Airport in Lima, the arrival terminal.
I’d been in the capital of Peru for a week now, but I didn’t like it very much. It was cold, foggy and gloomy. The city is big, overcrowded and noisy. There was no doubt that I would’ve been gone long ago if Marija weren’t supposed to land every minute now.
It is really funny, when you think about it, how I came to the other side of the world to wait for a girl I’d met a month ago in middle of Zagreb. However, that wasn’t the only reason why I was here: I’d had the ticket in my pocket long before I met her that day. However, I couldn’t know that after a few walks down the streets of Zagreb she would have one in her pocket, too.
I tried to think of the reasons of my departure and arrival to South America. In those few months spent at home I thought about it quite a lot and managed to come up with a couple of them.
Although I was a bit tired of all that travelling I truly felt that Zagreb was smothering me. I felt as I was captivated. I was back to the old routine, old habits, surrounded by the same old way of thinking. I felt as if I weren’t moving, as if I weren’t growing, which didn’t happen while I was on the road. I was aware that I could easily switch to the “road“ way of thinking even when I was at home, but why should I, when it was way easier go back on the road.
Still, I had to change my style of travelling; my tactics. I had the most beautiful memories and experiences of my first 540 days of travelling exactly of those places where I’ve been for a couple of weeks. That meant that I had to slow things down a bit. Stay for a while. Dig deeper. I know, you could dig deeper even in Zagreb, but still. I’ve dug deep enough.
Language. Asia and Africa do hold a special place in my memories, but I’ve always felt there like a stranger. The one who doesn’t belong there. The obvious differences between the local people and me put aside, the language was a great barrier. My Spanish is okay, so the language shouldn’t be such a problem in South America, especially since there are a bunch of countries where everyone speaks the same language. It’s quite different from India or Africa where every district has a different, unique language.
Amazon. Jungle. It is one of those rare places that really attract me and where I would love to go. Maybe even live in a tribe and give myself over to the hands of Mother Nature; maybe even work on some spiritual experiences…Ayahuasca? Yes.
And all those are excellent reasons for coming here. They get even better when I know I will have someone with me.
Headphones in the ears: I was playing the game “which song will be playing when I see her?” and observing the automatic slide doors opening and closing while a number of passengers who are either coming or returning to Peru are passing through.
I listened to a few songs. And then another few songs.
A new one starts with a familiar intro. It is one of my favourite ones. I remembered Christmas Island and observing the open sea. The waiting process, just like now. Except that then I was waiting for a sailing boat to sail across the Indian Ocean. Now, I´m waiting for a girl to travel South America with.
„Any minute now, my ship is coming in…“
And of course, in that very same moment the doors opened and I saw a familiar face. Eye contact. Smile. A smile that broadened when I think of the song title. A hug. We got into a taxi that would take us to our first home in Peru.
How are you? – I decided to start the conversation with the most original question in the world.
Lost. Confused. – she answered, obviously quite tired of two days spent in airplanes and in airports.
How come? – I replied with a serious face. I mean, we met a month ago and you’ve had the whole ten days to leave your life in Croatia, buy a one-way ticket, get on a plane, fly to the other part of the world to meet with a man you barely know, carrying only a backpack.
She smiled. That was always a good sign.
Nathalie, our host whom I’ve come across CouchSurfing site welcomed us along with her mother Nina and Andrey, another CSer from Ukraine. We talked both in English and in Spanish, ate, drank and laughed. Nathalie generously gave us her room and moved to her brothers´. We couldn’t have wished for a better introduction, a better first impression, and a better first South American family.
The following day Mare and I took a walk around gloomy Lima and discussed our next move and destination. The only thing we were certain of was that we wanted to go somewhere warmer and sunnier.
There were three options that appealed to us the most: Cusco (that is Machu Picchu), Pucallpa (better yet a village 6 hours awayfrom Pucallpa, in the middle of jungle where I had the contact info of a shaman whom I’d come across a CS girl who had been his apprentice for a number of years now) and Mancora (a popular tourist destination in north – sun, beach, sand and stuff like that; we had the opportunity to volunteer there in a vegetarian hotel in exchange for food and accommodation).
It didn’t take us much time to come up with an agreement: we would leave Machu Picchu for later, when we decide to go toward the south of the continent in the spring; we would visit the shaman in the jungle only when we’ve improved our Spanish (English wouldn’t be of a much use there); so, we were going to north! We sent an e-mail to the owner of the hotel saying that she could expect in a few days, depending on how much luck we would have with hitchhiking.
We walked around Lima, visited the historical part of the city, Miraflores, the waterfront, the colourful open markets and decided to end that day on a bench with a bottle of red wine. Smiling.
