Before leaving for Peru I’d read numerous reports of highway bandits, kidnappings, robbers and camera-snatchers. I was concerned enough to have devised a special strap for my camera, to insure my valuables and even get pants with special hard-to-pick pockets.
In the end, most of the time I was there I felt no more threatened than in Portland. There were a couple of exceptions: Some parts of Iquitos made me uneasy and I definitely passed through some ultra-seedy parts of Lima to and from the airport. Also, while near Machu Picchu, an older couple told me that their daughter had gone missing. They were on the same tour as I was and they asked if I’d seen their daughter during the past few hours. I hadn’t and I never did find out how that ended. A combination of apathy and dishonesty means you cannot assume appointments will be kept in Peru. You shouldn’t trust anyone until/unless you get to know him.
But there were several instances where shopkeepers could easily have shortchanged me – and they didn’t. There were times when I dropped/forgot items and they were duly returned to me. People walk around with cameras all the time, natives and tourists alike, and I didn’t see anybody lurking in the shadows to snatch them. Passersby are eager to help strangers in distress and I’m convinced that 9 times out of 10, those who purchase those pathetic packets of gum from street vendors do so not because they want the gum, but because they want to help the vendor and allow him to keep his pride at the same time. This was certainly the case with me. The gum is awful, but I couldn’t turn down those pleading eyes – and one Sole is about 40 cents. It’s so easy for an American tourist to make a poor Peruvian’s day that much brighter.
I hope to stay in touch with the new friends I made over there, some of them Peruvians and others fellow travelers. Even the briefest encounters can be meaningful – like the British girl I met at the Lima hostel. I had just arrived, not one minute earlier, and she burst into the room clearly distraught. She proclaimed that a 16 year-old girl had been stabbed to death by a black man right near where she lived. She had to catch a bus in a few minutes, but during that short time we had a lively conversation about the sad state of affairs in Britain and the Western world as a whole. I gave her the link to this blog.
Then there was the playwright and his wife, who sat next to me in the airplane back to Lima from Tacna. He reminded me of a long-lost uncle. They didn’t know where they were going to sleep that night in Lima, so they ended up staying at the same hostel I was at. We stayed up late, with some other travelers, talking and singing. The following morning, they let me have some of their delicious (and famous) Arequipa cheese. It was very good.
The young lady from Tacna who sat next to me in the Sacred Valley tour bus. Her English was good enough to explain what was being said by the guide, who spoke only Spanish and Quechua. I was going to tour the south of the country anyway, so I chose to start in Tacna and visit her at the same time. She was kind enough to visit Chile with me and show me around. She also got me to eat some of the local cuisine that I otherwise would never have tried. We concluded with shots of Pisco. Perhaps I’ll write about Pisco some other time. I did buy a duty-free bottle of it to take home. So if you suddenly notice rampant spelling errors etc. you’ll know why.
I’m at the airport awaiting my flight home and my battery is running low. So that’s it for now.