of beer, but at the check out the lady told me they don't sell alcohol after midnight (you lush) and with a salty look took my beer away. Whatever, I have sleeping pills for that. 

I really only have one full day in Lima so I set my alarm for 8am (to make sure my cheap ass got the free breakfast from the hotel) and to have plenty of time to sight see. After drinking a ridiculously strong coffee that I diluted with three parts milk, I headed off to find the Yellow Fever vaccine. I was told to go to Good Hope clinic which is conveniently located half way between my hotel and the beach. 

I was impressed by the clinic. Although it was packed with infants (with more hair than some 1 year olds - you know who you are) getting their vaccines, I was in and out of there in about half hour, documentation included, for the bargain price of $40.  

After that I walked down to the beach, you know, just to check it out. I planned Peru to be my cultural, "get out of my comfort zone" experience, so I didn't want to hang out at the beach and surf all day, but I'm always drawn to the water, and it was close, and I can always come up with more excuses. 

When I came up to the bluff I saw the Pacific Ocean looking quite calm except for glassy little waist to chest high waves coming in. Uh oh. I had brought all my valuables - passport, credit cards, cash - with me in case I needed it for the clinic, and didn't bring my bathing suit on purpose. I figured I would go back to the hotel to swap stuff if I actually decided to surf in the water I've heard is pretty dirty. But it doesn't hurt to check out the little tents renting boards on the beach and talk with the locals for a few minutes. 

As I walked past the tents I was approached by Alberto, owner of Surf Peru. We chatted for a few minutes and before I knew it I was changing into a soggy wetsuit in his towel and giving him all of my valuable possessions while I went out to surf average waves with questionable water quality. I can't help it. Not only that, but one of my goals for my 28th year is to surf in a new country and while I was going to save that for Costa Rica, why not check it off the list twice. 

The waves were actually super fun - chest high, lined up, long, glassy rights and a few punchy lefts. I looked up to the high rise condos up on the cliff and wondered how much rent is.. Inside sales from abroad, cheap cost of life and uncrowded waves right in the middle of a city? The imagination soars. And then I began to think about the fact that this dude I just met had literally all my valuable possessions in his car so I caught a few more waves and headed in. After all, I want to see the rest of Lima too. 

When I got back to the beach Alberto and his car were gone. Fuck. I took off the wetsuit with his towel, standing there basically naked on the beach really hoping that he would be back with my clothes, passport, cash and cards. And then you think, was a little surf session really worth potentially losing all that? No, probably not. But then Alberto showed up - sorry! I forgot I had your stuff in my car - so yeah, totally worth it. 

We chatted for a bit before I took off. "You're hiking the Inca Trail, si? I was a tour guide for that, I've done it 19 times," he told me. "Yeah, I am.. if you had one piece of advice for me, what would it be?" As has been my habit of asking everyone who has done it. "Keep surfing," was his only reply. 

Siempre amigo, siempre. 


It's been a while... test test 123