Like the Lee Marvin character in “Paint Your Wagon,” I was born under a wanderin’ star. Although my roots are firmly planted in Utah where I grew up, the itch to roam emerged early. As a solitary three-year-old I loved to take off on my own and go adventuring. Luckily we lived in a small town. People knew whose little girl I was and would return the “lost” child to her frantic mom. (Heck, I wasn’t lost. I knew where I was the whole time.)
I married another wanderer. We moved 30 times in 20 years and lived in Guatemala, Panama, Germany and several places in the U.S. To make a long story short, I emerged from the marriage in 1984 with three beautiful children, some great travel memories and few regrets.
In later life, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit places I’ve always dreamed of. The Himalayas were at the top of my list. I knew I had to go while I was young enough to make the rigorous trek, so I traveled to Nepal with the Sierra Club in 1997. The first time I saw Machapuchare, an incredible spire rising above the clouds, I shed tears.
It took me another nine years to get to the second place on my list—East Africa. My sister and I had spent several years looking after our elderly parents before they both passed away. After they were gone we decided to make the trip together. We spent two wonderful weeks on safari in Tanzania, seeing elephants, lions, antelopes, zebras, giraffes—so many animals! Such great memories to share.
Last month in Peru I combined numbers three and four into one trip. The lost Inca city of Machu Picchu took approximately 100 years to build. The invading Spaniards never found it, but at some point its inhabitants moved away, leaving its stone buildings in perfect condition. No one knows how its huge stones were moved and fitted together seamlessly, with no need for mortar. No one knows what the place was used for—our very knowledgeable guide argued for its being some kind of university. The first sight of it is breathtaking. One woman in our group broke down and cried—I understood.
I left my heart in the Amazon rain forest. To get there, we flew from Lima to Iquitos, Peru’s river port. From there we took a boat downriver to our remote jungle lodge, which had thatched roofs, cold showers and pit toilets. The peace of that huge flowing river, the towering trees and bursts of color from birds, flowers and butterflies just sinks into your soul. We even saw pink dolphins in the river. Even as I write this, the place is calling to me. I will go back. I must.