My last night in Peru was one I will never forget. For reasons that are actually quite hard to put into words, but I’m going to try…
The whole evening was a magical one, but with a slightly dark twist. I was in Arequipa, my last stop in Peru, and I had finished up my Colca Canyon trip the day before. For my last night in this fantastic country I had decided to go to a rooftop restaurant that is simply called Restaurant on the Top. I had eaten lunch there on my first day in Arequipa and thought it would be the perfect place to watch the Sunset as it overlooked the whole of the Plaza de Armas and allowed you to see the mountains and volcanoes that surround the city. And as it was my last night and I still hadn’t tried Ceviche (a seafood dish that is basically Peru’s most famous dish, consisting of fresh fish with onions and citrus juices) the plan was simple: for my last night in Peru I would enjoy a rooftop Sunset with a plate of Ceviche and a bottle of Red Wine. Alone.
Bring it on.
First of all, the food was delicious. The Ceviche did not disappoint, it was rich in flavour and presented beautifully. The service was also impeccable; it was quick, they were very polite and the waiter not only gave me a nice big corner table all to myself but he brought me over an alpaca wool blanket to wrap around myself once the sun started to set and the temperature drop.
It was honestly the most magical setting. A perfect night. And yet the whole evening felt bittersweet!
Here I was, in a dream destination, watching hands-down the most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen, over one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited, eating incredible food, with a glass of red in my hand – and yet I felt sad. For the first time on my solo trip, and as much as I hated to admit it to myself, I felt devastatingly crushed that I had no-one to share this beautiful evening with.
It wasn’t about the dining alone. I love dining alone and throughout my six week adventure across South America (not to mention a trillion times in London) I had countless meals pour uno. And it never bothered me, I enjoyed it. Eating food completely alone in a foreign country, well, those are my Liz Gilbert moments. Those are the times I feel like Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love; I feel empowered, triumphant! But sat at Restaurant on the Top, this was the first time I really really wanted someone sat in the chair next to me.
They say travel can mend a broken heart. For me, it wasn’t till I went travelling that I actually realised just how broken my Heart was. Despite my ex and I breaking up only three months prior to my Brexit, I had actually felt completely in control of my emotions when I left. I had felt like I was in a good place. How could I not be? I was a single girl off on a South American Adventure with nothing but her camera and her backpack.
But travel can do strange things to you. Especially solo travel – you have sooooo much time alone to think. If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that my ex and I travelled together, a lot. So not having him next to me for this incredible experience felt, well, it just felt painfully unusual.
I felt lonely. I was missing him, missing having the company of my partner in crime. I was surrounded by couples and I suddenly understood why the waiter had sat me in the corner away from the other guests (and was actually really grateful, I’m not sure I could handle being sat right next that loud couple from Texas who were taking a bazillion romantic selfies).
Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t sat in the corner sobbing over my ex and how lonely I felt. Quite the opposite, I sat with my head high, drinking my delicious wine and looking out at the beautiful sunset. How could I be sad when I was in these surroundings? Arequipa was one of the South American cities I had been most looking forward to visiting. I couldn’t waste that on feeling sad. And yet inside I was.
I think I was also just a big bag of emotions that night because it was my last night in Peru after an incredible 16 day journey. I sat and reflected on all I had achieved in just two weeks, the places I had been, the people I had met. From my first night drinking shots with strangers in Lima, to ticking Machu Picchu off my bucket list and even staying with a local family on Lake Titicaca. Those 16 days in Peru where by far two of the best of weeks of my whole Travel Life. As I reminded myself of this, that bittersweet emotion rolled over me, one of happiness to be where I was, mixed with sadness to be leaving. But most of all I felt lucky. Lonely or not, I felt really really lucky. And I couldn’t help but smile and raise a glass to myself.
I also felt incredibly excited of course, the next day I would be heading to an entirely new country – Chile. But little did I know that I was about to endure one of the scariest experiences a solo female backpacker can go through, not to mention a big long period of loneliness was headed my way followed by a big bag of homesickness. But blissfully unaware, that night I drank my wine and pondered over what exactly I would end up doing in Chile and who I would meet.