I arrive in Lima early in the morning with a splitting headache.
Flying has always made me nervous and I’d spent the 12-hour flight chattering quietly to myself, drinking copious amounts of gin and trying to distract myself from the gnawing feeling that I was making a terrible mistake.
I didn’t say goodbye to the kids – Hazel had said that it would be better if I left for work at the usual time. I’d packed my bags the night before, the only thing left to do was lug them to the bus stop and start the long journey to Peru.
I’d spent months researching our founder Quentin Errol with my trip to Peru being the deadline for my preparations. The man who had founded the school that had given me so much remained a mystery to me, despite hundreds of hours of poring through the archives I had got no closer to understanding why Quentin had made his journey to Peru, or how he was able to return with the necessary funds to buy the land that the Academy resides on to this day.
My legs faintly shook beneath me as I stepped down from the plane. My head throbbed and I regretted the last drink that I had hastily swallowed before we had made our descent.
The heat was the first thing that I noticed. A wash of humidity struck me as I descended onto the runway, I’d not felt heat quite like it in a long time, not since my honeymoon at least; within moments I was soaked in sweat and the sheets of paper that I hadn’t had time to stuff back into my briefcase were stuck to my sweat palms, turning them into a slick greasy mess.
It wasn’t until I’d left the airport that I realised how I little I’d prepared for travelling in a completely foreign country. I might well have spent years tracing the footsteps of Quentin Errol and successfully built an image of what the man might have been like, but I had no idea how I was going to take myself from the capital city of Lima to Cusco, his last known location.
With just my rucksack and satchel I knew that I looked out of place; a bewildered 45-year old academic who had somehow found himself in a country as well known for its natural beauty as its insurmountable crime problem.
My heart filled with panic. How could I have left these logistical details to the last minute? What was I thinking? How on earth was I going to make the near-700 mile journey to Cusco?
I took one deep breath and did what any civilised Westerner would do, I headed straight back into the airport and found a Starbucks to hide in. I felt much more secure with my laptop open, Hazel and the kids stared back at me from the desktop and a pang of guilt struck me.