Back in Arequipa, I reconnected with a few people I’d met in the canyon. A couple from Portland pointed me towards a small bar that was opened six weeks earlier by another Oregonian. I felt at home ordering microbrews from a guy with a beard and a Timbers hat, beneath a green flag with a big yellow ‘O.’ I tried to go back the next evening but found it closed. No matter, a few hours of great conversation on the roof of the hostel was the perfect way to spend my last night in town.
The next morning I was headed back to Lima for three days of ceviche and clouds before hopping up to Colombia. When I checked into a cool hostel in the popular Miraflores district, I was immediately challenged to a game of ping-pong. Here’s some trivia: I will fall into a brief existential crisis and a few hours of introspective melancholy if I lose a couple games of ping-pong to an inferior opponent. Depending on my rhythm and confidence, I’m either impossible to beat or entirely incompetent. Challenge me in the early stages of a lazy afternoon, and I’ll crumble. Give me three beers and two hours to warm up, and I’ll take you down. It’s disappointing that I didn’t discover that recipe when I was playing competitive tennis. On my second night in Miraflores, after the necessary precautions, I was awarded a free night at my hostel and two free drinks for winning their weekly tournament.