A Pair of Turtles


This blog entry about the events of Thursday, December 18, 2003 was originally posted on December 20, 2003.

DAY 61: I was writing a rough draft in the rooftop cafe of the Lima hostel early in the morning when two new pet animals, a pair of turtles, wandered in and walked under the tables and chairs.  It took sometime for the turtles to get anywhere.

AS TRAVELING IN PAIRS is often beneficial, Lara and I traveled together for the day.  Like the turtles, we traveled with big heavy packs on our backs.

We went out for breakfast at a corner cafe and discussed our individual itineraries over non-corporate iced moccaccinos.  While Lara was set on going the eight hours straight to Nazca, I debated on whether I should go the three hours to Pisco, namesake of the famous regional white grape brandy and tourism base of the marine life-rich Paracas National Reserve; or Ica, a city one hour farther surrounded by massive sand dunes and pisco brandy vineyards.  As any seasoned traveler knows, you must realize that the world is just too big and you can’t see everything with time and money constraints, and you have to choose one and sacrifice the other.  Having done the Galapagos already, I opted for Ica — which meant I could continue to travel with Lara since Ica was her bus’ first major stop anyway.

We checked out of the Hotel España and got a cab to take us to the TEPSA terminal.  (Unlike Ecuador, in Peru there is no central bus terminal and each company operates out of their own building.)  Our taxi driver was Reynald, an out-of-work engineer that drove the taxi to make a living.  Initially he thought I was from Argentina.

I sat in front and struck up a conversation with him.  He was impressed at: the fact that I could learn so much Spanish is such a short period of time; and the fact that I guy like me was traveling with a chica like Lara.  Reynald was a nice guy and we had no car problems, probably because we never got on the highway to Miraflores.

“THE BRITISH ARE KNOWN TO BE notoriously bad at learning new languages,” Lara once told me.  In her years of traveling to other countries, she had more or less just gotten by with English and hand gestures.  Using my two-month acquired Spanish, I bought tickets for the both of us while Lara observed and learned.  In the waiting room there was a menu of a restaurant and Lara tried to decipher any familiar words.

“Pollo.  Chicken.  I know that one,” she said.  That was the only one.  Luckily for her, someone had given her a book as a going away gift with just pictures of useful things, so she could just open it up and point.

IT WAS ONLY US TWO and a nice Woman In A Blue Shirt on the bus when we left the station thirty minutes late.  Half an hour wasn’t too bad until we stopped at other TEPSA stations in the greater Lima area to either get more passengers or just wait around for no apparent reason.  Waiting around does different things to different people.  For me, I just got sleepy while Lara had a craving for beans.  The Woman In The Blue Shirt was too hot in the bus and asked me to watch her things while she waited outside, which I did.

It wasn’t until about four in the afternoon that we got back on the road, three hours later than we had anticipated.  Like the pair of turtles, it took a while to get anywhere.

THE BUS CRUISED DOWN the PanAmerican highway, hugging the Andes at times, hugging the coast at others.  Scenery switched from mountains to sand dunes (picture above) to lush farmlands.  The bus stopped occasionally to drop off or pick up people in seemingly random places in the middle of nowhere.  Groups of men would board and stand in the aisle and stare at Lara.

“They all stare at the crazy white girl,” she told me.

“Oh just you wait until I get off at Ica.  One will probably sit here next to you.”

Her strategy was to just lose herself in her headphones.

IT WAS NIGHTTIME by the time we arrived at Ica city limits, but we wouldn’t go into town without a mandatory meal stop at a rest area.  Lara and I had skipped lunch and were starving.  We looked for something on the menu that wasn’t fried.  I taught her a new word, chaufa (Chinese fried rice) which she got excited about and wrote down in her book.  “Chaufa… de… pollo… Chicken… fried… rice…”

It took about 25 minutes for our food to arrive, which wasn’t a good thing since we were only to be at the rest area for half an hour.  The only person we recognized from our bus was The Woman In The Blue Shirt, and we took turns keeping an eye on her motions since the bus was out of sight.  We thought that we might have been okay on time until The Woman In The Blue Shirt came running in, waving to us that the bus was about to leave.  We ran to her and smile, thanking her for getting us.  Without her, we might have been stranded without our bags.  Ah, the drama and excitement of independent travel.

“When you’re alone, you sort of have to keep an eye on everything,” Lara said with experience.  “But when you are with someone, you look out for each other and…”

“...wait for The Woman In The Blue Shirt to come get you,” I interjected.

BY NINE O’CLOCK we were in central Ica, and I bid my mate Lara goodbye — hopefully only for the time being — leaving an empty seat for any of the twenty or so people boarding the bus.  I got my bag and walked around for a hostel near the main plaza.  Most people were less interested in the new guy in town with his big nylon “turtle shell” because they were all too fixated on the big soccer game on all the TVs.  (Later I found out that the Peruvian team Cienciano del Cusco had won the 2003 South America Cup.  Instead of parties in the streets, there was just a lot of annoying car honking.)

Next entry: Sweet, Sour and Sandy

Previous entry: The Taxis of Miraflores

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Comments for “A Pair of Turtles”

  • Woohoo…back with a camera hook up…  sober too…  Some amazing pictures coming your way, as soon as I finish the write up…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  02:22 PM

  • hah, that lara girl is weird in craving beans when she is waiting. that is pretty funny. you should track her down later. is she single? i think you should go for her. =) and the chaufa, is that word in spanish? cause it sounds chinese. though in chinese, there is an n at the end of fa. more like chaufan. fan = cooked rice.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  02:40 PM

  • Ugh, more computer whoas in Ica…  I just lost a bunch of things I wrote because something happened in the save…  grrr…  sorry for the delay.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  02:49 PM

  • Hey Erik,  Curious as to what the temp is, and I assume humid??
    Also think you should hook up with Laura, seems like a nice girl!!


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  03:43 PM

  • Brenda:  Temperature is upper 80s today… not so humid since I am in the desert.

    Lara’s great—her email name is actually Lara Croft—our itineraries don’t really match up since she is off to do the Inca Trail and I’ve done it already, but I’ll see what I can do…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/20  at  04:35 PM

  • Yeah Erik, you should go for her! (I love how we’ve all read 2 sentances about Lara and we are already picking out the ideal destination wedding spot!)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/21  at  03:28 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by BootsnAll.com. It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
Sweet, Sour and Sandy

Previous entry:
The Taxis of Miraflores


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