Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Wonderfully Small World of Travel (and How Everything Relates)

The vast preponderance of my traveling, to places near and far, has been solo.

This has been by active choice only in the sense that I've never let the lack of a traveling companion impair my passion for exploring the world.

And while I would be happy to travel with someone of similar interests, outlook and temperament--and have done so on occasion--I'm likely more comfortable on my own than having to make compromises I wouldn't much like.

When traveling--and even in general--being alone doesn't usually make me feel acutely lonely. 

Certainly, on this trip, I've been able to communicate with those I typically do, via Facebook, texting, What'sApp and these blog posts.

And while knowing virtually no Spanish has lessened my ability to talk to fellow travelers and local Peruvians, I've chatted with some Americans and other English speakers I've encountered, including tour guides at Ollantaytambo and Machu Picchu, both of whom were terrific.

I returned to Machu Picchu again this morning hoping to catch the sunrise, but despite waking at 4:45am and getting out a half-hour later, the line for the first buses was far longer than I anticipated and I didn't reach Machu until almost 7am.

Though I did catch part of daybreak, I didn't see the sun rise or knowingly strike certain sections that it's said to specifically on June 21.

Without a guide, I just wandered to wherever I felt comfortable, though jagged stairs made coming down more daunting than wheezing my way up.

But the sights themselves were again astonishing and if it didn't provide much beyond yesterday--despite having already bought a ticket I considered not ascending again today--well, it was a twice in a lifetime experience.

I didn't cut short any quality time at MP, but after 2 hours I caught the 9am bus down intending to find somewhere to watch Peru play in the World Cup against France at 10am.

After unsuccessfully trying a couple restaurants that either didn't have a TV or weren't yet serving food, I wound up at La Boulangerie de Paris, a French patisserie in Aguas Calientes I had read about and was intending to visit anyway.

A gregarious man I presume to be the proprietor was wearing a double-sided Peru and France soccer jersey. He didn't speak English--I have assume he's a French expat--but warmly welcomed me and everyone else who dropped by.

Though some Peruvian boosters were also on hand, it was kind of cool to be watching Peru play France in likely one of the few places in the country where many were rooting against the home team. (France won.)

After doing some souvenir shopping on the hike uphill to the Taypikala Boutique Hotel--I like everything about it but the location--I watched Croatia beat Argentina, then took a nap.

On the plaza right next to my hotel I had noticed a little restaurant advertising that it had a pool table and whose decor included a Bob Marley poster.

I was the only patron of El Generalle--which doesn't seem to be listed even on Google let alone any tour books--but as it was run seemingly by just a single woman, I enjoyed the quaint ambience.

The woman's adorable daughter--neither spoke any English but I learned the girl was 5 and named Bala or something akin--brought me my menu, and came around to sweetly pester me throughout my meal.

Noticing my iPhone--I was using Google Translate as best I could--she had me take a selfie of us, and seemed to want to toy around with the phone, as kids often do. She kept talking to me in Spanish but I had no clue what she was saying.

I felt bad that I had no games on my phone to let Bala play, so I pulled up a Bugs Bunny cartoon on YouTube, which seem to mesmerize her. She even asked for another one, I think, and I obliged.

It was a nice moment, along with some Lomo Saltado--a traditional Peruvian meat dish--and some dessert.

Given that my Facebook news feed is filled with friends and media decrying Trump's inhumane border policy separating kids from their parents, I couldn't help think this is probably happening to precious children who look somewhat like Bala.

In various ways, today was another wonderful day--as much for the patisserie owner, Bala and her mom as for Machu Picchu--and while I feel quite fortunate, it made the heartbreaking news back home all the more so.

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