Exclusive for Vagobond by Amanda White in Cieneguilla, Peru
Sometimes I forget that life, that adventure, that travel is just and/or equally about the journey as it is about the destination. I know it’s a saying, and it may be cliché, but it still holds true. I’ve always been goal oriented, task efficient and sometimes have a hard time letting go of the End Result. I have to remind myself to stay in the moment. This is what I want to learn here in Peru; how to be, to exist, to live, to love, where and what and when and who I am.
I take my bike–how quick I am to assume possession of what’s been loaned to me–and head towards the Cieneguilla ruins. I have a vague idea how to get there. I pedal fast, until I realize I’m not on a deadline. I’m not running a race. So I slow my mind and step off the bike (mostly because my legs are burning from doing this crazy PX90 leg work out and a long bike ride the day before). I listen to the roar of the river going on its journey beside me. Calm. Now I’m here entirely here and nowhere else.
I look for the beauty in the dust of the road. I see the contrast of barrenness and fruitfulness. I give half smiles to the cars, taxis, bikes, and people I pass. I don’t want to be overly friendly, but neither do I want to be rude. Some of the cars honk at me, but this is Peru, everyone honks. One taxi passes by slowly as I cross the bridge and I lean over to ask him if I’m going the correct way to the ruins.
He doesn’t lead me astray. “Go up to the end of the road and then take a left,” he tells me in Spanish. I thank him; do a quick double-step with my foot against the dirt to get going and bike on. At the fork, I go left as instructed. Trees overhang the road casting pleasant shadows. To one side of me are enclosed houses with elaborately painted walls and exotic flowers. To the opposite side are makeshift huts with piles of trash in the yards, if they can even be called yards. It’s quite a contrast; the rich inside their walls and the poor practically out in the open. Both right there together.
Before I quit my job and moved to Peru I was middle class American on the cusp of the lower class. I wasn’t rich, but I wasn’t impoverished either. I lived comfortably. Here though, the color of my skin and the color of my hair scream out wealth. This isn’t true. “I’m just like you,” I want to tell them. “I’m human just like you. Please don’t value me by how much or little money I have in my hand or in my bank account.” They see me through the filters that television has given them. “Thanks a lot, Hollywood,” I say.
I make it to the ruins. Even though I’ve enjoyed the journey I still have a sense of satisfaction on arriving at my destination. It’s hard to lick old habits the first go. I leave my bike against a still standing wall and hike to the top of the hill. Who lived here? What did they do? How did they think? What did they want? Was this place their destination and had they enjoyed the journey there? What happened to them? I want to know everything.
I find a rock and sit to eat my apple and bar. Like a good boy scout (I envied my brothers getting to be scouts. I always wanted to get a Rocket Merit Badge) I pack out what I’d packed in.
When I go, I look behind one last time. These people left their mark, however ruined, behind them. What will I leave? Deep, but not unpleasant thoughts accompany me on my journey home.
Amanda White lives and blogs in Peru. You can find more of her work at My Llama and Me
As always, if you are heading to Peru and want to ask anything about it, Vagobond travel advice is free for the asking or you might find the resources in the box below to be helpful.