Sunday, November 29, 2009

Peru-The Lessons of Fear Chapter 4: Courage

    The next two days of the trip passed in a similar fashion- fun waves and exquisite food. The dining at the hotel was first class. Fish almost every meal and all organic sides. We surfed in a town just south of Mancora called Organos. On Wednesday the waves were small, but the water was so clear I felt like I was surfing in a glass of water. We wandered the town of Mancora in the afternoon and were pleased to find that the local venders were half as aggressive as they are in other third world countries, such as Bali and Mexico. It was so pleasant to deal with them that I forgot to haggle, a shopping practice that is very acceptable here. 
    On Thursday morning, November 12th, we had planned a trip to a town and wave called Lobitos. At around 6:15 a.m. a Peruvian man named Felix greeted us. He had pepper colored hair and wore a faded green cap. The only English he spoke was the word “Hello”, which deceived me at first as I followed his greeting with an onslaught of questions. He responded all in Spanish. “Uhh...” was all I could say at first, searching my head of limited Spanish for a response. 
    “Lobitos?” I managed.
    “Si” he replied as he took my board under his arm. 
    The car was a small silver four door with stickers covering the back windshield so completely that I wondered how he could see out of it. When I closed the car door I examined it nervously, realizing that it was not much thicker than my surfboard, a mere 2 inches. My seatbelt was an unretractable belt of an unadjustable size. I buckled it nervously, realizing it would not do much to save my life and wondering if I would be better off without it. Felix selected a CD with music that reminded me of my college days of traveling to the clubs of Tijuana. The road to Lobitos was paved and marked, but our driver and others around him did not appear to obey the markings or follow any traffic laws I recognized. 
We wove through some hills without guard rails as I watched a truck reading “Peligro! Combustible!” trying to pass another on a total blind spot curve. Thank goodness my mother can’t see me! I thought, cringing at her probable perception of this peligro situation. The surroundings were a light tan color, the sky the pale grey of dolphin skin. We rode atop dirt and rock cliffs that reminded me of the Grand Canyon without any water. LOBITOS, a sign finally read. “We made it!” Roberta exclaimed. Although I wasn’t entirely convinced as the car turned onto an unpaved rock and dirt road. 
    The waves at Lobitos were perfect, as far I was concerned. It was about 5 feet and reeling. Roberta, Alexis and I sat in the car and watched cylinder shaped left handers race in front of us as our janky car drove along the uneven beach. A group of local dogs of mixed sizes and colors chased behind our small car as if it were a tennis ball someone had thrown for them. I looked back at them with uncertain eyes. What will they do when we stop? I wondered quietly. When we stopped, the dogs slowed their pace to a trot and dispersed themselves in all directions as though we had become invisible to them. 
    We stepped out of the car. The wind was probably 15 knots offshore and snuck right through the white, navy and purple flannel that had become part of my daily uniform for the trip. I only had my long-sleeveless 3/2 mm wetsuit for the 63 degree water I hadn’t anticipated. After psyching in the car and trying to warm up, Roberta and I ran across the sand to the faultless waves.  
    I leapt right onto my board from a sprint without even pausing. I knew that the less time I took to absorb the water’s temperature, the longer I would last. There was no point in dwelling on the cold now, all I could rely on to keep me warm was adrenaline. The waves were pretty fast and more powerful than I had envisioned from the beach, but my adrenaline not only kept me warm, it kept me catching waves. I paddled right into the pack of male Peruvian surfers without even blinking and shamelessly began hunting for waves. If there was one thing I had learned about South American lineups it was that you had to take what you could get, and get anything you could take.     
    When I traveled with my Dad or Scott I tended to draw courage from their presence. This wasn’t an option today, it all had to come from me. After we exited the water, I took a few moments to take in my surroundings. The beach was enormous, at least a few miles long and wide. The teal color of the ocean water contrasted the browns of the land beautifully. The landscape in Peru was so simple yet so mesmerizing. I was falling in love with its rugged beauty more and more each day. As I sat behind Felix on the way back, his window down and dust filling the car, I didn’t even worry about my seatbelt or the thin doors. I was captivated by the unfamiliar scenery and vibrant existence that passed by my window. A warm sun colored my face a soft yellow and thawed my core.
    On the way back to Mancora we stopped by the town of Organos to check the waves at the rock left point we had surfed the day before. To our great surprise 4-6 foot waves rolled out right in front of us like a red carpet. “I’m getting my board” was all I could say as I dashed towards the car. Beholding these perfect lefts, I couldn’t help feel a twinge in my heart for Scott and his goofy feet. It was extremely windy, white capping out past the break, but the wave faces were relatively unaffected. We surfed another 2 hours at Organos until our arms gave out. 
    The fear I had originally felt for traveling to such an unknown place without my other half began to melt away. Although I missed Scott, navigating my way through the unknown waves and territory was pushing my level of personal courage to an unfamiliar and blissful level.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Peru-The Lessons of Fear Chapter 5: Companionship

