Nearly every social interaction I have had for the last 3 weeks begins with one simple question. “Solita?(alone?)” followed by porque (why?). I can be entirely oblivious to my single, one woman status and all of a sudden I am all boo hoo hoo very much alone. The lonesome ache of travelling about alone by bicycle creeps back into my stomach like a long forgotten cramp. I’ve daydreamed about Mr Right, Mr. Wrong and just about every other kind of Mister in order to fill the familiar ache of lonesomeness. I am tempted to give rewards to people for NOT asking if I am alone, gifts of sweets? hugs? It happens so infrequently that I could even afford to give folks a crisp 20USD bill. On the 20USD bill it would say “thank you for recognizing that a woman travelling alone is not a safety hazard, she can take care of herself”
Yesterday, while pedaling, as I was pondering the tattles and tales of twenty dollar bills, some government road workers stopped their white pick-up truck to say hello, a pleasant change from the white trucks that slow down and drive next to me just looking. This friendly driver’s reflexive orange vests draped over his belly. His elbow protruded from the open window.
“hola” I said hoarsely, my throat was dry from not talking to anyone for a few days and from the altitude 15700-14100 feet (4800-4300 meters). Grateful to have someone to say hello to I smiled.
“Solita?” The man said, a shiny wedding band was secured around his finger, his hand firmly gripping the steering wheel. His black leather boot was pressed firmly on the brake pedal holding the truck back on the steep mountain road between Cusco and Nazca, Peru.
“Yes, solita” I said, trying not to roll my eyes or bust out in hysterical laughter at the mundane boredom.
Just saved 20usd, that guy doesn’t look very huggable anyway and his teeth don’t look very good, sweets would not improve his oral health situation…and I don’t think the color bright orange should be in his or anybody’s wardrobe, it does nothing for his eyes I think to myself
“Yes, solita…” I said
Like an x-mas tune in December, the incessant drawl of a repetitive conversation begins again.
A never ending valentine show of twosomes unveils before my eyes as I pedal along, funny faced alpacas, llamas and rare Peruvian vacuna line the emerald green valley, all of whom are paired up, some mating for the moment, others for life. A Quechua elderly woman, the shadows hidden within her wrinkles reflect the frigid morning sun of the high altitude Peruvian Andes. Her head tilts in greeting, her smile grows as she sees me approach.
“Esta Frio? (Are you cold)” The elderly woman questions, her weathered well used fingers hold a piece of firewood that she has collected from the road side. Her three layered skirts dangle over her blue wooly leggings. Her ankles are covered in knitted alpaca fur leg warmers. She places the firewood on the ground and covers her shy grin with her strong coarse fingers.
“Hola, ques estes yamos?( Hello, What is your name?)” She asks. Her piercing kind eyes sparkle with years of wilderness wisdom. They are clearer then the nearby cascading stream.
What a great morning, it is 6:30am and I have a new friend, a Quechan and Spanish speaking beautiful indigenous woman. I genuinely enjoy meeting old people, full of history and culture, my favorite museums. Perhaps in this life time, I have already met THE ONE, the love of my life… the love of TRAVEL! I love the unknown, not knowing who I might meet, what will happen with the day, where I will sleep, what I will eat, where I might bathe. And just when I get so lonesome that I think the ache might do my head in some magical moment unfolds before my grateful eyes, reminding me how much I truly love to travel. My new friend did not even ask me if I am alone and she definitely looks huggable. Often, I find the indigenous population in any country to not be as concerned about such things, just one reason why I love travel amongst the indigenous peoples. I smile to myself as I push the breaks and say
“Buenes Dias (Good Morning), it is so good to meet you, My name is Loretta, I love to travel and like most loves there are some trade-offs. Thanks for being you!”