It was one of my last days in Cusco, and another volunteer and I decided to explore the San Blas neighbourhood. On our way up the steep Cuesta de San Blas, we walked past a stray dog with shaggy red hair sat patiently outside a grand blue door. 

loner puppy

Back in 2013, Cusco (like many South American cities) was ridden with strays wandering the streets and you always had to take care of where you stepped. The charity I was volunteering with at the time was in the process of setting up their own dog’s rescue home for the poor abandoned and injured pups that roamed the city’s streets. 

I don’t know why this one, in particular, caught my eye – perhaps the wavy red hair reminded me of myself, or I simply liked to contrast of the orange tones against the blue. Whatever the reason, I stopped to take her photo and it remained a favourite from the trip, featuring on my blog and cover photo.

Flash forward three years to Christmas eve 2016, I was up exploring San Blas once again, this time to enjoy some exquisite vegan cuisine at Green Point. I went there to meet Nikoya – a Canadian lady I’d met back in Copacabana – for lunch. The restaurant was packed and, as usual, we had cosy up to share a table with other travellers. We got chatting with the Norwegian gentleman and his Dutch friend sat across from us: they’d just met on the Salkantay trek and were waiting to meet up with others from the group.

One thing led to another and by the time the bill came around their friends had shown up and we were all heading to get massages together. As we followed Nikoya down to meet her masseuse Vicky, there she was: same dog, same door, facing in the same direction as she was three and a half years prior.

la puerta azul

I’d be lying if I hadn’t thought “oh I wonder if that dog is still there, wouldn’t that be funny?” but as there weren’t near as many strays on the streets this time I’d thought that would be a crazy coincidence if she was. I half-yelped when I spotted her: she looked paler than before and could definitely see the age around her eyes. It was one of those warm and fuzzy moments that made my face light up. She reminded me of the 20-year-old who had learnt so much about herself on that trip, the journey she had been on, and of the promise I’d made to her.

After I took another photo the group headed off to get grab a drink before getting very nearly naked with one another in one of Cusco’s dodgy back-alley massage parlours.  We all went for the “Incan Special” and had bikini waxes thrown in… It was a very strange and definitely hilarious experience and will most certainly go down as the oddest way I have ever celebrated Christmas Eve.

– MW.

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