Off roading

Off roading.

These are two words that are typically not part of my everyday vocabulary. I am a self-proclaimed, shameless city girl. I would rather spend my day exploring a big city than hiking through the mountains. Not that I don’t think mountains are beautiful and to be appreciated, but I would rather not appreciate them covered in bugs and sweat and cooking food on an open fire. Interestingly enough, I used to struggle with my general lack of interest in all thingsoutdoorsy. I had this nagging feeling that I wasn’t cool enough. Part of my felt like a hypocrite when I pushed for recycling and renewable resources, but would rather spend my day in a museum than on a hike. Sometimes it felt like I didn’t fit into the right kind of Christian because I wasn’t dying to be immersed in God’s great outdoors. But lately I realized that I do love the outdoors. I love beaches of every size, shape and kind and on a beach is where I feel the magnitude of God’s creation. How very logical since I grew up surrounded by beaches, not surrounded by mountains, so naturally I am more inclined to find my peace along the shore.

Surprisingly, this came as great comfort, finally I felt as though I wasn’t outright neglecting the power of creation. But I never was, because I find the most beauty in visual arts: paintings, sculptures, drawings and architecture. All this explains my natural pull to live in the midst of a city. As it turns out, I was never neglecting the power of creation, but rather appreciating it through the work of man. Ok, enough theological aesthetics for one day.

Off roading. I simply don’t do off roading. But I’m in Lima and a friend of a friend of a friend invited Alvaro and I to a beach about thirty minutes south of Lima and I couldn’t turn down such offer. He recommended that if we have a vehicle with four wheel drive, we should bring it, “we’re going off roading” he said.

We met our friends at a small beach town and then followed them fifteen minutes further south on Peru’s biggest highway, the Panamericana Sur. Our caravan made a quick exit from the highway and we found ourselves in a small, Peruvian town. The cars turned right, then left, then right again and in a matter of minutes we found ourselves on an unpaved, bumpy road. Without warning, the only thing we could see in front of us was a cloud of dust kicked up from the SUV before us. The car jumped and bumped and swerved and we blindly followed the trails of cars until we found ourselves at the entrance of the beach. A moment later, all the cars began driving along the sand and Alvaro and I looked at each other with mutual confusion. We tried to follow the other cars, however, our mid-sized SUV stopped just a few feet into the sand. The other cars in our group were outfitted with monster tires that found no match with the sand below. Thankfully, these monster wheels came back for us, deflated the tires and then coached Alvaro on how to get his car out of the sand trap.

On the move again, we drove along the shore, our tires were a mere fifteen feet from the water’s edge. We drove for a solid five minutes until our caravan found its resting spot, clear out of view from every other group at the beach.

Our experienced off roaders dug a hole in the sand, filled it with charcoal and placed a round grill on top- our makeshift grill. We ate crispy chicken, hamburgers and an assortment of Peruvian mystery meats that I am not bold enough to try. Some of the group braved the cold waters but my feet turned to ice immediately after touching the frigid waves, so I chose to stay dry. We spent the afternoon grilling, eating and drinking then played a competitive match of volleyball during sunset.

Peruvian beaches aren’t the Floridian paradise I’m used to. The sand is dark, the sky is gray and most disappointingly, the water is exceptionally cold. Though it wasn’t sunny Palm Beach, this beach was beautiful because it seemed most natural. The area around us was full of mountains and cliffs and the shore was full of birds, undisturbed by human presence. For the first time, I was on a beach and as far as my eyes could see, there was not a single other human being. It felt like I had discovered an unexplored part of Peru, it was just me, the birds, the mountains and the Pacific Ocean.

Getting back to civilization was equally as adventurous. It was getting dark and our new friends kept saying, “Oh yes, we will leave soon.” I have learned that “soon” in Peruvian, doesn’t mean a thing. We waited and waited and as the minutes passed Alvaro became more anxious of finding our way back to the highway. Finally, we found our window of opportunity and decided to take it. We drove along the beach, with only our headlights to guide us and nearly ran into a group of huts along the way. He began to make a u-turn that was scarily close to the water and my typically calm, collected boyfriend was a pile of nerves. I guided us around the huts and finally we found the unpaved road. The road was mostly a straight shot, despite a few forks and detours, and luckily, we made it back to town. After one dead end, I had the feeling that we needed to go right. So we did. We drove towards a large collection of lights, which seemed to be the best option and within minutes discovered we were parallel to the highway. Hooray! We successfully made it off the beach, down a dark paved road, through a small town with few lights and even fewer signs and back to the highway with little delay. Thank you dad for my natural sense of orientation.

We made it back to Lima, both thankful to have survived our first official off roading adventure. We both agreed that it was fun but most likely not something we want to do again. In true city mice fashion, our first stop once in Lima was directly to the car wash.