I’m sitting here in the hostel with my friend, exhausted after six days of non-stop travel to Salar de Uyuni and Condiri. When we arrived this morning we threw down our bags and sat on the bed. Looking at our photos, I couldn’t help but turn to her and say, “My photos are bad.” She stared at me and asked, “What do you mean by bad?” I thought about it for a minute, realizing that though not all of my photos were “insta worthy” per se, they were in fact “memory worthy”. I haven’t slept in 72 hours. I spent last night curled up in layers of clothes, counting down the hours until the sun would rise and my teeth would stop chattering. I have walked more hours than I care to admit and have spent almost zero time in front of a mirror or under the tap of hot water. That wildness and pain and freedom and friendship, that is what I’ll remember in the majority of my photos. And it’s okay with that.
After Salkantay, Kim and I decided to keep on traveling together so the next day we met up and took the night bus to Bolivia. We walked across the border in the early morning hours. This Andean woman cut in front of us in the immigration line and I thought Kim was going to start a fight. She didn’t. We made it to La Paz in time to visit the witches market (I bought a love potion..,I needed all the help I could get!), and book our tours. We left that night to Uyuni. I couldn’t feel my legs on the bus. When we arrived we hopped on another bus to do a three day tour of the Salt Flats and the desert. We were with three fun Americans and a perverted tour guide who told us more nude and sex stories than I could handle. We took a bunch of silly perspective photos and spent our nights in a cold Boliviam Refugio. With no time to spare we hopped on another night bus back to La Paz (where I met the love of my life in dog form…Kim swears that I’m in desperate need of a bf) before being picked up to start a three day Cordillera Real trek. It was the worst experience of my life and I regret nothing. The guide didn’t speak English. The food tasted like vomit. My sleeping bag was broken. I didn’t sleep. It. Was. Fucking. Cold. We ascended 5100m on this narrow trail and all I could think is don’t fall or you’ll have to climb up again. The second night I was promised a blanket that never came. I spent the night listening to Justin Bieber while thinking my first ever violent thoughts and plotting revenge. The next day we left for Arequipa. It reminds me of Europe in a lot of ways with its white stone and promenades.
Before spending a few days on the beach in Paracas to recover, we completed the Colca Canyon trek. We got picked up at 3am and that first day was a brutal ten hour hike downhill. My group included a friendly Dutch couple and two girls from Israel who I hope to visit in the future. The Dutch boy found this female puppy and decided to carry her all the way down the trail to the nearby town. We took turns feeding her and giving her some of our rationed water. It made us a family; Sol, the dog, our child. After eating some lama (vegan diet out the window) for lunch we carried onto to the oasis where we spent the night fighting over who was the real winner of Cambio. I also talked to the girls about what their mandatory military service is like. I’m happy I never followed up on that dream of mine… The next day we woke up at 4am to start a four hour uphill hike. Guided by moonlight, we spiralled upwards until we reached the top: out of breath and satisfied. At breakfast we chatted and witnessed a full-on dog fight. I thought we were going to be attacked. We then visited the hot springs and met these really cute and really kind Dutch boys on our tour bus. Later, they gave us words of encouragement as Kim and I prayed that we would make it back in time to catch our overnight bus. We did. By minutes.
In Paracas I spent my time in the sun smelling of fish and sweat. At breakfast we ran into one of the Dutch boys, Jairo, and his mother. We spent hours later on the beach talking to them. There are some things you can’t explain and I think our chemistry was one of them. Obviously so. Jairo and I debated over politics and philosophy, sipping cervezas while watching the sun set. We met up for dinner later on. The next day, Kim and I toured Isla Ballestas with its penguins, sea lions and bird colonies. Who did we run into later at the beach? Jairo. I said I might be in Holland in December so he gave me his number and said I could stay with him. I bring this up because like many people, I struggle with vulnerability. It was much too soon. It was temporary but permanent. I realized it’s not commitment issues I struggle with, but trust issues. I can’t let guys in because there’s a part of me that doesn’t want to relinquish control. I don’t want to get hurt even if it means giving up possible love and romance. Vulnerability is hard. Myself, I’m still running away. From what? From who? I’m not so sure yet.