Travel Stories with Predictable Punchlines: Peru Edition

I am in South America!
To celebrate my first full week of being in Peru (I’m petsitting in an awesome area called Urubamba, about 75 minutes from Machu Picchu), I decided to put together some travel stories with the most predictable outcomes ever. These are all completely real, and all brought to you by this lovely country where they speak a language I do not. Well heck, it sure beats Blizzard Jonas, eh?

My view after hiking my local mountain

My view after hiking my local mountain

Travel Story #1

I was making a sandwich to take on my hike this morning. Because I’m in Peru, nothing is standard. Most notably, the [unrefrigerated and unwrapped when purchased–already a sign of things to come] cheese is blocks of eggshell-colored stuff that has very little taste or texture until grilled or fried. The huge block I bought yesterday was touched far too much by the vendor, then placed directly in a bag. It should come as no surprise, then, when I started cutting slicing into my pan and noticed a hair. Slightly disgusted but not all that shocked, I took it off and decided to go with my other block of cheese in the meantime. I took edible attempt #2 out of the fridge and started slicing.

It also had a hair.

Travel Story #2

Oh, that wasn’t the end of Travel Story #1, you fool. I then made the sandwich and tried to put the cheese ordeal out of my mind by switching to a sweet snack—these delightful popped cereals sold in bags on the street. But this one was different: my neighbor had given me this new type in a nice, fresh, Ziploc bag. I’d eaten 3/4 of the bag in a day because it was so tasty and new. Out with the cheese, in with the crunchy Peruvian street cereal!

The piece of cereal I reached for had dental floss baked into it.

Travel Story #3

Aren’t sheep cool? There are two here at the house. They’re so big, soft, and cuddly.

One of the sheep head-butted a dog, smack-on (and I laughed my head off after running away like a scaredy cat when it started to fluff stampede after me). This was payback to dogs all around the world, perhaps, for earlier in the week when I came home to find the pooch I was watching had ripped through all my bags of precious homemade snacks from America. But then the cat should have had something done, too, because she gifted me a huge dead rat in the bedroom. Isn’t that why I left the city?


Travel Story #4

I was speaking to one of my landlords when I heard a thump and saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was a bird! Not just any bird, but my favorite: a hummingbird! It was stomach-side-up and barely moving, and was about to be eaten by the cat for sure. I didn’t know what else to do but pick it up. It was beautiful, and emerald green, and very on the brink of life or death, if I can get way too dramatic. I held it in my hand and kind of petted it. Then, taking it into my kitchen, I got a big spoon and filled it with sugar water. Amazingly, the hummingbird started sipping with its cute little tongue! Within just a few minutes, it had definitely gotten stronger, and after some more feeding and petting, it flew off! What an awesome experience.

I’m a hero.

The incredible hummingbird, up close

The incredible hummingbird, up close

Travel Story #5

The internet worked here for 1 day. The next day there was an 8-hour power outage, followed by a there-will-never-again-be-internet outage. I was “stealing” the landlord’s in order to do work and waste time on Facebook. No one could figure out why the internet just disappeared, so two days ago, out of curiosity (and with permission), I decided to follow the cord that went from my house to the master modem. I followed it out of my room, onto the porch, through the yard, and into my neighbor’s living room. It ended just hanging in a corner, attached to nothing at all. I told the landlords this was most likely definitely are you nuts? the problem.

No, that’s not the problem,” they said. “The owner of your house only uses wireless, so we unplugged the wire.” (Update: They got someone to come over, rip it out of that house, re-string it, and plug it into the modem in their house, and thus I now have internet.)


Travel Story #6

One of my neighbors here is an older Peruvian gentlemen who is obviously intelligent and speaks English perfectly. He is into the outdoors, having mysterious client meeting, and possibly voiceover work and/or torturing kittens. Seriously, he has a most booming voice.

Anyhow, the other night he stopped by my porch and said, “Kathryn, have you ever tried plant medicine?” Now I don’t know about you, but my mind went directly to Herbalife or a similar pyramid schemed. Seriously, I had to work this spring with a bunch of reps from that company, and the brainwashing was very, very noticeable. If you’re a member, just unfriend me now, I beg you. Anyhow, this dapper Peruvian went on to tell me that it’s actually a hallucinogenic drug from the Peruvian mountains—except he refused to use that simple descriptor and instead kept using words like “mind-altering” and “conscious-awakening” and “safe and regulated medicine.” It’s a drug, dude. “Google it and let’s talk tomorrow. I think it’s a sign from above that you’re awake! I’d be delighted if you joined me.” Anyhow, I looked it up. It involves a Peruvian cactus, a shaman, and all that goodness. The effects last 12-14 hours. If you know me, you know I’m just not into these sorts of things. I’d much rather stay home and do heroin. But it would be neat to document this Peruvian ceremony, no?

Kathryn, let’s talk this morning—you’ve had a chance to read up on the plant medicine?” He asked eagerly the next day. I said I’d chat with him.

Is it true the effects last 12-14 hours?” I asked him. “Oh, well, that depends on how much you drink. But this won’t be like that. I plan to be there only from 3pm until midnight, so you could bring your camera and a book or something.”

I mulled it over but decided that with 4 deadlines in the next few days, I just couldn’t afford 9 hours of watching people do…that. I thanked him anyway and he left at 2:47pm yesterday, on Saturday.

