This is one of my journal entries from my time spent in Peru after hiking the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu and traveling by bus down to Puno where we visited the floating islands
el 17 de noviembre
On the way back from Puno traveling to Cuzco, I was able to see a lot more of the countryside than the straightaway bus we had taken the first time. I’m really glad we chose and were able to take this particular trip. I feel I got to see a lot more of the “real” Peru, minus tourist sites (though we went to a couple) and cities. On the way, I could not stop staring out the window @ what was passing by.
Shepherds, a cemetery resting by the side of the highway, beautiful landscape, abandoned Inca style homes and those which were inhabited, people in traditional Peruvian clothes going about their daily lives, children playing soccer, artesanos and people who take photos with tourists as their “job” trying to make their livings, farmers, etc etc
So many of these people I saw and encountered lead such drastically different lives than I do. We have no idea how it is to lead each others’ lives and of course, this makes us curious about each other. I’m so glad I continue to be able to experience and meet people who are so unlike myself, or most of my friends. I find myself challenging my own thoughts/beliefs internally. For example, I was put off by the woman on one of the floating islands trying to get tips simply from us being there. Ang and Barb were very confrontational with some of the people who asked for money from us. But I cannot say that I was completely open-minded either. I had to remind myself a couple times to see things from their perspectives.
I cannot imagine asking for a tip from someone simply for being a tourist on their land, or dressing up their child in traditional clothing then hustling people for taking pictures of her. It’s not that I think it’s inherently wrong, (though it’s a bit awkward, especially when they ask for more) it’s simply that that’s something I probably will not ever have to experience.
I really channeled Che Guevara on his journeys through South America. Reading his book, watching the movie and simply imagining myself in his shoes, I really felt a similar experience in Machu Picchu and on the bus ride back from Puno to Cuzco. The civilized world always thinks of itself as so advanced and calls any previous peoples “primitive” yet some of the still-working(!) aquaducts, huge temples, and their advances in science, mathematics, astronomy, medicine, etc are simply amazing.
What I really admired from our porters, chef and guides (All Peruvians) on the Inca Trail was their ability to work hard while still having fun, play hard, and always be cheerful. I feel that most Americans, or westerners for that matter in the position of carrying giant backpacks up a strenuous trail at high altitudes (I don’t care how many times they’ve done it, I bet it’s still hard!) on a deadline, then setting up camp, cooking us dinner, cleaning up, being up before everyone the next morning, cleaning up, packing up and doing the same four days in a row, four times a month would not be as happy and would resent the people hiking the trail and most likely quit. Some of the guys were in their 40s and 50s, one was in his early 60s! I admire them so much for their inner and outer strength and happiness despite numerous hardships.
Che wrote in his journals Diarios de Motocicleta/ Motorcycle Diaries:
¿Cómo sería América hoy si las cosas hubieran sido diferentes?”… ” ¿Cómo es posible que sienta nostalgia por un mundo que no conocí?”
(translated) “How would America be today if things had been different? How is it possible to feel nostalgia for a world I never knew?”
We can never really know, but would we treat Pachu Mama (mother earth) better? Would we respect our fellow brothers, sisters and elders more? Use less and make less waste? Make more time for friends and family? Would we think before judging others? Would we criticize less and try to understand more? Would we be less of a consumer culture? What else would the Incas accomplished had the Spanish not decimated them? How would our world be different?
I also felt the feeling of nostalgia and a sense of kinship for a world I’ve never known, and also the one I am beginning to know in South America.