Sunday, 23 March 2014

Pay It Forward

Hey everyone,

After posting a bunch of pictures about my
trip to Peru onto Facebook I have been inspired to share a story of gratitude which I probably haven't yet paid forward. Reflecting upon this story I am inspired to renew my effort to be grateful to people in my life and to help out people around me.

Way back in 2006, I traveled to Peru. It was my first backpacking experience. Since then I have been hooked on traveling. I greatly value the personal growth that traveling stimulates. This trip wasn't like others I have done since then. I was arrogant and fearful and lonely at the time. So those areas were the first to improve.

Anyways, after about 1 week in Peru I signed up for a bike tour with some Americans. Our guide was a local who knew the terrain and agreed to take us out to see some salt mines and some Incan ruins. We drove out of Cuzco to a remote village and began our adventure.

The trail was dry and the air was temperate. Along the roadside there were many large cacti. All I carried was my camera and a small water bottle. We passed goat herders with their children equally sharing in the work. We passed farmers tending their potato crops. We passed corn fields growing over the foundations of Incan history.

Towards the end of the day when my water bottle was near empty I had the misfortune of riding over one of those nasty cacti! It was sharp and easily punctured my tire! So there I stood. I am amazed how the mood of the group quickly turned. The others blamed me for my carelessness and grumbled that I was now holding them up.

After haranguing the guide the group consensus was that I should take a shortcut by myself through a corn field and meet them back at the highway. There wasn't really any choice for me in the matter as they started off without me!

So I began trekking through the corn field by myself, dragging my bike. Very quickly I started to consider ditching the bike altogether! But I didn't. I dragged it. I carried it. I trudged on!

Once through the corn field I came to the ridge of a grand river valley. It was marvellous! Looking back it was something worthy of gratitude that I had that experience, that I went to such a beautiful place well off the beaten trail. But at the time I was dehydrated and again considered throwing my bike over the edge! But I didn't like the idea of littering. I still don't, by the way.

I looked down and could see the highway and a village separated from me by a magnificent valley and the mighty Ollantaytambo river. That was my destination. But first I had to make it to the shaky bridge. The "short-cut" that the guide had told me about was really a "hard-cut" as it would have been easier and quicker to just stay on the trail and take the long way around. But there I stood overlooking the valley with perhaps 5 more kilometers to go. Five more kilometers of treacherous mountain goat terrain covered in sharp cacti and unknown insects buzzing about!

It was halfway down the steep trail that led to the bridge that some villagers noticed something they had probably never seen before. There was a tall pale man wearing shorts, sandals and a cutoff shirt carrying a bike down a trail that only their goats descended.

I was approached by a small group of men who outstretched their hands to beckon me closer. They smiled and spoke in sincere and concerned tones. Thats all I understood, as me no hablo espanol. They walked alongside me towards the bridge and made curious gestures. They inspected the bike and seemed to indicate that they could help fix the tire. So I followed them into the village and arrived at their house.

There I was greeted by men and women young and old. Small kids were fascinated by my helmet and my camera. I handed out some gold coloured canadian flag pins that I carried for the purpose of giving to kids. I showed them pictures I took. Everyone laughed and smiled. They shared with me corn beer and bread while the men repaired my tire with rubber compound.

Although I didn't understand their language I could still communicate with them as a human being. It was a wonderful experience. They were so kind! They just helped me out! I remember thinking about how my designer sandals probably cost more than all the clothes these people were wearing. I was so arrogant, this experience was humbling. It was truly a day of personal growth.

After spending an hour or two with these kind people I decided I had to get going. They led me to the highway and watched me as I attempted to hitchhike. I stood there for probably an hour as vehicles passed me by. Then a police car stopped.

Oh great I thought! He will help me! Yes he did indeed help me... for a price! I thought I was paying him to drive me to Cuzco (maybe 50kms away). That seemed reasonable. Nope. He flagged down a vehicle and negotiated a ride for me. He pocketed all the money and then made it clear I was supposed to pay the driver as well once he took me to my hotel.

Everything worked out in the end and I was able to continue my journey. The next day I paid a taxi to drive me to that village again and I paid the men $100 USD. Their eyes bulged and they took the money looking side to side to see who saw them take the money. I realized I may not have done a good thing by flashing that kind of cash. I hope my good intentions didn't cause them grief. Sigh...

I am grateful that they helped me. I am grateful for such a meaningful personal growth experience. I am grateful and I will pay it forward. There are opportunities everyday for me to help those around me. I am going to be mindful of them and always ready to share the love.


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