Category Archives: Uncategorized

Making Heads or Tails

American idioms don’t make a lick of sense-literally. They are a group of words that  are not predictable. Idioms are derived from dialects or jargon from different regions of the country. If someone can’t make heads of tails of an issue, it has nothing to do with heads or tails, it means they can’t figure something out.

It beats me has nothing to do with me getting beaten by an it. Again, I don’t understand.

If I come to grips with something, I have accepted it.

Use it or lose it means something needs active participation or it will get rusty, diminish, or disappear.  Like Language. Did you spend years studying English only to have it fade away after school because you have no one to talk to? That’s what’s happening to my Spanish.

I’m offering conversation classes on Skype to help you maintain your grip on English, your fluidity. Book 30 to 90 minutes, 1 to 5 times a week, depending on your schedule and it won’t cost an arm and leg. I teach any level & believe learning should be fun. Topics can be just about anything. Your choice.

So, let’s get this show on the road. Times a wastin.’Email me for more information. rubycoops1@gmail.com

Best,

Ruby

At the Roman Colosseum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rome: Not for Sissies

At the colosseum

At the colosseum

Rome is flooded stimuli: energy that permeates and disrupts the senses, swarms of tourists clogging crooked streets, illegally parked cars, designer clothes , gorgeous shoes the price of a month’s rent, alleys with hidden treasures, and sadly, ubiquitous cheap Chinese stuff.

I asked Alessandro which side of the street the Italians drive on because it isn’t apparent here in the city. ” It doesn’t matter,” he answered. “Doesn’t matter! Of course it matters. I’m renting a car in Pisa and need to know.”  It’s the same as the US.” he says. Lordy.

The violent past of the colosseum invaded my dreams last night. I was fighting for my life. Hitting some snake like thing with something no bigger than a golf club. Afterwards I felt sorry. It’s not who I am. In the colosseum, only 3 % of the gladiators lived, none of the slaves or criminals or animals. Huge boatloads of reptiles, tigers, lions, bears, etc. were imported  from Africa and Egypt to fight in the ring. An estimated 100,000 animals were killed during the Romans short reign. Some species  became extinct because of the emperor’s thirst for entertainment, of public executions called games.

imageIt’s astounding how brilliant Roman  engineers built aqua ducts, astounding architecture, roads and the government was democratic. And yet, a couple of times a month, screamed for blood to entertain them . Or, maybe they didn’t attend the gory get togethers.

Romulus and Remus raised by a she wolf raised a city from dirt. Beloved Cesar stabbed by Brutus. Myth mixed with fact: legend with history. Barbarians brought down by barbarians. The fallen city plundered and pillaged by everyone, including the hollier than thou popes who used the heathen’s  materials it to build their Rome.

imageAnd then there were the vestual virgins, In charge of keeping the eternal fire lit. If you lost your virginity, you were buried alive; If you let the fire go out, you were beaten by the emperor (I think him). Rome, gorgeous, but not for sissies: not then-not now.

 

 

 

The Gypsy Wagon

The Gypsy Wagon

Etching by artist Larry David Dunn

Etching by artist Larry David Dunn

Thirty seven years ago my friend, artist Larry David Dunn, gave me an etching he made for my 35th birthday. It’s called Gypsy Wagon. When he handed it to me, he said, “It’s a portrait of you. You travel with your own light.” The wagon is small, wooden, and sturdy, with a slightly sloped roof. It has a window with four panes, wooden wheels, and wooden spreader bars for hitching my horse. The ground around the wagon is bathed in a warm light that comes from the full moon above. It is one of my most precious possessions.

When LD gave me the picture, I was recovering from very tough times. Instead of light, I felt troubled and afraid. I couldn’t imagine that I was emitting much light. I certainly didn’t see how I could be traveling very far given I was recently divorced, and what little money I had went to pay the bills. I pondered how he saw me as a small, sturdy, wooden wagon surrounded by a warm glow.

Nevertheless, I bonded with the piece, as if its light could lead me out of the darkness I felt, and as if I was self-contained and sturdy enough to shine. A few years after LD gifted Gypsy Wagon to me, I sold the house that had represented the American Dream, but now consumed my energy and money, and moved my family across the country to an apartment in San Francisco. There, I became a stand-up comedian. Standing on the tiny stage at a place called The Holy City Zoo, I got my light back.

Three decades, other houses and apartments, the death of my son, and the births of grandchildren have gone by. I’ve traveled to 30 countries: some to teach and live for awhile, and some just to hang out in order to get to know my global neighbors-to connect my light with the universe, if I’m lucky maybe I can make them laugh.

