My feelings about returning home from South America were quite complicated, a strange mix of sadness and anticipation, of struggle and apprehension. I expected to stay with the group for four months but came back home after three. I was clear about this decision and yet apprehensive about re-adjusting to my previous life. My trip so completely consumed me, I was so immersed in day-to-day challenges that home now seemed distant and even strange. This is how it all fell out.
On our second day in Cusco, now in possession of all our luggage, getting acclimated to the altitude and with one 1/2 day tour under our belt, we were ready for our 2-day overnight excursion to the Sacred Valley and the iconic Machu Picchu.
Machu Picchu sign in Aguas Calientes
I first visited Lima, Peru in 2008 for an AMCIS conference and afterward took a short, 2-day trip to Cusco and Machu Picchu. I might not have gone again in March but my son Eric was interested and it was a way for us to celebrate his upcoming birthday together. I must say, it was all “lovelier the second time around”!
Pachamama smiling down on the Earth
Peru has it all — modern cities, rich history, ancient ruins, beautiful topography, geographic wonders, diverse ecosystems, and renown gastronomy. It boasts ocean beaches, desert, mountains, lush valleys, and a piece of the Amazon jungle. My first visit in 2008 was for a business conference and much too brief. This time I stayed an entire month, able fully enjoy the city and go on some awe-inspiring excursions.
February, the second month of my adventure, was l-o-n-g. To say our accommodations were lacking would be diplomatic and kind. Decrepit and malfunctioning would be more like it. Pangea196 really messed up on this one. My room-mate and I just bucked up and made the best of it with grit, determination, and a sense of humor. Despite the daily difficulties, I managed to have some fun and interesting experiences.
Chile was the second destination on my digital nomad tour, and Valparaíso (Valpo) was the intended city. Everything I read about it peaked my interest — words like bohemian, artsy, colorful, and poetic appealed to me. I was looking forward to more street art, more museums, and the iconic elevators that you can ride up the hills.
But that’s not where we stayed. Our program had some housing issues that I never completely understood and my room-mate and I wound up about 6 miles away from the rest of our group in a small rustic cabin in a working-class neighborhood in Viña del Mar.
And, so starts the tale of two cities
Viña flower clock
In the 1980s, Wendy’s famous ad campaign asked “Where’s the beef?” In Argentina, they have plenty of beef, lots and lots of beef, as well as pork and lamb. The question to ask instead is “Where’s the veggies?”
When eating out in Buenos Aires, finding a vegetable other than salad (arugula, shredded carrots, avocado, and tomatoes) was a real challenge. A typical menu would have several types of grilled carne (beef): Bife de Chorizo, Ojo de Bife, Bife Angosto, Bife de Costilla. I never did get them straight. If you didn’t specify jugoso (juicy), it was always done medium-well. Most portions are generous, big enough to share. It’s a matter of national pride. You’d often see the big parrillas (grills) with men cooking large amounts of meat showcased on the street or in an open window. Their local rock stars!