The late cancellation of my flight to Cusco and subsequent combination with a later departure meant my window seat on a half-empty plane became an aisle seat on a full plane. Instead of Andean panoramas and glorious cloudscapes I had to content myself with silent comedy films and the annoying bletherings of a middle-aged American woman assailing her travelling companion with stories of healing the scarred Andes with Amazonian river water and quite how wonderful the jungle tribes were.
The fortuanate side-effect of such arrant nonsense was that irritation overwhelmed apprehension until I stepped from the plane into Cusco's bright daylight and prepared myself to head for the town centre to meet Dervala. Suddenly, and rather belatedly, nerves and questions popped up in my mind like some mental Whack-a-Mole. What in heaven's name was I doing in the middle of Peru? What was she going to be like? Would we get on? For two weeks? Three hours and thirty e-mails is surely no basis for a fortnight's holiday. Would I harsh her travelling buzz, on unwanted piece of extra baggage for a year long solo traveller?
I was so busy tardily questioning the wisdom of my trans-continental venture as I strode to the baggage hall that I had to perform a full Vaudeville double-take before I worked out that the attractive woman with the black trousers, white shawl and white hat was waving at me from behind the glass above the walkway, and on balance of probabilities that meant it was Dervala. I waved tentatively back, quietly thankful that I was indeed able to recognise her, and bolted for the unobserved safety of the baggage carousel.
I waited impatiently, buoyed by the impressive feat of weaving thousand mile, year-long paths around the globe and have them intersect at such an alien location. Eventually my bag spilled onto the carousel and I walked from the shady building into the glare of the car-park where Dervala stood, mirroring my excited smile, for a re-introduction of nervous, stiff-upper-lip hellos (from me) and a long, firm hug (from her).
Whew, made it.
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