Each time I unpack, Gypsy Wagon is hung on a prominent wall where I can see it. In my current home, a charming cabin on a mountainside in Lake Isabella, CA, in the lovely Kern River Valley, it hangs in my bedroom next to a world map.

The map and the Gypsy Wagon are the first things I see in the morning, and the last things I see at night. This morning I took it off the wall to pack it, because I am leaving again. Next month I’m flying to Europe to connect with former students and friends I’ve met traveling. My goal is to head north through Italy to Prague, Czech Republic, where I plan to teach for a few months.

I thank LD for Gypsy Wagon, for seeing my light when I couldn’t. I’m impressed with his prescience. I will do my best to spread as much light as one sturdy wagon possibly can.

Murder is Scary

Yesterday, in my free lance job as a reporter for our local weekly paper, I found myself sitting in courtroom 13 at Kern County Superior Court in downtown Bakersfield, Ca.

I was covering the preliminary trial of a first-degree murder case that took place just a few weeks ago in an Alta Sierra resort a few miles from where I live. The supervisor of a crew of 5 had shot his employee in the head. One shot. Boom. A life lost- several changed forever. Two other employees were also being tried as his accessories, as if they were scarves or belts-items that were expendable. As I listened to the prosecutor for almost two hours, I grew to question their involvement.

I sat in the front row so I could take photos, and so my small recorder could pick up what was being said. The bailiff told me I wasn’t allowed to move around, that I had to take them from my seat.

I didn’t know what any of the defendants looked like, nor had I read anything about them, until the hearing began. When I walked into the room there were 14 prisoners sitting to the front and right of me, separated by a 4’ high wooden barrier with a swinging gate. 11 men and 3 women were wearing shackles that fastened around their waists, between their thighs and down to their ankles.. All but two of the men were dark skinned. Ages ranged from the early 20s to middle age. They were all dressed in brown jumpers and white shirts, except for a burly brown man with a bald head, more square than round, a close cropped beard, mustache and longish sideburns. He was wearing a bright turquoise jumpsuit. As it turns out, he was the man I was there to cover.

I looked at the women. One of them appeared to be about 15 or 16. She could have been the girl next door in a middle class white neighborhood. Brown braids hung down on her shoulders framing a heart shaped face with a flawless complexion and a cute turned up nose. The other two, a thin, pensive blonde, and an agitated, or animated, it was difficult to tell, woman of about 30.

I pondered what felony they had committed to end up here in superior court. As it turned out, the blonde was one of the alleged accomplices in my case. She was 35.While I was waiting for the trial to begin, I watched two other brief ones. The first was represented by a 20 something Asian female lawyer who wrote copious notes while she listened to the prosecutor examine her client’s witness. Rarely looking up, she would object to something the prosecutor said. It was sustained. Every time. The broad smile her client wore out of the room, was proof that she had done her job well.

When the next case was called, the bailiff fetched him from the waiting area and led him to the table where his lawyer was sitting. He sat down, and burst into tears. The bailiff unlocked his right hand and gave him a tissue. He picked up a pen, ready to write down discrepancies in the prosecutors questions. .

Shortly afterwards, the bailiff informed me that man I was there to cover had been moved next door to room 14. I gathered my stuff, and left the room. Approximately 20 other folks preceded me into the hall. As it turns out, they were the friends and family of the defendants and the victim. Entering the court room, I saw the man in the turquoise jumpsuit. He was seated in a chair at the table. The man I had stood next to in the hallway joined him. His alleged accomplices were sitting on a bench behind their lawyers, to my left facing the man who had gotten them into the mess they were in.

The prosecutor’s questions included generalities and understatements.  The young man is said to have seen the murderer shoot the victim. The woman heard the shot from inside the building. Sometime later she admitted to lifting his pant legs, to help the murderer drag the victim to the shallow grave he had dug with a front hoe.

Apparently, the three of them barbecued steaks that evening and agreed to keep the murder quiet. I can’t imagine the accessories enjoyed the meal, their last for awhile. Another person was apparently involved peripherally, but he didn’t stay for dinner. He called the police the following day. I’m guessing he spent most of the night wrestling with his conscience.

Yes, the accessories were adults, and technically had free will. But, the murderer was a formidable presence. He was also their boss. They were used to doing his bidding. In the court room they sat about 5 feet apart on the beach, facing the man who had ruined their lives. Although they didn’t have an opportunity to talk, they listened to every word the prosecutor said. They did not agree with everything. At one point, they both looked at each other; she shook her head. Whatever had been said was wrong.

