Oh hey there friends, family, and internet. It’s been awhile. I now sit here in Barranco, a delightful suburb of Lima, Peru. And it took me quite the journey to get to where I sit today. As a forward, I would like to state that I am indeed alive, safe, and well. I digress…
I last left you off with my journey in Costa Rica, returning to Turrialba one last time. I finished strong with a remarkable meeting with a very forward thinking school in Turrialba. Our hopes for bringing Cross Cultural Connect to their school seems to be one of our best connections yet. I then said goodbye to my dear friends and practically family of Costa Rica, making sure to stop by my most favorite pipa man, Minor.
Armed with a box of cereal, a can of tuna and granola bars, I made my way back to the airport in preparation for my 45 hour mix of flights and connections. I made it all the way through customs with only loosing my carry-on spork. In my defense the plastic wear that was on the airplane was far more dangerous (which I ended up saving). My advice to you; always bring a spare spork in your check bag.
Once I landed in Mexico (apparently it is cheaper to fly in the opposite direction first), I dragged myself though customs and was finally stamped into the country. Peeking my head outside of the airport, I realized I was far more safe alone in the middle of the Costa Rican jungle than I would be in downtown Mexico City. I turned around and walked though the halls of sleeping nomads waiting for their next flights as well. And after finding my own little corner in the completely empty check in area, I pulled out my sleeping bag and mat and settled in for the night.
When I awoke in the morning, I was accompanied by over 200 people anxiously awaiting to check their bags. Not really curious about how long people were staring, I decided to get at least one more hours sleep. My flight wasn’t until 6 p.m. anyways.
I found myself wandering the immense airport and eating packets of mayonnaise exactly like Tom Hanks in The Terminal. Don’t get ahead of yourself, I ate the mayo with my tuna. It was delicious and rewardingly free. After discovering the free WiFi, reading an entire book, and making friends with the most interesting of strangers, I finally boarded my flight for Colombia 20 hours later.
Now my first flight to Mexico, I found myself sitting in a seat where the headphone jack was utterly debilitated. I made use of my time and found other things to do. This time however, The Lone Ranger was on, making the next broken headphone seat I was given a little more unbearable. I requested to move my seat, and discovered my seating choice was no better than the first. As I stood up in a third and final attempt, I was invited by an American Colombian to try the chair next to his. Well, that headphone jack was broken too, but we decided to make our own words to the movie. After 4 hours of conversation, he refused to let me sleep and wait in another airport for 14 hours. His cousin owned a hostel just outside of the airport and he invited me to stay there for free.
Moe showed me around the nice parts of Bogota and the evening was spent meeting Spaniards, other foreigners, and some hilarious locals as well. It was an unexpected and fantastic weekend spent in Colombia!
Now here´s where the real story begins.
I made my final flight to Lima, Peru where I was to meet my good friend, TomO in the Lima airport. As I waited another five hours in the airport for his flight to arrive, I prepared our accomodations for the evening. Another few hours went by and we finally arrived in the absolutely beautiful beach-side suburb of Barranco. The next few days were spent wandering the city, surfing, and meeting fantastic people, locals and foreigners alike.
We said our goodbyes to Barranco and to our new close friends and headed south to Paracas. First thing in the morning, we took a boat to visit Isla Ballestas. Also known as “the poor man´s Galapagos”, Ballestas is alive with hundreds of animals including lobos (sea lions) and 10 percent of Peru’s bird population (including but not limited to; Humbolt penguins, pelicans, various types of seagulls, cormorants, and hundreds more).
TomO and I made our way to the Paracas National Park and spent the day wandering through the desert. We found breath-taking views of cliffs, mountains, and a whole lot of nothing that was amazingly something. We spent our first afternoon bouldering on the beach. We then camped on the top of a cliff where we could easily watch the sunset over the west coast and wake to the sunrise on the east mountains. I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.
