I kept a journal while in Peru. It's a few years old, and I typed it up all as one entry, mainly because I have no idea what the exact dates are. Headings indicate the basic setting for each entry.
Written on the plane to Lima:
I don't know what the fuck I am doing.I am going off to a foreign land and I don't speak any goddamn Spanish.I'm bloated from eating too much airport food, and I don't know where or if I am going to sleep tonight.Now that we are 30,000 feet over Cuba, my allergies decided to take a break, so at least I have a moments rest from the runny nose sneeze explosions that are surely entertaining the other passengers.
Now that I am in the air and not concerned with checking my email, it is occurring to me that the thing I want to do the most is climb.I want to slap on some plastic boots and pay a dude 75 bucks to bring me up to the top of some mountain.The [Machu Picchu] trek is going to be cool, but it's only 4 days and I don't think it will appease my need for adventure.I decided not to join the army, and it almost every way that decision has made me soft; likely the decision has made me a zillion times happier as well, but still, soft.I don't like being soft.I'm hoping to come away from this trip ready to take the road back to being hard.I'm not so much interested in leading life for others, even if those others are paying me for my time.As always, I feel that I am facing a lot of great potential, but here are some of the potentials that I'd like to convert into actuality - get my weight down to 165 by getting in better shape and eating less like an asshole; push the writing issue, get some stuff published, work on the story, make a few dollars this way; Snowboard, buy one, use it often.
1 week in Killington, involve others; Figure out what I'm going to do when I leave Baltimore.My life can return to the "take to the sky" mode of being and cease the whole "get fat, go slow" thing.It's the way to be, and fuck anything or anyone that gets in my way.Strange how much I admire GG Alin, a guy who is completely fucked up in about every way possible, but goddamn does he act on his beliefs.His dedication to his own freedom (well past the point of utter ridiculousness) is inspiring.Oh, and by the way "Monster-In-Law" sucks just as much as "Pearl Harbor".
Sitting in the airport in Lima:
Pretty fucking tired.
Hanging out in el aeropuerto, killing time.Inca Cola is radioactive yellow but pretty damn tasty.It was a good idea to avoid going into Lima and just wait in the airport for our flight to Cusco.Getting a hotel would have been a complete waste of time.We got through customs and got our baggage by -ish, and we have to check in for our Cusco flight at .By the time we would have cabbed it to a hotel and checked in, we would have had 2-3 hours to sleep before we would have had to cab it back to the aeropuerto.There appears to be plenty of other people here doing the same thing, hanging out in the food court amongst the Peruvian McDonalds, Papa Johns and Dunkin Doughnuts, speaking English, playing cards.I'm gonna try to knock off for a bit while MJ reads.Not likely to be comfortable, but right now I don't care.
Now in Cusco:
First day in Cusco.I've showered, I've slept, I've ate.Feeling much better.I have no fucking clue what time it is.I'd guess somewhere between .People are awake here at the hostel, humans and cars are ambling about the well lit plaza below.Some dudes in a room across the hall must have brought their own radio.They are blasting some reggae CD that I've never heard in a language I don't understand.
On the balcony there are two British sounding peeps talking about how they don't know Spanish but enjoyed some local lessons.I got pegged for a Brit again today, this time by the server at the Peruvian/Italian restaurant where we had our comida.I wonder if I always get pegged as a Brit because Americans in non-European countries are more rare.When I was in Nepal I was constantly pegged as a Brit, never once as an American.When I told people I was an American, they were always surprised.I certainly do not hear many US accents here, nor did I in Nepal.British accepts abound, and I get the impression that as a nation they travel internationally a lot more than us yanks.I'm not sure if that is statistically accurate, but it would make sense in a historically stereotypical sort of way.
The British, with their vast empire on which the sun never sets have more history of being out and about in the world in a major way.When I think of general trends in US history, I think of our isolationist tendencies, with bouts of paranoia.Not wanting to get involved in WWII, hating the UN, claiming empire only via proxy i.e. "our S.O.B." and so forth.A lot of people I know back home are afraid to travel outside of familiar first world environments.I'm pretty hungry again, but I'm going to wait until morning to venture out.It's chilly here at night and I'll bet that the only things open right now are bars.That's all for now, no thoughtful impressions, no ground breaking epiphanies yet.Just happy to be clean, rested and warm.Toodles.
Later while drunk:
If I'm not confessing something that could get me into heaps of trouble, then I'm writing for an audience.
I don't really want to do that, so if you are an audience then fuck off.
So many travelers that I meet from other parts of the world are out for much much longer that the fucking 2 week US standard.It seems that if I want to see more of the world and live a more adventurous life, I'll have to take my adventures between jobs.I don't want to be a teacher, and I'm at a loss to think of other occupations that are conducive to having so many weeks off in a row.Here is what I need to do - Save more money, buy my snowboard so I can make it through winter without going looney, ice climb, etc, but save more money.Set up an automatic deposit so that $100 a month goes into a second account, so that at the end of every year I can have $1200 bucks to travel with; Make plans with Rich, some big trip before he off and marries.We can meet up with the ladies somewhere along the way and have a fucking jolly time; Work on writing, but explore other options for working around the world; Start getting up by .
Be ready to run to work at .Get there and shower and start working by and stop working and get the hell out of the office by .If I stay late at all, charge dinner to the company goddamnit.Drink less at a time but more often; Enjoy life; Don't forget that there is a big fucking world out there and that there is nothing worth not experiencing it for.Nothing.