The woman had said she had assisted the murderer by moving the victim- because she was scared. This word ‘scared’ was passed over as if it was a benign, minor state of being; like she was tired, or confused.

I submit that she and her boyfriend, who was the witness to the shooting, were terrified. Neither of them had prior records. They were not criminals. They had just seen their boss shoot a man in cold blood, unprovoked. One shot to the head, then he dug a hole and buried him-as if it was all in a days work. They were not scared, they were in shock. How could they not have been afraid for their own lives?  I would have been. If he did this to one man, why not two, or three. It happens all the time. A guy feels like killing someone, he has a gun, the limits are set by the amount of ammo he has, or until his passion is spent.

To be in shock is to disturb ones sense of propriety. We do things when we are in shock that we would never do when we are thinking logically. While we’re in state of shock, we don’t make sound decisions. We don’t think. We revert to our animistic self-preservation mode. We say, “Whatever you say sir. Whatever you say.” We want to stay alive.

And finally, I ask myself how many people in this world wake up to a normal day, go to work or school, shopping or a movie… only to find themselves doing something they had no intention of doing, or being somewhere they had no intention of being. Life is fragile.

Carpe diem.

Random Act of Kindness or Folly

mamacita & babiesI honestly don’t remember when I first fed the skinny, malnourished, stripped cat that regularly passed through my back yard a few weeks ago. I know her plaintive cry touched my heart.

She’d see me reading in the hammock, and make a wide arch around me as if I would hurt her. Her cry was a long, low keening  that sounded desperate and sad. She was a young cat, not more than a teenager.

At first, I probably shared some leftovers, maybe some fried rice, or a bit of chicken. I don’t eat much meat, so she didn’t return for a juicy t-bone or tri-tip. She returned because she had a chance of getting something-however small, to eat, and she was hungry.

Within a few days, a black cat, same size and age I’m guessing, was with her. Unlike her, it would not come close to the porch if I was near. It didn’t take long for it to realize that if it wanted to eat, it needed to be braver.

I caved and bought a small sack of cat food. Then I saw a flyer posted asking for help counting and trapping feral cats. I needed help. I called and left a message. I needed to have the ones I’d befriended spayed and given shots. My neighbor, Sherry, agreed to feed them when I was out of town. A few days later I was gone for four days.

The morning after I got back, I was having coffee on the porch when the striped cat emerged from underneath the house, along with three kittens: two striped, one black. She’s a nursing mama-always hungry.

The following day, two more teenagers showed up: one black, one calico. It was ridiculous. I met with the kind women who are trying to lessen the population of feral cats in our community, got vouchers and borrowed a trap..

A day later, I was again on the porch, trying to tame the babies so they can find homes, when another neighbor came by. “I’m missing two cats. Have you seen any?”  ” I’m sure I have them, I answered gleefully.”

As it turns out she had gone off for a few days, and had not been feeding them. What was she thinking? I told her about  the feral cat issue, and the vouchers available to help the situation. She listened and agreed, but wasn’t necessarily concerned.

And so it is. Cats are just cats, perceived as independent animals that appear to get along just fine on their own. A small percentage of them are treasured pets, even members of the family. They are the lucky ones. The rest, the majority of cats especially in rural areas, become food for coyotes, owls, mountain lions and other wild animals. While they are alive, they subsist on birds, lizards and small rodents.

The people here who are trying to help, have counted over 500 feral cats in this small community. 500! Some folks have over 100 cats! That happened because they did what I did. They fed them, but they didn’t have them neutered or spayed. Their hearts were in the right place, but they didn’t go far enough to affect change in the cat population. Before they knew it, the situation was out-of-hand. Big time.

Perhaps trying to make a difference is akin to putting your finger in the dyke to stop the dam from breaking. I believe that as stewards of the earth, and the critters on it, we need to take responsibility for that which we have domesticated. Every year, millions of dogs, horses, cats, and other animals are discarded and die, or are killed by overburdened shelters.  It’s mostly because we see animals as insignificant, as novelties, as dispensable.

We give them for presents to people who don’t want them, or kids who don’t feed them. We get them for companionship, or work, as in the despicable cases of canine unit dogs abandoned by the Armed Forces when our troops go elsewhere.

