Now we can almost laugh about it

I find this time of year there is always a lot a reflecting going on and so I’m opting to share a story from NYE 2008 with you all.

2008 the year we sold our house, bought a 1987 Westfalia van and began a 4 month trek from Canada to Chile. It was amazing. We felt like we had the wind at our backs gently pushing us along with good fortune. Until we took to the mountains of Peru. December 29, 6 years ago today, we started ascending the mountain side to reach Cusco, celebrate NYE and visit Machu Pichu. Picture perfect plan. We drove up, up, up and spent the night of the 29th in a field on the side of the road at an elevation of nearly 5,000 meters. We should have slept soundly in the fresh cool mountain air but I didn’t even get a wink.

Earlier in the day as the sun was setting we were just cresting a hill and I decided to get out and take a picture of our van with the soft pink sky and slowly jogged about 30ft to take the picture unknowingly trotting back to jump into the passenger’s seat. Except by the time I got to the door I couldn’t catch my breath, my skull immediately felt too small for my brain at the high altitude the small jaunt cost me a day of migraine headache, my first ever. I was down for the count.

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We had to keep going, we had a hostel reservation for Cusco and didn’t exactly know how to get there we rolled into a larger size town where we solicited a few different routes from various Peruvians and opted for the “shorter” one through the mountains rather than the boring mindless highway driving with the promise of just a couple of hours to our destination. Yup did we ever get fooled a few hours journey turned into almost2 days. It may just have been the longest 2 days of our lives during the trip. In the end we spent the night of December 30, again in a field, in the smallest of villages on the side of the mountain and just before falling asleep we whispered to each other our wishes for NYE. “I just want to be happy and have fun” I said.

We awoke December 31 to sounds of low chatter coming from villagers surrounding our van. A group of 5-6 locals had come to check us out when the sun rose. Ricardo stepped out the greet them and garnered an invitation from a local mother of 5.

We gladly accepted as we were slightly unprepared with the little amount of food we had stashed. Inside her stone hut with mud floor and thatched roof we humbly sat on small stools while guinea pigs were herded by the children to their pen nearby. We graciously accepted a warm breakfast of rice milk porridge and boiled potatoes breathing a secret sigh of relief they didn’t feel it necessary to slaughter a guinea pig on our behalf. Thankfully Ricardo’s first language is spanish and the family was able to easily converse with us, the mother explaining her husband worked away from home, her youngest difficulties with Down Syndrome and her dreams for her children in the future. Afterwards she showed us their cow and demonstrated milking it for fresh milk. We scrounged the van for presents to present to each of the children and the mother feeling it was a woefully inadequate gesture given the hospitality they had just shown us.

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Hopping into the van and waving goodbye with our full, warm tummies NYE was turning out to be a truly unforgettable experience.

Except the van wouldn’t start. Ok, no problem we’ve been here before, frankly several times by this point in the trip, we can handle it. Looking around however it seemed the village was in fact just a few huts and even fewer vehicles but word quickly spread of our predicament and soon we had an offer of a “tow truck.” Nervously I sat in the passenger’s seat as Ricardo negotiated with a driver to tow our van, in neutral, behind his truck with a 3ft piece of rope down the side of the mountain. When he hoped back in the van to review the plan with me the look in his eyes that said “I love you. I’m not sure we’ll make it out alive but it’s the best I can do.” Deep breath.

When we finally reach the bottom of the mountain it was late afternoon but our plan of reaching Cusco to ring in the new year seemed just in reach. Up and running again our heart rates returning to normal we continued our journey by highway onto Cusco. Just after 11pm we reach our final destination picking up a hitch hiker along to way to guide us to our hostel location. Triumphant and exhausted we checked into our hostel room Ricardo leaving me with the bags and the promise of quick return after finding somewhere to park the van overnight.

Not a moment later a knock on the door turns my life momentarily upside down. Expecting my husband I’m confronted with hostel staff grabbing my bags and pushing me out the door. Minutes later Ricardo returns sensing something’s wrong by the look on my confused and utterly astonished face, I think I simply shrugged. We had been unceremoniously evicted as another couple had shown up to also claim the hostel’s last room. Apparently possession is not 9/10ths of the law in Peru.

Just before midnight we are standing in the dark outside in the rain in an unfamiliar city with no shelter for the night and all around us is young travelers joyously milling about outside cafes and restaurants enjoying their libations only arm’s length away. I broke. Tears streamed down my face as Ricardo frantically went from hotel to hotel desperately trying to save the night.

We ended up in a dingy, sleeping on top of the covers kinda place with street vendor hot dogs in hand, me sobbing, him consoling, finally just curling up together giving in to the emotional roller coaster of the day and finally letting the exhaustion sweep over us.

Thankfully in the light of a sunny new day, some sound sleep and a decent cup of coffee the horror of NYE 2008 faded quickly into our history and thus began 2009.

So friends in the words of Glennon Melton “A good day is a good day. A bad day is a good story. At the end of the day it’s all good.” Something we have certainly learned along the way.

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