By Zachary Moses
I recently published a little note from my hotel room in Ireland, where I was nervously contemplating my next harebrained adventure, Coasteering. We had a plan to put on wet suits and life jackets, then jump into the ocean from one of Ireland’s sea cliffs in order to swim into the caves carved into the cliff face. I wrote
“This activity scares me half to death. And it will be cold! So why am I doing it? For the thrills? For the adrenaline rush? Nope. I’m doing it, because I can. I don’t want to wait too long to do the things that I can do in life, because eventually…I can’t.”
The note provoked a lot of responses from our travelers, and I wanted to share one with you. I believe his adventurous spirit echos in all our lives:
“Your comments about jumping off the cliff in Ireland brought to mind my own epiphany at around age 30 while traveling in Peru.
This was the late seventies and a friend of mine was First Secretary at an embassy in Lima. Through his good offices, we were able to secure lodging at the 30 room facility then available at Machu Picchu. At that time, it was the only accommodation. Otherwise, you took the train, spent 3 hours at the site and then returned the same day to Cuzco. Staying overnight also allowed us to have a nice lunch and sit on the ruins watching the crowds until they disappeared and freed the site for those few remaining to enjoy. I noted how so many “old people” were unable to do much at the ruins due to the altitude and their age.
While on the train to the site, we met this gorgeous blond fellow from Oregon, who claimed he was into mountain climbing. Over dinner, the three of us decided that we would climb Huayna Picchu the next morning. We rose early and picked up our prearranged luncheon goodies from the kitchen: french bread, cheeses, cold cuts, wine. We also brought along the usual accoutrements of the time: drugs. Don’t know if you climbed that mountain, but at the time, the path up was certainly not to National Park Service standards. It was a one foot wide stairway carved into the face of the mountain by the Incas. In the early morning, the mists had yet to rise so there was a clear view of the river thousands of feet below. At the summit we enjoyed our lunch and other accoutrements and proceeded down. Fortunately, by that time, the mists had risen; otherwise, I likely would have had vertigo and put a punctuation point to a rather satisfactory life up to that time.
When I returned to Washington and my job as chief of staff for a member of congress, I announced to my boss that I would be leaving before the end of the year. I wanted to climb the mountains while I still could. Didn’t know where I was going or what I was going to do, but I knew I wanted to be in a gay friendly town. Looked at Provincetown and the Virgin Islands and then someone suggested I look at Key West, which I had never heard of. Came for a visit and three months later closed on my purchase of a hotel. And there started another adventurous tale that I won’t bore you with.”
-the author has asked to remain anonymous