If it takes a village to raise a child to be a  morally responsible person, it is the same for our animal community. Those of us who are responsible must be stewards of the animals entrusted to those people who are not.  It’s not enough to feed your own pet. We all need to reach out, to do what we can for to make the communities we live in safe for all creatures.

 

 

 

 

Silent Mornings

imageI  usually wake up when the sun streams through the spaces in my bedroom curtains. I lie in bed, grateful for another day, and listen to the silence. As soon as I get up, I go into the kitchen to boil water for coffee. I watch the water- watched pots do boil, by the way. The movement of the water lets me know its ready to pour over the coffee I’ve put into the French press. Most days I go out on the porch, so I can savor it while I watch the antics of the scrub jays as they squabble over water rights to the bird bath.

I see ravens overhead. If I throw fruit scraps into the compost pile, they swoop down as if it were Christmas morning, and I had given them presents. They, like the jays, will argue over just about anything. I laugh at their posturing and bravado, but I don’t hear their squawking.

Bedroom in cabin.

Bedroom in cabin.

A few days ago I befriended a young feral cat. This morning she was waiting when I opened the back door. I saw her mouth move, and knew what she wanted, but I didn’t hear her loud, demanding cry for sustenance.

I didn’t hear her, because I couldn’t. I hadn’t yet put in my hearing aids.

Born with either blocked eustachian tubes, or without them, I’m not sure, I began life with horrendous earaches. With each one, scar tissue built up around my eardrums, blocking the air coming through the ear canal, and eventually putting the hammer and anvil out of commission. For me it was a gradual process. I could hear well enough to make people think I could hear well. But I couldn’t. I was constantly being told to pay attention, that I talked too much, that I didn’t listen.

Wildflowers in the front yard

Wildflowers in the front yard

Listening and hearing are not the same. I learned to compensate. I made others laugh, and laughed at myself. I positioned myself in front of whatever I wanted to hear, paid close attention to my surroundings, and watched the expressions on others’ faces.

In high school, college and at events, I sat close in the front row, or as close as I could get. I was fifty before I considered getting hearing aids. Now, I wonder why I waited so long.

male heron

male heron

I apparently passed the faulty tube gene to my daughter, Alice, and a couple of my grand kids. Luckily for them, modern medicine has made it easy to implant tubes. In the past couple of decades, it’s become an office procedure. Alice had them put in twice. The first time she was five. After the surgery, we were walking from the garage to the house. She stopped me. “Mommy, I can hear the birds sing, she laughed.”

There is a certain beauty in silence, but hearing the birds sing gives us a level of wonderfulness that must be experienced for us to truly understand how lucky we are to hear them.

The Victim is Sorry

Sausages & laundry. Chongqing, China

Sausages & laundry. Chongqing, China

Most of us dread doing the laundry. Even if we have a washer and dryer, laundry is not our favorite thing to do. So we put it off and the pile gets higher and higher; our dread grows commensurate with the breadth and girth of the pile. At the cabin, I don’t have a washer and dryer. I use the local laundromat.

I have a pact with myself. I go when my plastic Mexican bag that holds one loose load is full. My routine is easy. I set the temperature buttons, put the soap in, layer the fabric, push seven quarters into the coin tray and leave. Maybe I’ll run an errand, or poke around the thrift store down the street. I come back in 30 minutes, put my clothes back in the bag, take them home and hang them up on the line. It’s an easy, dread-free, efficient system. It works every time. Until last Thursday.

Thursday my laundry consisted of a set of white sheets, several light colored hand towels and wash cloths, a large light green bath towel, a small rug, and my favorite night shirt. Everything was well-worn, soft 100% cotton.

When I started pulling my laundry out of the tub, I though I’d made a mistake, that I was in the wrong washer. Nothing I’d put into the washer looked like the large ugly thing in my hand. It was dirty gray and had dark camouflage type splotches all over it. I felt a little sick, looking at what used to be a white sheet. I kept pulling. Everything in the washer was splotched, camouflage patterned, meant for some third world military, some unfashionable, rag tag outfit that didn’t have a designer.

