Hostel stories from Barranco

There is an Australian from western Sydney, with short thick and tangled light brown or blonde hair, and she has travelled in Peru four months.

Next she goes to the dominican. I do not know much about her. She is a mystery, and I am happy to keep her as one of those mysterious characters.

She cracked up at the breakfast table when the Venezualan next to me held a knife in a scary pose and I drawled, “you call that a knife?” The Australian laughed harder after the Venezualan laughed before realising she did not get the reference. (Croc Dundee mate).

Tintin’s The Prisoners of the Sun was the first Tintin I ever read and was set in Peru. He was a huge inspiration in my life. This is the book set before Prisoners. A sign?

The Venezualan is a movie maker, and she writes her first movie. She wants it to be about World War 2 and to be filmed in France, but there is a unique twist or point of view to it that I find interesting. I won’t spoil it for her, for it is her story to tell, not mine.

With English words that challenge her we talk of life and teaching. She taught film to students and loved it. They miss her. She said we make a difference to our students’ lives.

“It is lonely sometimes, here,” I said. “I not speak Spanish well so it is great to talk to people with great English. It means a lot.

“So when I teach English to students I think that one day they will make a difference in the lives of the next strangers to visit Peru. They might save that person’s life. I am paying it forward.”

She frowned at the loneliness part and wanted me to clarify, and then acknowledged this…”you are here to find youself, she said.

“You are here to….oh, what is the word?” She turned to the man at the end of the table and asked him a question in Spanish.

“Recognise,” he said.

“Yes,” she faced me again and grinned. “You are here to recognise yourself.”

She asks how old I am and like everyone else seems so surprised I am 28. Everyone thinks i am younger. “How old do you think I am?” She asks.

A dangerous game to play with a woman who held a knife minutes before, but I guess 27. Then she asks the French Canadian next to us. He looks like he could be a professor, with his quiet mannerism and accent and round rim glasses, except for the tattoos on his arm.

“You paid the ticket, enjoy the ride,” his right arm tells me in grim cursive. His beard is surprisingly thick while being so short, and he guesses she is 24. But she is 30.

The French canadian is my age. We reflect on how everyone we travel with seems to be a lot younger than us. We met the night before when he came up excitedly to say, ‘I hear there is an Aussie here!”

He is planning to visit the country next year to do the harvest trails and picking cherries. He is going to Tasmania.

Boys don’t cry. But men do.

Then there is the couple who shared my room. He was born in South Africa and has brighter blue eyes than I do, but has spent his time in Holland, and was ranked as a captain in the military. She made her money from modelling but wanted to do something different, and to keep her money lasting ventured into pet sitting. She is beautiful and I can see someone that in the 20s might have owned a few catwalks or the cameras attention, but has over time gained softer features without losing her beauty.

There is an elegance to her in the hostel without it being over the top glamour. She wears a sun dress while the rest of us lounge about in jeans and v-necks.

They have travelled across South America for six months together on their motorbikes, but one of them was confiscated at the Bolivian border. They made a trailer for their second bike in Argentina to carry everything.

Life, they say, is a challenge together in the extreme conditions, having previously only seen each other on their weekends, but if they can make it together then they know they can last.

“We have seen everything,” she says, talking about their closeness. They leave for Los Angeles that night to hike more trails further in the north. “The trail we are walking was in a movie called Wild,” she explained.

Military helps him with the outdoors and sensing what does not feel right, but while life is at its most extreme for her right now, is efficient at organising and planning ahead.

“She is my Lietenant,” the captain said proudly, and they seem pleased when I call them the Guerillas.

“Goodbye,” I said to them, once dreaming to do what they could do but now knowing I just did not have the interest or the courage or the willingness to cut ties from certain comforts. “I am jealous of what you have been doing and what you are about to do.”

And there was a glow in their blue eyes, as if I had reminded them of something.

The Bridge of Sighs

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BARRANCO. If I had more time than a few hours I might have written a short story here. The old elegant houses through the light fog, the occasional volkswagon, the murals and statues, and the clifftop overlooking the ocean.

My friend Lutie (listen to a drunken interview of Lutie) gave me a quick introduction and as we passed a beautiful church with a damaged roof I could see a bridge, with a pathway underneath through a lane among an occasional cactus and bar.

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“This is the Bridge of Sighs,” he said. “You make a wish and if you walk across the bridge without breathing in or out then it comes true.”

There was something electric about the genuine belief I had as I stepped on that bridge as if I was six again – feeling that sacred magic when blowing out my birthday cake candles.

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I walked ahead of the couple with the cute dog. I walked past the vendors. Halfway across the timber bridge my chest tightened. Three quarters across I was uncomfortable but I did not speed up too much. At the end I expelled my air and breathed in again with some relief.

Lutie soon caught up. “You only get one wish,” he explained when I asked if he did it as well.

“And you cannot tell anyone what it was or it will not come true.”

….