Travel is the small moments that we hardly allow ourselves to notice in daily life.
It’s walking into a market in Chosica in order to find a bus to take us to San Pedro de Casta, a tiny comunidad campesina that acts as the base camp for a hike to Marcahuasi, a rock garden on top of a mountainous plateau. As we surveyed the dusty lot, an old man with about four teeth who walked up to us asking if we were headed to Marcahuasi, and when we nodded, confirmed that the bus had left some time ago.
We stood in a bit of a panic, considering there were only two buses a day. Considering my personal experience of travel (Everything works out if you let it), I shouldn’t have been surprised when I heard a man yell at another, “You’re lying! That bus just left.” After some harried discussion, we were offered a deal: 30 soles to catch us up to the bus in the man’s taxi. We were in the car faster than we could say “Si”.
After about 40 minutes on the dirt road, we eventually caught and flagged down the bus that luckily still had empty seats (in all fairness, it wasn’t truly a bus, per se – more like a large van). The three hour drive in which we more or less hung off the side of a mountain the entire time was nothing short of magical, as we made one last hairpin turn that threatened to send the entire bus careening off a cliff but instead brought into view the tiny town of San Pedro, perched on top of the mountain.
Our hike and camping was everything I could have hoped for; cold nights and bright sunrises and scrambling over rocks to find peace. We made campsite buddies with a group of Peruvian university students who were on our bus there and back. We slept four people in a three-person tent that was anything but comfortable but certainly warm.
One moment that will stick with me for some time, however, occurred before we even began to struggle our way up to 4,000 meters. We were sitting in a small comedor, renting our gear and eating lunch before the hike when I heard someone mention that Che Guevara had passed through San Pedro de Casta. I quickly asked the man to clarify, and he explained that Che had left a small painting behind the municipal building. Unfortunately it was closed for the day. Even without seeing the painting, however, I was touched. I’m currently reading his book Diarios de motocicleta, or as many Spanish students will know from the movie adaption: The Motorcycle Diaries. I enjoyed just the thought that such a personaje de historia, a character of history that shapes so much of popular opinion and culture and understanding of Latin America (his face was everywhere in Nicaragua) had also stood in the centro de San Pedro and surveyed the surrounding mountains, a vista that had probably not changed at all since his visit.
We all pass through simply – in travel and in life.
Travel is a willingness to release expectations and go. To roll under the stars.*
** (borrowing from Señor Kerouac).