I called Mary at the ICE number posted on the window.
“ Hi, Mary. My name is Ruby and I am at the laundromat. My clothes have been ruined. I think it’s grease. I see the ring around the top of the tub. Maybe it’s coming out of the motor.”
“Did you look in the tub before you put your laundry in?”
She thinks I’m an idiot.
“Of course, I had to look at it to load it. It was empty and appeared clean. I didn’t do a white glove test, but I looked.”
“I was on my way home from the grocery store, but I’ll drop by.”
Within minutes a white truck pulled up, and a short, round, sort of crooked woman climbed out and came through the door.
” I hate this! I did this job for seven years until it got to be too much! People don’t respect things! Because it’s a public facility they think they don’t have to care.”
She glances at my nasty stuff.
“I have cerebral palsy on this side, and (something else) on this one. She nods her head at her arms, one of them is held against her torso, first one side and then the other. The new guy apparently doesn’t know how to clean a washer, It’s ridiculous that I have to do this. This is a public facility. You have to understand that you have to pay attention, because, trust me, others do not. Obviously someone put oily work clothes in there. You need to check before you use the washers.”
“I’m sorry. I mean I’m sorry for your cerebral palsy. My son had cerebral palsy.”
“It’s no cakewalk.”
“No, I know it isn’t. If you can walk at all that is. Which obviously you can, so that’s good.”
“Right. Let me get you some more quarters. She puts the quarters in and the machine starts filling. I add detergent. The owner who came in a few minutes before hands me two boxes of detergent with bleach.
“I already put soap in.”
“Ah, too bad,” he smiles.
“It’s all too bad. My sheets are ruined,”
“ Be lucky it wasn’t your shirts,” Mary says.
“ Yes. That’s a good point.” I should be feeling lucky it wasn’t shirts. Exactly.”
I threw the load into the garbage bin.

 

Hot Springs & Friends

I’ve been here, on the mountain side, in the high desert for a few months now and I am just settling in- making a house that I’ve filled with my stuff into my home. I’m getting to know the neighbors. One has died already, one is moving. One is in Alaska for six weeks. I’m watering

his plants, and  have my fillet knife sharpened and ready for when he returns with fish.

I’ve been ttaveling so long I’d forgotten what a wonderful thing it is when not only your heart, but your space is opened up to receive the love of friends; what a delightful thing it is to laugh your ass off, share ideas, secrets, fears, and libation..

I spend as much of my alone time as possible climbing  on the spectacular rocks that line the rushing Kern River, and evenings marveling  at the sky that puts on a show almost nighty, but, the hot springs have stolen my heart. Apparently they are everywhere. Some of them have been bought up and are off limits, and at least one has been destroyed by the forest service. No one seems to know why. But, a few miles from me, there is Remmington. Off a winding road, a  climb down a steep hill to the river where you will find concrete tubs full of hot water for basking.

The  hot, sulfuric water is healing, it’s a gift from the Great Spirit to cleanse the body and soul,  it releases tension, it’s  erotic.

A few weeks ago, Joy’s band, Blue Mustard was singing at the Father’s Day Blues Fest. Afterwards, she, my friend Phil, and I went to the springs.  A couple of days ago, Ginger came to visit. We went to to the springs. Come visit. I’ll take you there.

 

 

Home.

Home is where you hang your hat. Home is where they have to take you in, if you have to go there. It’s in your heart. It’s with your family….

As I type, I am in the kitchen of the Backpackers Hostel in Ensenada, Mexico. I’m drinking tea, munching on a dark chocolate Milky Way.  It occurs to me that I am capable of making myself ‘at home’ just about anywhere in the world. But, I’ve  been seven years on the road. Seven years!

A year or so ago I began to long for my own home, to make a place for me again. I want my art on the walls, mementos of my trips, photos of my family and friends, a pot of tomatoes, some herbs, a bunch of red geraniums trailing over a wall, or porch railing, the smell of laven

 Lake Isabella

Lake Isabella

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Entrance to Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

Kern Preserve

Cabin interior

Cabin interior

Moving crew

Moving crew

Mis Amigas

Mis Amigas

The Cabin

The Cabin

Wildflowers in the front yard

Wildflowers in the front yard

der, a hammock, a clothes line, the freedom to be naked if the mood strikes, if it’s sufficiently warm out.

It never occurred to me when I sold my house that I would miss it. Then again, maybe it’s not the house I miss. I began to travel a couple of years after my son died. Maybe its him I miss. Perhaps it’s my friends: belonging, the comfort of being accepted-warts and all. It’s being around like-minded,  folks who care about each other-who care about me.

A couple of months ago I packed Margaret, my Mini, and headed across the US back to California. At present I am at Brandon’s in Venice where I lived over a decade-longer than anywhere I’ve ever lived. But, Venice is congested, and expensive, and the mountains are calling me. The music my talented friends play, beckons. The warmth of affection, solitude to write, hiking trails, laughter.

