Going to new places forces you to embrace those odd moments in life and savor the unexpected. Read on to see why I put giraffe poo in my mouth, counted cash in an Argentine fur store, and meditated with Alpaccas in Peru on my last adventure…
I am a glutton for travel. While some people collect coins, I collect countries like treasures to be called upon on a gloomy day. I can’t go to them all again of course but I’ll always have my memories of each and every one of them. It’s kind of like Netflix for travel junkies, hundreds of moments to choose from at anytime.
This last round started off with a trip to Macchu Picchu and culminated with an African Safari. There were high highs and low lows, but one could argue that you appreciate the African sunset that much more after two attempted robberies in Argentina (that’s a whole another story).
You also learn to just go with the flow when you’re not in your country of origin. For example, in Africa I put a piece of giraffe poo in my mouth (twice actually) and played a spitting contest with the other lodge guests. If you are thinking to yourself, “why the hell would you do that?” let me just say, when Enoch tells you to do something, you do it. Enoch was our guide at the second game lodge we stayed in called Africa on Foot. He spoke with purpose and always carried a shotgun on the walking tours. Yes you read that correctly, walking tour. This lodge specialized in on-foot tours where you go on foot in the wild and learn about the local flora and fauna, footprints, and dung. My husband and I are now dung experts. How’s that for a resume booster? Wow, this candidate has an advanced degree in shit analysis! Our guide had us pick up, squeeze, smell, and look at the water/grass/bark content in multiple types of dry animal shit. See this pile? That’s a male rhino marking his territory saying he wants to fight. Great. Just let me get back to camp alive and we’ll call it a win.
But back to the giraffe poo — while I was secretly freaking out, thinking about all the diseases I would contract and what a strange headline this would make, “Death by giraffe dung – girl willingly ingested,” I decided to play along and pretend like it was just another Monday. I didn’t win this game by the way, a Swedish girl who happened to own her own medical device company did – (classic overachiever, she even had to win at the poo game). The goal was to spit the poo the farthest; mind you this was old dry poo, but poo nonetheless. My husband got second place and we all lost a bit of our dignity.
Before we got our dung education and had magical Lion King moments on our Safari, we acquired some street know how in Argentina. I’m not sure how familiar you are with Argentina but their money is absolutely worthless. So much so that when Argentines travel outside the country they have to exchange their pesos for US dollars because no one wants the peso. In fact we forgot to change out some pesos before we left Argentina and we still can’t find a money exchange that will take them. Fail.
This is why most Argentines and travelers alike go to what’s called the “blue market” to buy and sell US dollars at a better rate than the official exchange rate. They call it the blue market and not the black market because even the police exchange their money with the “cambios.” This is how my husband and I found ourselves in a fur store counting cash and generally feeling like criminals. The official rate when we were there was eight Argentine pesos for one US dollar. The cambio rate was anywhere from twelve to fourteen pesos for one US dollar. The experience of changing money was pretty exciting, I felt like we had been transported to an Italian mob movie. I also got a kick out of it because it was somewhat illegal. We found a guy on the street, followed him into a fur store, changed a bunch of cash out and then walked out a separate entrance to complete the circle of sketchiness. When in Rome, right?
Prior to our cash counting days in Argentina we got the chance to hang out with some pretty impressive alpacas in Macchu Picchu at the start of our trip. It must be said that Macchu Picchu is beyond amazing. We’ve all seen the photos at some point, but one thing that no one mentions is that there are Alpaccas everywhere! I was quite positively obsessed with these little (well not so little) fellows and intrigued by their calm demeanor and general cuteness. I believe they are the unsung heroes of the mountain.
They first greeted us as we ascended from the sungate, about an hours hike away from the main grounds of Macchu Picchu. We were galloping our way down the mountain when we saw three full-grown alpacas making their way up the bend. They are such curious creatures with their camel like faces, fluffy wool coats and a smirk that makes you think they’re smiling right at you.
As you make your way back down to the main site, there are alpacas roaming freely over the grassy hillsides overlooking the iconic postcard shot of Macchu Picchu. We walked with them for quite a while and then got the chance to do a mini-meditation session with one of the alpacas on our way out. He looked so serene sitting there on his perch overlooking the misty mountain so we decided to go sit with him and soak up some good energy. It felt ever so peaceful up there and I imagine the alpacas are so zenned out because they live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I tried to remember that feeling and take a little of it home with me into my daily life.
So now after making friends with alpacas, becoming a criminal in Argentina and putting giraffe poo in my mouth, I feel that I can take over the world. Just kidding, but I do feel that am open to experiencing life outside my comfort zone. Travel forces us to go with the flow and embrace the odd moments and the out of the ordinary experiences. So here’s to that next extraordinary moment, odd incident or close call, because without those moments our lives would be pretty dull.