It can be exhausting to travel. After 35 straight days in South America and two weeks in Costa Rica just prior to that, I was unabashedly glad to come home at the end of last week. And although my return coincided with the first warm day in weeks in Maryland, and so the snow that had blanketed the region was melting in great rivers, it wouldn’t have mattered if it had been frigid. Or icy. I missed my cats, I missed my friends and family, and I longed to sleep in my own bed, in my own house, without anyone to face or chat up at breakfast the next morning. Perhaps most of all, my senses were saturated, just like my clothes, which were distressingly suffused with the smell of Amazonian rivers.
I saw over 850 species of birds, including many that would have been life listed, if only I kept such a list.
Eight species of toucans.
Fifty one species of hummingbirds.
Forty seven species of tanagers.
And one totally adorable penguin species in the Ballesta Islands: the Humboldt. It took everything I had not to jump out of the boat that day.
I practically rubbed noses with giant river otters, anacondas, boas, monkeys, peccaries and, of course, the giant anteater that I had my heart set on seeing in Guyana and did. Oh, and so many caimans and sea lions that it got boring.
I lost count of the many plants that I’d never seen before and couldn’t identify but loved, and I coveted every single fuchsia that bloomed, whether at sea level in Lima or at 15,000 feet outside of Quito.
Alone and with friends, I visited Spanish colonial-era buildings, churches and monasteries and took in some wonderful museums, including one of the best of its kind I’ve ever visited: the Museo Larco in Lima, which boasts a jaw dropping collection of pre-Colombian art – and that’s just in its storerooms.
I fulfilled my lifelong dream of going to Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley of Peru, and the experience was sublime, rivaled only by the Pyramids.
And, as my friend Val Twanmoh would doubtless say, we survived the flight out to the Nazca Lines, ancient, mysterious drawings 100 feet tall in the Atacama desert of Peru. Never before in my life have I experienced a plane that banked at such violent angles, for so long, and while I found the ride thrilling and actually giggle-inducing, much like roller coasters, I’ll never forget looking around me and seeing four other women, Val included, in death grips with their plane seats, paler than the sands below us, vomit bags at the ready. The respective husbands of two of the women, I feel compelled to add, seemed totally unperturbed by their wives’ distress, so compelling, apparently, were the Nazca Lines. Go and see them for yourself.
The subdued, February hues of home are pale by comparison, but act as the perfect darkroom to my developing memories. I need a few weeks to process all that I’ve seen and everywhere that I’ve been. For a while anyway, I’ll happily settle for domestic cats, emerging snowdrops and weak sunshine.
It’s good to be home.