A couple of weeks ago, I was back in Tehachapi and Kernville.  Being there was easy. Being with friends is that: easy. Uncomplicated.  I’m ready for easy; knowing the language, where the post office is, biking to the bank. I’m ready to resume my soirées, St. Patrick’s day parties; ready to write more, maybe finally get the one woman show underway, the books published, to hang out with old friends, make a few new ones, to make a home for me again.

 

Day Trippin’: How to get the most out of day tours.

 

Peru coast from the bus.

Peru coast from the bus.

Traveling solo does not mean you won’t take some tours with others. The beauty of it is you can go where and when you want, with whom you want. Each town and city has a least one tour company where you can decide what you want to see and do. If you stay in a hostel the locals who work there will have brochures for you to peruse, and be willing to give you personal advice. Plus, and maybe even better, the other travelers are always more than willing to share their experiences. They might even be looking f

Local bus in Lima

Local bus in Lima

or a travel buddy for the day, or a specific tour, or to share a taxi. I’ve written some things to be aware of.

Be specific if you want an English speaking guide, and don’t be shy asking questions. It’s natural for a bi-lingual guide to spend more time speaking his native language.

With Seung Hye

With Seung Hye

Talk to others in the hostel. Find out who has gone on the tour you have in mind. Find out what they thought about the guide. Does he speak your language? If not, you’ll most likely be wasting your money. How many people will be on the tour with you? If it’s a large crowd, maybe you’d rather have a smaller one, and that tour company is not the one for you.

If a tour lasts all day, find out how much of the trip will involve travel time to and from the sites, where you will have lunch, how much it costs, and what other costs you might have to pay, for example, entrance fees.

imageI recently went on a day trip to the Calverna de Quiocta in the Peruvian Andes. You can read my blog about that hilarious escapade below. When I booked the tour, the guy who took my money told me to pack a lunch. The following day, I was one of the last people to board the mini-van. The guide spoke no English at all, and there was no loud speaker, so when he told the others that we would be stopping at a restaurant to rent boots, and to order our lunches, which we would return later to eat and pay for, I, and another couple didn’t hear him.

When we got to the restaurant and saw what was happening, we ordered our meals. I was astounded that it cost three or four times more than what almuerzo ( fixed lunch) cost in town. This apparently is common practice. The money was split among the tour guide, operators, and the restaurant. It generated a lot of cash, where the value of the currency compared with others is low.

Brazil

Brazil

I wasn’t the only person who thought the price was too high. Many backpackers travel on very tight budgets. Understand that you are not forced to buy lunch. You can bring your own and eat in the park, or with the others. However if you order, say, just the soup, the price will still be high, because they discourage this.

Know your limitations, and be realistic about your stamina. Ask the tour operator about the difficulty of the trek, how many steps, or what kind of terrain it is so you’ll be sure to wear the proper clothes and shoes, carry an umbrella for sun or possible rain, or perhaps not want to go at all.

I frequently find myself in day trips with people much younger than myself. Although I am in great shape (for the shape I’m in), I sometimes just cannot keep up. On several occasions, I have chosen to ride horses up steep hills, instead of hiking. Don’t expect the young and fit to wait for you. If I can’t keep up, I take my time, or drop back. It doesn’t happen often, but I have chosen not to continue on a few treks. Once after climbing at an altitude of 13,000 feet for a half an hour, to a funerary site in Puno, a man collapsed at the top. He felt fine after he’d rested a few minutes and had a drink of water. Still, he gave his family a scare.

Ruby, Tim, Rene

Ruby, Tim, Rene

My favorite is the on and off bus. You can find them in most cities at the tourist/ information center. The way they work is that you pay a daily fee which allows you to get on and off whenever, and where ever you want. The designated drop off and pick-up sites are usually easy to see, and located in interesting or historic areas.

Ollantaytambo. Peru

Ollantaytambo. Peru

I like to stay on the bus for the full tour the first time. That lets me get the lay of the land, and an idea what sites or areas I want to spend time visiting. I can also judge distances between sites I want to see. After one lap, I generally know which areas I want to return to on the next one around, and it gives me an approximate idea how long it will take me to go from one place to the next.

If I don’t have time to visit all the places I want to, I know now where they are and what bus line I need to take to get there, or how far it is if I chose to take a taxi.

The tourist industry is huge. Trust me, there are tours for everyone, every budget. It’s not necessary to have a set plan for everything. As J.R.R. Tolkien said, “Not all who wander are lost.” Bon voyage.