After Machu Picchu, the end weighed heavily. The end of a memorable expedition, the end of uniquely coalesced band of companions. The end of sea sickness, altitude sickness, and Montezuma’s revenge. We were exhausted and dreading a 36 hour journey home. We spent several comfortable hours touring Lima by motor coach, visiting the obligatory cathedrals and the tomb of old man Pizarro. But our thoughts had already turned toward home: a familiar bed, more Spartan meals, and less hectic days.

The half of our group who had started as strangers had developed comfortable friendships. We moved from train to bus to airplane with seasoned and weary grace. We looked after one another like a protective tribe.

 What do I take away from my first adventure south of the Equator? Besides increased knowledge and historical context, images of unsurpassed beauty and the tastes, smells, and textures of South America, I am keenly aware of new possibilities. Previously, my travel destinations were limited to northern climes. Not a fan of heat, I wrote off locations near the equator or anywhere that I perceived to be hot. It’s as if I just discovered the benefits of a sun bonnet. I now know that I won’t melt like Hershey’s milk chocolate. And seasons can mitigate the worst of the climactic discomfort. (Although a trusted Indian friend who knows me pretty well admitted that there is probably no place or season in his country that I would tolerate. This is a pity because I love Indian food and the culture and ecosystems fascinate me.)

Several of my travel companions on this trip have traveled to various parts of the African continent and they assured me that they were no more uncomfortable In Kenya, Tanzania, and South Africa than they were on this trip. So…I can do it! Yes I can!

Lima, Peru

Now, the limiting factor is merely financial. Merely. Okay— motivation to push my writing business. I also need to explore more inexpensive travel strategies—service travel, for example. And some day, when I’m no longer tied down by the guilt of abandoning my poor kitty, I will extend the length of my ventures. I miss having the opportunity to just sit and soak up a place, to observe and engage with its people. Someday I will lock the house, shoulder my pack, and use my open-ended ticket to fly away and stay away for as long as my foot itches, to head for whatever destination looks interesting, to leave the schedules and agendas behind. Life is amazing and I’m blessed to be healthy enough to enjoy it in unlimited ways.

If you haven’t had enough, you can find more photos of my trip at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rangewriter/collections/   There you will find the too many photos I took of a children’s parade in downtown Cusco.