Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost

Trip Start Sep 07, 2011
Trip End Dec 22, 2011

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Flag of Peru  , Lima,
Wednesday, October 26, 2011

"Not all those who wander are lost."   I know nothing about J.R.R. Tolkien other than this quote he coined is plastered in white letters all over a stack of neatly folded green t-shirts.  And these tees sure did seem lost in the middle of a store selling Polo and Hollister knockoffs and I really do wonder how they joined the mix.  Actually I like the quote a lot as it seems to perfectly encompass the mood of this trip.  Indeed, no set itinerary defines my journey as I wander aimlessly around, but I certainly know the direction I am headed.

Sunny skies, absolutely no humidity, a slight breeze, and cool temperatures drew me outside for an all day walk along the clean sidewalks of Miraflores.   Think about this...I am just below the equator at sea level but need a jacket.   How is that for a neat microclimate influenced by the cold Pacific waters?   Pretty darn perfect if you ask me for the 12 or so miles I knocked back today on foot.

So what exactly is Miraflores like you are wondering to yourself right now. Take an ordinary street grid, of surprisingly good repair I might add, perfectly at home on a map of Chicago, Toronto or even Saigon. Now line this asphalt canvas with chunky concrete highrises straight from the pages of the Beirut, Damascus, Mexico City or Podgorica versions of Architectural Digest. Sprinkle in a schizophrenic mix of local shops and the ubiquitos American chains ranging from Dunkin Donuts to Gold's Gym, along with people who live to be seen and voila...Miraflores.  And I will save you the trouble of running the name through Google translator.   It's espanol for "to watch flowers."   I don't know anything about watching flowers but this street grid sure is a great place to people watch a segment of Peruvian society in action.

Up and down, back and forth across this neighborhood I went, never getting lost of course but always wandering without a map.  At one point I ended up on a cliff high above the Pacific overlooking the waves breaking against the rocky beach far below.  Reality quickly crashed down all around me when smells from the nearby Chili's and Tony Roma's inside a cliff dwelling shopping strip reminded me that I was in Peru-ish...Not quite the real deal but definitely not the United States.

As I quickly escaped the clutches of Tona Roma's, it wasn't lost on me that I am truly visiting a bubble.   Miraflores exists in a galaxy far far away from the mostly poor urban areas of Lima, and I'd never know just across town people in shacks worry about where their next meal comes from as I walk around streets lined with the most expensive places in town.  I wonder if the average shackdweller can even fathom this universe, but I ask myself even more if the people who live in this part of town even care their polar opposites exist just down the road. You know what...probably not now that I think about it.  My neighborhood in Hanoi is a bubble as well and honestly I don't see beyond my few block radius while going about my daily business.

Miraflores has become more than just an urban oasis to hang my hat a few nights after a few weeks in the outback.  My Spanish must be better than I think as I managed to easily score a haircut, drop off laundry, and even apply for a Paraguayan visa in the course of one day.   Paraguay most definitely lies off the Gringo trail and of course that means I am going right in   Actually visiting there hadn't really dawned on me until I randomly passed the embassy.   I rang the doorbell, found out the necessary hoops I'd have to jump through, and now I am on my way with visa in passport.  Somehow I managed to not even need a ticket in or out of Paraguay as is required and I got the whole process turned around in a few hours rather than the customary two days.  For anyone familiar with Latin American bureauracy, this is no simple feat!

Yes, not all those who wander are lost.   I certainly found a random new path for this trip by adding Paraguay on a whim.  My wanderings around Miraflores may have been unplanned and idle, but this place sure has given me some new direction.

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pmcooper on

I stumbled upon your blog recently while researching anyone else who had been to Peru...i recently returned last month from a 10 day trek over the Salcantay Trail that ended at MachuPicchu and used Travelpod to blog our adventures. I was instantly brought in by the depth of your travels! I have signed on to follow your adventures and enjoy the world vicariously through you! Travel on!

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