Our second day was spend wandering around the park some more. Here, we met our new friend, Orr, a delightful chap from England. He joined us back at the 7 person town where we ate our freshly caught fish dinner and camped for the evening.
On the third day, we all caught a bus out of the park after a last round of exploring. We found a delightful beach-front hostel called Kokopelli where we could camp outside on the beach for free and use their much needed showers for just a few soles. Little did we know how our luck was about to drastically change.
Now again, I would like to forward that I am safe and that all of my ends are basically covered. But this story is just too crazy not to tell.
Here’s where things got too intense.
The evening was spent almost too perfectly, playing pool with Frenchmen, a game called Sappo with the locals, slacklining on the beach, and viewing the amazing southern sky with no light polution. Everything seemed great. When the morning arose, we realized our shoes outside our tent had gone missing. We continued to discover that our friend´s tent, along with my small backpack was also gone.
My daypack was guarded by me at all times in the national park, especially when the owner of the restaruant allowed us to leave our bulky bags in the kitchen for safe keeping while we explored. Half trusting him, I left my main pack there, but hiked with my money, passport, cards, cell phone, and iPad. I let my guard down for one minute at the local hostel/restaruant/bar and was robbed of all of my most valuable possesions. I foolishly and lazily did not reseparate my belongings when we returned.
The morning was devestating. I truly believed my entire trip had come to an end. I had no passport or money. I took five minutes along the beach alone to absorb and accept what had actually happened. I then hurried to a computer to cancel my credit card to ensure not to lose any more. We spent the next few hours filling out police reports and making claims to our insurance companies. Troubling times in paradise…
In the afternoon, we were approached by a local we spoke with the night before who had an inkling on who possibly took our things. He was followed up by a Paracas security guard who was also had a lead. It was here where we experienced first hand South American corruption. For 150 soles ($55), I was promised my passport and cards when he returned and possibly my bag in the morning. We negotiated that I wouldn’t give him a penny until he brought me my papers. For fifty five bucks, I was willing to pay the man.
Surprisingly about two hours later, the security guard came back. In his chest pocket, stuck out my passport, cancelled credit card, even my driver’s license and EMT card.
We gave him the money. I told him about the passcode for iPads and the trackers inside of my technology, and he said he would try to return with my bag in the morning. Being that we were just next to the hostel check-in, this caused a huge uproar between the hostel workers and the security guard. We were all exhaused and the young man was clearly afraid of losing his job. I took him aside and just asked him to bring my things back and we wouldn’t take it to a higher authority (who really had done nothing for us earlier that day).
Less than an hour later, the man came back with my bag with my iPad inside, along with all of our shoes and Orr’s tent. The only things we lost in the end was a decent amount of money, my phone, and strangely, Orr’s shoelaces. The man said he’d come back tomorrow with the rest of my things, but I knew I would never see this man again. I figured we were much better off than how we started in the beginning of the day. I was completely astonished he even came back at all.
Through more discussion with locals and hostel workers, we discovered that the theif was most likely a cousin of the security guard. Therefore, the guard was simpathetic to us and at the same time was conflicted between his job and his family. Regardless, I was unusually lucky to get the majority of my things back.
In the end of it all, I’m glad it happened early in the adventure. I had multiple travelers and locals come up to me with similar theft stories, including passports and valuables, all in which ended up with them not being as fortunate as we. I am relieved I purchased traveler’s insurance before I left, as I will now be reimbursed for all of my material losses. As well, I am now even more prepared for another occurance like this to happen. I am even more on my guard, and truly trust no one with my valuable possessions (not to mention, I bought a stronger lock).
Along with some more pros, TomO and I stayed one more day in Paracas, where we took a trip out sandboarding as planned to do in a city further south. We discovered that this was the absolute best way to end our week in Paracas. Again, I’ll let the photos do the talking…
So until next time friends, family, and internet! Future stories of trekking the world’s deepest canyon and homestays in the man-made lakes of Titicaca soon too come!!!