Some of the best moments I have had traveling in a situation I thought might lead to my eventual kidnapping. Small things that I find to be out of the ordinary freak me out more than large ones, because imagining what is going to happen is always worse than what ends up happening to me. And I’m not talking about any sort of sport in this post, but would like to take you all to a restaurant in the small town of Chicama Peru.
It was late in the afternoon. We had just finished our first day of surfing without wetsuits (something I do not recommend any place where the current is coming from the arctic) and we were exhausted. My friend Tanner still had purple lips and we both had big headaches from being in cold water for too long. To say we were starving and out of it would be like saying North Korea is a great place to vacation.
The town of Chicama is small, so you can pretty much count the number of restaurants on one hand. We went to the only one that looked open, standing right on the water with light spilling out of the door. Inside we found a table of kids waiting for dinner with a few serious looking men standing at the sides of the room. Alarm bells were going off in my head as I tried to read these guys intentions.
A woman who appeared to own the place grabbed a pair of menus and began walking us up some stairs into a pitch-black attic. My heart started racing. I began thinking about all of the crazy small town murder stories I had ever heard.
Then, one of the men moved steadily from the side of the room and grabbed two sets of utensils, moving up the steps behind us. It would have been the perfect set up for a violent robbery. The sound of the pounding ocean as we walked up the steps was no longer soothing, but a clear reminder of how easy it would be to get rid of our bodies in this poor town. Then she turned the lights on.
We were standing on a massive balcony overlooking the ocean, with a charming set of lights strung above us. She set our menus on one of the large tables, while the guy who had followed us up the stairs followed up by placing the utensils and giving us a smile. She then went back down the steps and left us to read over the menu.
It turned out to be one of my favorite meals in Peru. We couldn’t have gotten closer to the water, and there was as much motherly love in our meals as there was for the children playing below us.
Media hype had got me to not trust the locals, and the ironic thing is that I would probably trust more of the locals than the people in my hometown of New York. Call me a little naïve, but I have taken to believing that people are more inclined to do something intrinsically good, rather than bad, particularly in an area that relies on tourism.
The people who get murdered while traveling are typically those who go looking for trouble, arguing with drug dealers or getting into cars with people they literally just met. My best advice would be act respectful to the people, keep a good attitude, and step a little out of your comfort zone. Happy travels!