Peru’s Sacred Valley – Lessons in the Little Things in Life
My first impression of Cusco, Peru was the vibrancy of color underneath partly cloudy skies. Coca tea leaves being handed out in the airport and a man holding a big, white sign with my name scrawled across it in black letters followed closely behind. I always saw that person at Los Angeles International Airport. Shyly waving their hand in a stranger’s direction like, “That’s me!” Well, I experienced it in all its minute glory for the first time in Cusco. It really is the little things in life.
The man was my airport transfer to my two-night stay in what is historically the capital of the Inca Empire and now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. He spoke very little English and proceeded to use Google translate on his phone the entire ride from Cusco International Airport to Hotel Monasterio San Pedro. I spoke enough Spanish to carry on our conversation. I found his effort to communicate with me so endearing and certainly unexpected, though. Again, the little things.
He navigated through crowded, narrow, cobblestone streets, one hand on the wheel and the other holding his Smartphone. I figured he was used to this when normally, this would frighten me. I likened it to a Midwest relative visiting me in Southern California. Not being accustomed to the aggressive driving that is necessary in Los Angeles, he or she may experience fear.
As my driver questioned my motives for traveling solo in his homeland, I marveled at the culture and the stunning, stormy skies. At one point, the car came to a halt. A procession of colorfully dressed men, women, and children paraded through the streets. Chanting in Quechua, some in red masks, many wearing straw hats, passersby snapped quick photos hyperaware of the impending showers. Quickly rolling down my window, I took my first photo of my week-long South American trip. This photo would become my absolute favorite out of the hundred or so later. This may have something to do with the fact that I was unable to take pictures on my Smartphone for an important leg of the trip, however, I love this photo for so many reasons.
I am by no means a professional photographer but I am a creative person. Photography is one of my favorite mediums. There’s something so incredible in the art of being able to capture a moment forever with the click of a button. In my haste, I seized an ancient holiday tradition being carried out by the beautiful people of Cusco, Peru in a single second. It wasn’t until later posting on Instagram, the first photo from my solo travels, I would notice the inadvertent composition, the stark contrasts that made for such a memorable photograph.
The Little Things in Life sometimes come in the Form of a Good Cry and Coca Tea
Upon arrival to my hotel, I bid thank you to my driver, who graciously offered his card and services for future use. I was greeted with a hot cup of my first taste of coca tea, which quickly became a mainstay of my trip. Between altitude sickness, flu, and consistent traveling, coca tea was a lifesaver even if it was a placebo. I attest that it was not a mere placebo, though!
On December 25th, 2016, I wrote in my journal:
It hailed and poured as soon as I got to my hotel room. I then took a hot shower and napped for a couple of hours…absolutely exhausted from all the travel and elevation.
I came back to my hotel room from my birthday dinner and I had a good cry – the loneliness is heavy and I know it’s serving a purpose…I’m getting by. I was the only person dining solo at Christmas dinner and I know some people took notice. It reminded me of my mama wondering how I could dine solo that made me miss her dearly. Not that I ever stop missing her.
I never heard from my brother today, so that really let me down…So much has just been developing and I’m taking it as it comes. The right people are in my life at the right time. There’s so much more to talk about. From all the stray dogs to the young boys playing fútbol in La Plaza de Armas to the women/men aggressively selling their goods throughout the town. It’s such a different culture…It’s time for me to go to bed.
“The loneliness is heavy and I know it’s serving a purpose.”
Fully Rested and Ready for Day Two of Peru
I awoke the following day, fully rested. Day one had proved to be all about the little things in life. Eager for the unknown, I set out on day two’s adventures in Cusco. Coca tea in hand, I briskly walked up Avenida el Sol with an open mind and an open, pounding heart.