    7 a.m. came around the next morning, but where were the epic waves I had dreamed of last night? We arranged for our new amigo Felix to pick us up Friday morning so we could return to the left point we had surfed in Organos. We were hoping to score waves similar to the day before, except with less wind. What we were greeted with instead were 5-7 ft. closeouts since we hadn’t factored in the tides. Oops. 

    I stood on some fuzzy green grass in front of three nice beach bungalows and sighed as I watched the unridable waves explode onto the rocks. After discussing the conditions and approaching tide Alexis, Roberta and I gathered our things onto the grass and spread out our towels. We each settled on a towel in the grass waiting on the tides. I couldn’t complain because this is exactly the thing that I yearned to do at home. Now that I am no longer a student and have a “nine to five” job (which is really 10-6) I have to take what I can get in the morning, regardless of tides or conditions. Compared to my normal routine this was a luxury. 
  Our discussion topics during this waiting period ranged from work to surfing to boys and life. I was getting a different satisfaction from this trip than I had imagined. 
    As our conversation took a break, I uncrossed my cramped legs and laid back on my yellow towel. I looked up at the blue and grey speckled sky and smiled, stretching out my body until my fingers and toes were both pointing. I wasn’t even surfing and I was so stoked. After living by myself for the past few years and primarily hanging out with a bunch of dudes, it was refreshing and exciting to hang around and travel with two really unique, kind and fascinating women. Moments like this separated this trip to Peru from other trips in the past. 
 At around 9 a.m. Roberta and I suited up for the highly anticipated session at Organos and paddled out.  I rode across surfaces that turned from tan to whale blue to sea foam green as I passed each unique section. You could ride long enough to hear your thoughts. 
    Why did I ever fear this generous land? It was teaching me life skills I could not have acquired in my own comfort zone at home. I was afraid to come here because of qualities this place had that I was unfamiliar with. But it was these unfamiliar qualities that were showing me the way to an unsought after enlightenment. 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Peru-The Lessons of Fear Chapter 6: Love

    I rested my head on my tray table as if it were a chest high pillow, as I dreamed of all of the chest high waves we had ridden before this long trek home had begun. I rubbed my tired eyes on my familiar navy flannel. ATL to LAX, the final flight of three that it takes to get home from Mancora, had two hours and 23 minutes left. If I hadn’t woken up on the airplane I might have wondered if it was all a dream. I sat up and traced a design on the airplane wall with my index finger. I kept the window next to my invisible design closed to keep out the white bright light that would have made me aware of everything. I opened my journal for something to do. A white folded paper dropped into my lap.
You thought I forgot.
The outside of the note still read.
I blinked my eyes twice, trying to rouse myself into the state I needed to be in, a state I was finally ready to be in. Holding the square folded paper in my hands I turned it in circles, touching my index finger carefully on the point of each corner. I guess now would be a good time, I thought. 
As I read the first sentence I paused in mystification. How is it that someone can know what you need even better than you, yourself do?

I'm so excited for you to be realizing a dream you have had for so long.
the thoughtful note read.
    How did he know this trip was everything I needed? Before I began this journey I had laid my head on his chest and cried, sobbing about all of the unknowns and the what-ifs. The truth is, the unknown moments became the most defining ones. Getting myself from one unfamiliar location to the next, challenging myself to bring my surfing to a new level in a new place, driving out in the middle of nowhere in search of waves with someone who spoke no English, and forming new friendships along the way. 
 I will miss you a ton, but make sure you remember that I will be here when you get back, wanting to hear about your great adventure. 
So be sure to make some great stories.
Don’t worry Scott, I did.