Most long term travelers have in the back of their minds a fantasy of a place that they imagine they could find themselves getting stuck in. These fantasy scenarios often include opening up a hostel or some other small business to sustain a lifestyle abroad. As we travel through city after city we have come across a great number of people who have done just that and turned their fantasy into a reality. Travelers just like us who decided to pull the trigger and give it a shot. Would we, Jill and I, be capable of doing this? What typically comes quickly after one of us poses that question is admitting to ourselves that living that far away from home would be difficult to say the least. Nevertheless, no more than 48 hours into Peru and we found ourselves brainstorming about our fantasy with a significantly greater amount of earnestness.
We entered into Peru through the proverbial backdoor. Ecuador said its goodbye with a fierce stretch of road right before the border town of Zumba. The mud was so deep that at times Caterpillars were towing busses and two wheel drive vehicles through the worst sections one at a time. The roads didn’t cause any problems for Marge, however she did collect some mud on her tires that when dried caused one of the break pads to freeze up. A little splash of water was all it took to relieve our worries that something more serious had taken place. The benefit to entering into a new country through the backdoor is short lines at border. We were into our 13th country in less than 45 minutes making record time for a border crossing. We had prepared ourselves for a long stretch of bad road before hitting Jaen and were pleasantly surprised that the Peruvian government had begun paving that stretch of road and a considerable bit was smooth sailing.
We left the dusty tuk tuk ridden town of Jaen and headed towards the region of Chachapoyas where we intended on bringing in the New Year. When we hit the river valley east of Bagua Grande and then started to head south along the banks of the Rio Utcubamba the terrain was awe inspiring. The road at times was carved out of the steep granite walls that rose abruptly from the river shore. Right in the midst of rainy season the river was bulging at its seams slowly eroding everything in its path. With few intentions in mind we ended up in the tiny little town of San Pablo a starting off pointfor Gocta Falls, the worlds third tallest waterfall by some measures. It was here that the friendliness of every wave and salutation caught our attention. We have met an unbelievable amount of friendly strangers along our journey but here in this tiny little hamlet it was extraordinary. At the recommendation of the one police officer in town we camped right in the middle of the plaza where we would have an easy early morning departure to the falls.
On our way down from San Pablo, on the slopes overlooking the river valley and the surrounding mountains we passed a small plot of land with a for sale sign. We were so caught up in the magic of that small town that we were half tempted to stop and ask how much they wanted. Were it not for an irrational thought that made it seem like any inquiry would be a form of commitment we would have found our van slowing to a halt. Although we didn’t stop that didn’t prevent our imaginations from working our way through the details of a 5 year plan. It’s easy for us to imagine, that if our priorities were only slightly different we could quickly be swept away by one of these dreams. The romanticism of starting a life in a completely different and untouched place is intoxicating. Just thinking about designing a life without any presuppositions provides one with a sense of liberation. However, for us reality inevitably sets in. What we would be required to give up for such a lifestyle is far too much. The thought of future birthdays, holidays, graduations, anniversaries and the simple process of growing old with the ones we love invariably causes the romanticism to fade.