After five months in the same city – Montevideo, Uruguay, I’m now five days out on the world trail again in Lima, Peru; preparing to re-explore the Andes. I’m staying in PuriWasi Hostel, climbing 36 steps merely to access the main floor and then another 24, to achieve the rooftop terrace, where breakfast is served…. and Happy Hour, too; should I choose to attend.
I sleep in a very comfortable, lower bunk bed within an 8-bed mixed dorm, behind a light-blocking screen made up of sarongs, jackets and towels, tucked under the upper mattress, as I usually do. The bathroom is a way down the hall. This is a quiet hostel in a quiet city. It’s very comfortable here.
I still make friends as easily as I ever have. Last night, I went to Haiti (the restaurant’s name) with two guys from Brooklyn, one of whom had just finished building a skateboard park in Bolivia.
I breakfasted with a French Astrophysicist, A British English Language Professor, and a Danish medical graduate student. Everyone has a fascinating story, like the Argentine student just off the Trans-Siberian Express. I slide into this life effortlessly. But, I did have one new experience: a local proposed to me! A lonely widower urged me to settle down here with him. Needless to say….
I slide into this traveling life effortlessly. Tomorrow, I’ll be crossing the Andes in a bus; the Astrophysicist will be deep in the Amazon in Iquitos; and the guys I had dinner with last night will be back in the asphalt jungles of New York City. And Manny… will still be looking for the Right Woman!
And yet, none of us rush through friendship. Long, slow conversations are possible; comparing notes on countries and comparing travel plans; as if they are beaded necklaces placed side by side. I’ve just been where they are going and vice versa. This is a natural life and it networks along, effortlessly, here in the hostels of the world. As I suppose it always has.
Trade routes and desert caravans; stagecoach inns and boarding houses have long existed. But, back then, it was simply a profession that admitted one to their grungy halls. Always male; mostly young and strong. Certainly, no one like me! Nowadays though, the nomadic heart is younger than ever; but it’s still casually persistent and unapologetic. It grabs the graduate student, after or during their pricey education. It delays marriage and childbirth among the eligible for that. Many couples find it easy to have it all; traveling together, savoring whole countries as their home. It skims the cream off of settled life and I’m testament to the fact that this is no mere summer storm. This is a profession! All else adapts!
And yet… it is still only the corridor to some Region Yet Unfound! Maybe that’s what it takes to calm the restless heart?
Tomorrow morning I will leave the capital of Chile, where I have hung out for three weeks, and travel south to many small towns in the Lake District of this country. It is gorgeous down there, with Andes mountains, Pacific coastline, and so much natural beauty. This is a sportsman´s paradise and I hope to describe it from the many quaint towns along the way. Hopefully, I´ll have more computer access than I have here and can keep these blog posts more up-to-date.
My transportation will be by private backpacker´s bus – www.Pachamamabybus.com and it comes to me in the morning, eliminating a trip to the bus station. Instead of following the usual commercial bus route, this special traveler´s bus goes to all the cool places that backpackers have on their lists. If one is in a hurry, they can do an entire loop in seven days, going as far down as Puerto Montt and Chiloe Island and returning to Santiago. Bus fare for the whole route comes to $250, which is only slightly more than a commercial bus ticket would cost. Two buses a week leave the capital, several days apart, so it is possible to hop on and hop off – with advance planning to assure a seat – and stay in the towns as long as you want.
I´m going to spend about five days in each town and absorb the whole month of February covering southern Chile. Three years ago, I flew from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, Argentina, so I have already been all the way to the bottom of this long spine of the Andes and don´t feel a need to return as it is not easy to travel overland there from Chile.
I know that I am going to be wowed during the whole scenic drive between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. I can tell that because I have been so pleased to stay in this clean and exciting city. Just this evening, walking back from a lovely dinner in the BellaVista Plaza, I realized that if I had to chose a favorite foreign capital, it would be this one. And that´s saying something because I generally just don´t like cities.
This one has a gajillion university campuses, although not too long ago, Chilean students led riots and protests about the costs of their education – about $60,000 US dollars equivalent per year. It´s peaceful now but the cost question has not been solved yet, so we may hear more. My hostel is close to a portion of a university so there´s a youthful feeling in the air. One reason we get the impression of so many places of higher education is that the many colleges and universities that are here, don´t have clearly defined campuses but have buildings all over town. So, there´s always an engineering or a business or a medical training facility. Pretty brainy place.
My hostel is a nice quiet one and I have had plenty of deep sleep, even in an 8-bed dorm with constantly changing male and female roommates. Hope I have the same luck for the rest of the month.
Okay, the next post will be written from the road!