When you arrive in Peru, or preferably before you even leave your house, let go of the need to adhere strictly to THE PLAN. In place of the tightly scheduled itinerary plotting your every move, write the words “roll with it” on a piece of paper (I think Buddhist philosophy refers to this way of thinking as samsara, or “flow”) – and your stress level during your much deserved, once in a lifetime vacation will be dramatically reduced. Why? Because if you hold on to the need to have every leg of your journey arrive on time, and proceed without hiccups, you may find that your hair is standing on end by day 2, and you’ll miss a lot of unexpected adventures; you’ll miss a lot of FUN. Or, at least I would have missed out on a lot of fun if I was stressed by the number of times a planned outing turned in to an entirely different type of adventure.
This past weekend was a prime example of putting every cliche you can think of along the lines of ‘turn that frown upside down’ in to action. A friend invited me for a leisurely few days of camping and canoeing on the Apurimac River, just a chance to relax and enjoy the amazing beauty of the place. That trip was canceled, rescheduled, and canceled again within the space of 12 hours. In its place my friend suggested taking the local bus to Calca, and from there hiring a car to take us up to the “Sacred Door” pass at approximately 4,300mt/14,100ft so we could enjoy the glorious effects of gravity during a 28km mountain bike descent to Lares Hot Springs. We would get a room in a hostel, soak in the springs, and get up in the morning for a massive single track mission that involved 4 hours of uphill travel, carrying the bikes for much of the way (I was planning on finding the nearest horsemen to schlep the Heckler – I’ve learned my lesson on previous impossibly long uphill bike portages), before descending some of the best single track mountain biking Peru has to offer. Good plan, plenty of fun to be had, right?
Right, if there wasn’t an unexpected road closure 5KM out of Calca. Technically the road has been closed for months, but cars were allowed to pass through when the road work equipment was out of the way at scheduled times…one of which had previously been noon. Apparently, that has changed.
So, instead of a cruisey car ride up to the pass we got a guy with a pick up to take us and our bikes 5KM up a 25KM climb, unloaded our gear, and began the long grind of an uphill. Long story short, it took somewhere around 4 hours of uphill pedaling against the wind and inclement weather that tends to hang around peaks at 14,000ft in the rainy season before we began the downhill (which felt like a trip to paradise at that point). We soaked and ate like it was our last meal that night, and I was told to prepare for a 5AM wake up and a long day of climbing. This is where I was glad my internal monologue has a filter.
Fortunately, I was saved by a heavy rainstorm that would have made the planned single track miserable to ride. Instead, I gratefully returned to the hot springs for another soak and paid the hostel owner 60 soles to drive us back up to the start of the previous day’s downhill. Our descent back to Calca was actually on an old Inca road and single track that flowed smoothly down the mountain, along a river, into a canyon, and down some very lovely, evenly spaced stairs. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole way.
For all the road blocks and unexpected turns in the weekend, it was one hell of a good time.
So, when your bus arrives late because of a spontaneous transportation strike, or a llama crossing has you stopped in your tracks, remember that you’re in an incredibly beautiful place and it will all work out – even if it’s not on the itinerary.