We couldn’t imagine that that bench where we would come back the following day would be the scene of my first negative experience since I’d started travelling.
No! – Marija screamed as three guys snuck up behind our back swiftly snitching our backpacks that were resting on the bench and vanishing as we watched them in shock.
I instinctively got up and ran after them losing all the faith in the humanity I’d been carefully building all those years of my wandering around the world. I was confused and the only thing I knew was that I was in an awkward situation, that I had a strange feeling in my stomach and that I was chasing three guys that wanted what was ours.
Heeeey! – I shouted as loud as I could, words that should be understandable in every language. I thought that someone of the random passers-by would help me, stop the thieves; do something.
We ran through the abandoned market: those three guys and I. I felt that I was catching up on them.
Motherf***ers!!! – I really don’t curse a lot, especially since, God forbid, I don’t want my parents to hear/read it, but that time it came out of me so heartily, instinctively, fluently, completely naturally. Someone would say that I use it in my every day speech.
But the best part was that – it worked! The slowest of the three thieves, the one holding Marija’s backpack, obviously scared by the curse in a foreign language that came right behind him threw the prey on the road and suddenly turned left separating from his friends.
Rookie, I thought, if he had made that turn with a backpack in his hands it would have been his. I would’ve carried on running after mine since I thought that there were only a few books and some vegetables bought that morning in Marija’s backpack. We had a small fortune in my backpack: a laptop and a camera. And a very delicious candy.
I ran by her backpack, convinced that she was behind me and that she’d pick it up in a few seconds. I had to do the other half of the job.
The thief without the pray in his hands turned right leaving me faced with the back of the fastest among them. The leader of the group. The man. The boss. The one who didn’t show any intention of dropping my backpack. He was some ten meters in front of me.
I kept on shouting as loud as I could all the while hoping that someone would stop him while he was leaving the market and stepping on the street. Turning hard right. I was after him.
In the very moment I was turning hard right, my poor body, unaccustomed to that kind of leg-work, lost the balance and I fell flat on my face in the middle of the street.
The fall was sensational. If there was somebody to tape it and upload it on the Internet there would be a bunch of people laughing their face off. Some of them would even maybe slow it down; rewind it only to admire the grace of the movement.
I got up from the asphalt, raised my head only to see the kleptomaniac open someone’s yard gate and go inside.
The rest of the story you can read it in the next post.
Lame, exhausted and still in a state of a shock, I ran after him brusquely opening the brass gate. A girl was standing inside. She was about ten. She had to see which way he went.
¿Donde está? – I asked her slowly and gently, caressing her face.
The girl started crying. Maybe I wasn’t that gentle and kind after all. I may have shouted a bit with a crazy look on my face.
I left her there and got into the first house still with a crazy look on my face.
¿Quién? – the people who lived there asked me quite shocked.
I left that house and entered the next one since by the look on their faces I really thought they knew nothing and also given my lousy Spanish I didn’t know how to say ‘thief’, ‘backpack’, or anything else that could help me.
The yard was closed from all fours sides, surrounded by 3 or 4 houses and full of half-ruined rooms. He had some 15 seconds of advantage so he could’ve gone either way.
I entered another few rooms, I interrupted people in the afternoon siesta, without any success in finding that guy.
There was a decent crowd outside. I saw Marija standing there. Without the backpack. I told her to go to the market and get the backpack since it was somewhere on the floor. I got back to the yard. Everyone was there. A couple of families. The girl who was crying. I apologized to her, that time with a gentle and soft voice. A security guy called the cops. Marija came back with the backpack on her back. Somebody picked it up on the market and gave it back to her. The faith in the human race was restored, at least some of it. A bit more when I found out that she had her passport, her ID, and a couple of hundred dollars she had with herself. Huh.
As expected there was no sign of the thief. Many cops came, we snooped around a bit, everyone knew those kids, but what could we do? The police station. Reports. All those stupid things.
All you had in the backpack was laptop and a camera? – the cop asked me as he was finishing the report.
And a candy bar. – I said with a sad look on my face.
On our way back home I thought about everything that had happened. I was sad for losing my stuff; for how those guys behaved. I was sorry because of everything.
But I stopped. I tried to see the things from a different perspective. Was there any use in feeling sorry for myself? No. Will I find any reason if I rethink and relive it all from the start? No.
The only thing I could do was – believe. Believe that there was a reason: the reason I’d find out somewhere in the future. All I could do was guess, and there was no use in guessing either. At least, I’d learnt my lesson going through all that. Maybe exactly this lesson will bring me something in my life. Or prevent me of losing something much more valuable than a laptop and a camera.
And a delicious candy.