|"... the tourist/traveler distinction has largely degenerated into a cliquish sort of fashion dichotomy... In reality, travel is not a social contest, and vagabonding has never represented a caste on the tourist/traveler hierarchy... Instead of worrying about whether you're a tourist or a traveler, the secret of "seeing" your surroundings on the road is to keep things real," Rolf Potts.
Meet Scot. He's from Washington, D.C. We met on April 13, the day we started a three-day tour of the Salar de Uyuní from Chile to Bolivia. I've been stalking him since then. He seems to travel a bit faster than me, so I end up arriving where he is. We're always glad to see each other, which as I'm about to tell you, is more than either of us ever expected when we first met.
We got to know one another on the Salar trip and shared a room in Uyuní at the end of the tour. PHOTO of Scot in the Salar Most of the 10 people on our tour headed straight to La Paz and then to Peru. But Scot and I were both planning to get to know more of Bolivia, and decided to go to Potosí together.
I frequently find myself traveling without any particular destination from day to day (except to get off the Gringo Trail once-in-awhile), so I don't tend to see the same people. But it is nice to run into someone to travel with for awhile. I've found, along the way, several people with whom I'd meet in one city and then move on to one or two places together. Eventually our general plans diverge and we part ways, usually exchanging e-mail addresses at the bus station. "Oh, give me your e-mail" is the backpacker way of saying goodbye.
So when I learned Scot was headed to Potosí, we traveled together and shared a room. Sharing a room with a trusted friend (you start to trust anyone after knowing them 24 hours!) is a welcome relief to crowded dorms or more expensive single rooms.
In Potosí we toured the Candelabra Mine together PHOTO of Scot in mine exploring gear and then, after making the easy realization we were traveling well together, we moved on to Sucre together. In Sucre, we went on a bike ride together (I have Scot to thank for this, he discovered the tour) where at one point, small plastic dinosaur toys attacked him viciously. PHOTO of Scot and toy dinosaurs
We parted in Sucre, I had jungle on my mind and he wanted to get to Santa Cruz faster than me. We kept in touch by e-mail and it was touch and go whether we'd be in Cochabamba together. By the time I rolled into town he was on his way to La Paz. Further down the road, I got to Cusco hours before he caught a bus out of town. We weren't really trying to meet each other, but if we happened to be in the same town at the same time, dinner with a friend would have been nice.
I got to Lima June 22, a full month and a half after I met Scot, and he was in town. We got together and hung out for a few days, passing several evenings in the Miraflores park watching the people watch a couple of gringos take advantage of the opportunity to laugh together at our misadventures. It was great to speak with someone who knew me for more than a day! When Scot headed up the coast, I asked him to send me a report if he found somewhere cool to hang out on the beach.
When I got his message, "Máncora is the bomb" I knew where I was headed next. I flew up the coast (by bus) taking in a few ruins as quickly as possible and knocked on his door just as he was headed out for supper. I surprised him, he didn't think I'd be around for a few more days. He had found a great hostel right on the beach, and I spent four days lying on the beach during the day and having supper with him at night. PHOTO of Scot and I in Máncora
I left before Scot, and crossed into Ecuador and another beach town where I spent my birthday. When I arrived in Guayaquil, Scot had already been there a few days organizing a trip to the Galapagos, and we got together for dinner.
I then flew to the Galapagos (in a plane) and, through a few other backpackers who knew both Scot and I from Máncora, learned where he and his parents were staying. I went to their hotel just before I left for my island cruise to said hi. Eight days later, I flew back to Guayaquil and in the airport, by pure chance, ran into Scot at a telephone booth. That afternoon I ran into Scot and his parents as they were leaving their hotel, and I promised I wasn't stalking them.
Scot and I met for our last time (in South America) in Quito. We shared a room and explored parts of Quito together. last PHOTO of Scot and I in South America Scot is leaving South America in mid-August so chances of finding him here after that are slim to none. But I'm hoping to get to the East Coast this coming winter, and I will, of course, meet him in D.C. Thanks Scot, for the late-night chats, sanity sessions and great meals together.