We all have our paths in life we are supposed to follow to find who we are supposed to be, but it's not always a straight path. There is something inside of us that guides us, and if you are quiet and listen to it, you'll be all right.” ~ Kyan Douglas
Benicio Quispe, of 'The Path' by Ariel Tachna, has always known he's different; he doesn't want to be a farmer like his brothers nor does he want to live his entire life in the small highland village where he was born. Benicio knows that life in the big city will be a huge adjustment, but he is willing to endure it in order to achieve his dream of being a guide on the Inca Trail. Benicio studies hard and passes the guide test. Being a guide would have been enough for him, but when Alberto Salazar becomes his mentor, Benicio and Alberto's path become one, giving them more than they ever dreamed of having.
Benicio is a bright young man with big dreams and the tenacity to make them come true. Due to his father's illness, Benicio stayed behind to help his mother care for him. This allowed Benicio to read and study, rather than having to work in the fields all day. Even though he desperately wants to move beyond life in his village, he vows to remember his roots. The experiences he's had growing up, including his studies, are very important in his job as guide. Benicio has excellent instincts about people and things which quickly endear him to them, especially Alberto, his guide mentor. His knowledge of the mountains and respect for them help him sense danger long before the tourists do. Benico is tri-lingual which greatly benefits everyone on the trail. Benito thinks that being gay is his biggest weakness and fears someone will find out; he knows that this will destroy all that he's worked so hard to obtain. He puts all his energy into being a guide because, for him, it is much more than a job; it's his way of doing something he loves while honoring his heritage. Benito is cautious, respectful, but also isn't afraid to speak up when it's called for. He and Alberto soon make an excellent team on the path and quickly become friends. He's attracted to Alberto, but is afraid of revealing his preference. Benito knows he can't hold out forever because he puts his whole heart into everything he does. When he discovers Alberto is gay as well, he's willing to take the leap of faith which will, hopefully, lead to love.
Alberto has been working as a guide for ten years. He loves his job and is the best guide they have at his agency; but his personal life isn't going anywhere. Alberto has good friends, but only one of them knows that he is gay. The last time he confided in a coworker, it didn't turn out well. He lost him as a partner and a friend. Other than his boss, no one knows his preference and Alberto intends to keep it that way. At first he resents having to teach Benicio the ropes of being a guide; Alberto isn't in the mood to be bothered spending hours of time with a green recruit. When he meets Benicio, he has second thoughts. Soon Benicio proves himself with his attitude, aptitude, and his vital language and survival skills. Alberto is continuously impressed with Benicio's intuition. When he replaces the usual historical information with storytelling, he enthralls everyone, including Alberto. He is falling for Benicio, but doesn't even know if Benicio is gay. Fortunately, he has two fairy godfathers, Don and Shan, a couple come back to celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary. When they see how much in love Alberto and Benicio are, they blatantly interfere and play cupid. Alberto and Benicio still have their problems, but when a crisis occurs, Alberto and Benicio once again, prove the strength of their teamwork and of their love.
Alberto and Benicio's love story is woven into the magnificent scenery of the Inca Trail. Ariel made me feel like I was there with them in the dirt and heat, having to take cold showers and go to bed every night, bone-tired with aching legs and feet; but through their eyes, I was able to imagine the glorious sunrise at Machu Picchu and even learned to pronounce it properly as with Benicio's instruction: “Machu Pic-chu,” Thomas repeated slowly, finally getting the hard c before the diphthong. “Yes, is right,” Benicio said. “Is two c’s in Picchu for a reason.” Ariel’s portrayal of the history and culture was fascinating and informative without being didactic. I looked forward to learning more about these proud people and their ability to survive in what can sometimes be a precarious area. I highly recommend this story to everyone interested in Inca history and culture and wanting to vicariously appreciate the beauty of the Andes mountains. Thank you, Ariel, for sharing your talent and marvelous experiences with me.