Now I’m 30 and it’s been eight years since my last proper worldwide backpacking trip, I’m noticing some changes in my approach to travel.
And it’s not just that I need – or desire – more lotions, potions and paraphernalia now; it’s not just that technology has leapt and bounded, demanding that I need to have a laptop, mobile phone, HD video camera, digital camera, tripod, iPod and orthodontic retainers with me… It’s that I just don’t need to follow the well-trodden path anymore. There’s a backpacker flow that occurs the minute you arrive in a hostel on a travellers’ trail. And it’s been hard to resist the current.
It happened to me in Vietnam – somewhere I’d not particularly researched or desired to go, but somehow ended up there during travels in Asia, and spent six weeks slogging the length of the country – without quite knowing why – and not particularly enjoying it.
This time, I vowed to only do what I really want to do; to go to places and do things that I’d always dreamt of. Yet sure enough, within hours of my arrival at HQ Villa Hostel in Lima, I was being told to go on to Huacachina. I admit, maybe I wasn’t being instructed directly, but Huacachina was in the air, the word on everyone’s lips – why, it’s the natural next step after Lima, or is the last place people had been before arriving here.
“Go if you want some sun” advised the Irish girls in my dorm, yet minutes later described how run-down and pointless the place is. Yes, the thought of soaking up some rays after the drizzly cold of Lima’s winter appeals, as does sandboarding – but I intend to do this in the Atacama Desert anyway.
My main aim of visiting Peru is, of course, Cuzco and the ancient sites and beautiful mountains of the Sacred Valley. So why am I now being persuaded to spend my time, money, and more importantly, my energy travelling up the south coast on various lengthy bus journeys inbetween destinations I have no interest in? The Nazca Lines sound boring to me; Arequipa sounds like a lovely city, there are many lovely cities in the world; and the Colca Canyon trek sounds like an absolute nightmare.
One place near Lima does appeal – the Ballestas Islands – apparently mini versions of the Galapagos. I enquired, more to make conversation than anything, at the hostel reception how I would get there, how long to spend there and so on. The British receptionist looked bemused:
“You can go from Huacachina.”
“Ok, but I can go by bus to Pisco and then stay in El Chaco to visit them?”
“Oh, can you? Well you should just go from Huacachina.”
“Hm, well you see I don’t want to go to Huacachina.”
“Oh.” With a look of utter disbelief, and nothing more to say.
I’m going to tramp my own trail.