At the time of me publishing this, at 8:39pm on Sunday, January 24, 2016, he still has not returned home.


Travel Story #7

Today I went to the famous terraced salt pans called Selinas de Maras. I left early to avoid the hot afternoon sun, and wore pants, boots, a hat, a sunproof long-sleeve shirt, and lots of suncream on my face. I was really careful the whole day to re-apply, and felt that despite being quite hot, I wasn’t going to have sunburned arms, legs, or facial features. Here’s to being responsible and covering up!

My hands got very burned, and I now have my normal pale exterior and lobster claws.

The Selinas de Maras. I was the first there and arrived from the non-touristy end (or less touristy), so it was great having the whole place to myself! Just for size, those little huts down there can fit about 6 people. These salt pans go on for quite a while.

The Selinas de Maras. I was the first there and arrived from the non-touristy end (or less touristy), so it was great having the whole place to myself! Just for size, those little huts down there can fit about 6 people. These salt pans go on for quite a while.

Until next week’s installment, which will interest Humans of New York fans, stay warm!


Which Island is This Quote From?

Swinging boys on Water Island

I’ve been to so many islands as of late, I’m almost like every other person here: late to everything, flaky with the possibility of even making plans, and very tan. If you count the cancerish darkening of skin where I have repeatedly been burned, I mean. And don’t tell me how I ended my title with a preposition. I know.

Anyhow, to cap my year on islands (not including the Bahamas or St. Martin, where I currently am), let’s play a game: Which island said this?


1 “So I go to all the islands and treat people as a specialty surgeon.” “What’s your specialty?” “I’m a plumber.”

  1. Actual plumber, Bali, Indonesia
  2. Confused medical assistant, Japan
  3. Urologist, Big Island

2 “It never rains the next 5 miles.”

  1. Highly specific weather forecaster, Maui
  2. Pothead barefoot hiker
  3. A resident of the White Desert, Egypt

3 “Which side should I sit on for the best view of the islands?” “Left (motions).” [I saw 0 islands.]

  1. Flight attendant conused about where she was
  2. Light attendant confused about her left vs. right
  3. Flight attendant confused about life

4 “Ma’am, are you looking for mangoes? They aren’t good. Here, have these (Peers over the fence, then hands me several lovely mangoes of a different varietal from his yard).”

  1. The friendly folks of Puerto Rico
  2. The bitter locals of St. John
  3. Florida

5 “Looks like fanny packs are in in this commonwealth.”

  1. Commonwealth of the Virgin Islands
  2. Japan
  3. No one ever said this in Puerto Rico, but it was obviously true

6 “Everything’s so delicious and clean.”

  1. Japan
  2. Bali
  3. Java

7 “I have the runs.”

  1. Vermont
  2. Yes
  3. Bali

8 [Returning my rental car] “Do I park anywhere or are there assigned spots?” “I’m standin’ here waitin’, ain’t I?” This friendly response brought to you by:

  1. An employee in Puerto Rico
  2. An employee in St. Thomas
  3. An employee in New Jersey

9 “Sure, you can take photos of me on the water. Wanna see my crystals?”

  1. Meth dealer in St. Thomas
  2. Pre-teen surfer in Kauai
  3. Likely high skimboarder on Big Island

10 “I feel dizzy.” “You do? I feel like I’m seeing things. Everything is fuzzy.” “I’m in a very happy place now.”

  1. The high skimboarder on Big Island, after taking his crystals
  2. My friends, after drinking Luwak poop coffee
  3. Results after visiting a methodone clinic


Now that we all know how Puerto Rico is a friendly place and everywhere else is dirty, I’ll share some photos from several of the islands that give a li’l hint as to what was there. The answer key is at the bottom.

  1. c; 2. b; 3. Any 4. a; 5. c; 6. a; 7. b or c; 8. b; 9. c; 10. 2

The Best Part of India Was My Trip to Nepal

No, I’m just kidding. Sort of. Not really.

Nepal has left me pretty much speechless. If you know me, you know this is a challenging feat. I’m a tough crowd to please, but this place’s raw beauty, picturesque villages, National Geographic-worthy old folks, and (thankfully) non-fried food was twenty times more incredible than I ever dreamed. I can’t even write a normal, bordering-on-sarcastic post this time! I wanted to visit remote villages, photograph natives, see the Himalayas, and go trekking and all, but it wasn’t in the plans, felt touristy, and wouldn’t be a good choice for my still-bummy knee. But by some stroke of luck, I did all that and more the anti-tourist way. I traveled with an established Indian-French photographer (from Couchsurfing, of course) who was doing a documentary on Tibetan exiles. We explored Nepal together, and I’m still too speechless to write a real post on the country. Beauty? Try a 6-hour motorcycle drive through massive mountains and terraced crops spiraling hundreds of layers down valleys. Cooking lesson? Too touristy. Try hiking into the mountains, picking “jungle fruits,” being taught how to cook by the local math teacher and cook, then cooking them lunch. Trekking? Too expensive. Try going with your Tibetan friend’s nomadic sister up a huge series of mountains–with 4 porters, 16 cows, and a yak–to move to new pasture. I’ve already said too much, and really, I can’t put into words how much Nepal blew my mind. The scenery was so stunning that I was unable to capture it and instead tried to document the lives of these Tibetan refugees and Nepali tribes. Hopefully some of my photos will help give a hint to life here.