A few days later in Cusco, after the 4 day Machu Picchu Trek:
When you mail shit internationally it takes a long time.
I was in DHL for 1 and a half hours today.I had to fill out the regular mailing forms, plus I had to itemize all things being sent, assign a value in dollars, declare that everything is customs friendly, then sign 2 more forms & high five the employees that are now like family.I mailed 20.2 Kg of stuff and it cost me $180 which comes out to about $3.10 per pound.Next time, I need to spend less on gifts.If I traveled more often, I wouldn't feel such a compulsion to buy cheap local crafts for people.Maybe I should come down to Ecuador and go to a language school.Cusco has gotten old very fast, it is quite touristy.A more efficient way to do the city would be as follows:Day 1 - get there, get a hotel. (not the Hotel Resbelosa; it was decent but Suecia 1 looked like a better place)Walk around, get your bearings, etc.
Day 2 - Get the Boleta Turistico.Go to a few of the museums, but not too many because they are kinda all the same(filled with Jesus shit), ride a horse to the 4 Incan sites that are 8km or less from the city center, take a Spanish lesson.Places worth checking out include: Nortons, Los Perros (the coolest place to eat/hang by far), Mamma Africas, Trotamundos (cozy fireplace and board games) & Rosie O'Grady's.The San Blas neighborhood is exactly the same as the area near the Plaza de Armas.Stay near the Plaza.The churches here are damn ornate and are covered with bloody crucifix statues.Check out 1 or 2 of them, then stop.Incan stuff is much more interesting.
Andean Life was a great tour company and well worth the $300.
But, if I was to repeat the trip I'd stay the final night in Aguas Calientes at a budget hotel and enjoy the hot baths and get a cheap massage.The baths are murky and they reek of sulfur, but they feel great on the sore muscles, not to mention that a lot of the female trekkers are nice to look at, and the Latina chicks have killer bodies and wear tiny bikinis.If I wasn't staying in Aguas Calients, I'd at least get off of the returning train at Ollyntatambo and pay the extra 5 soles for a bus back to Cusco.It's an hour faster, and the train kinda blows.The good thing about the train is that at some stops old ladies come up to the window and sell you incredibly tasty corn and cheese for a quarter.The bad thing about the train is that it takes an hour to go about 1000 feet because it has to run through switchbacks to make it down the steep hill into town.Time to go to Arequipa.
I took some notes on my fellow travelers:
Glenn & Nicole - couple from northern Australia/Queensland.He is a corporate lawyer for Yamaha, she works for the government.Both get an inordinate amount of time off for travel.
Brock, Greg H. and Greg W. - 3 friends from Australia that have been working in England to make loads of money.Brock is a mover making minimum wage (which is still a lot of money he claims)Greg H. is an accountant.I didn't catch what Greg W. did for work.
Chris & Janine - another couple from Australia.They have been living in London for the past 4 years but are going back down under after this trip.Chris works a white collar job in the construction business, not like little house construction, but in big ass expensive sky scraper type expensive.I think Janine is an accountant.
Axl & Lyn - couple from Belgium.They had been living in London, but are returning to Belgium after this trip.Axl is a kidney surgeon and Lyn is a psychiatrist.
Some random notes on food:Lomo is ok but not great.Crocante de Chirimoya is fucking good, as is Jugos Mixtos.
Staying in Arequipa:
The bus station is more confusing than the airport; no English announcements at all.The airports are ok because they are run pretty much the same as in the US - the language is irrelevant because all the symbols are recognizable.But since I am not familiar with riding buses in the US, I don't understand the symbols or how things work.
I took a "Royal Class" bus with the Ormeno bus line.The ticket was 80 soles, but we I purchased it through a tour group, so I had to pay an extra 15 soles.The idea is this class of bus is safer and easier to sleep on.I am traveling through the night, and then arriving in Nazca to party with the Nazca lines.Staying in Hotel Miamaka in Arequipa was very nice.It was $20 per night for a double, and it had to be a crisp $20 bill or else they wouldn't take it.American money is like baseball cards to Peruvians.If it isn't in mint condition, it isn't worth its face value.The price of the hotel in soles was 68 per night.When in Arequipa, don't eat at any upstairs places on the plaza unless you want to overpay.
The menu for s/10 is ok tho, but buying anything else, fuggetaboudit.The Andean Pan flute & guitar music is nice until you hear "Let It Be" covered for the third time in an hour, and then it just gets annoying.And then the musicians come around and ask for tips.We ate at some place in Gringo Alley, which was crowded.I tried the Guinea Pig and it was fucking terrible.It's expensive and very hard to eat because it is rife with tiny bones.It has novelty value only.The music at the restaurant was pretty good until Johnny-I-suck-at-the-clarinet stepped onto the scene and demonstrated what 3 weeks of clarinet lessons could do.It was not enjoyable, so I did not tip.Luckily, he only played 5 songs and then split.Horray for Musak.
Nazca is a small town, population 53,000 according to the book.
It looks like a rustic western town.One road runs through the middle, one or two story buildings lining on each side.Shops selling used tires.When we got off the bus, people aggressively tried to sell us Nazca treks, people who likely have nothing to do with the actual tour company.I took a taxi to the tiny airport to try to set up an over flight of the lines directly.The taxi driver was a polite guy, roughly in his mid-twenties, and his vehicle apparently required a lot of rigging to get it to run.It looked like it had been hot-wired.The get into the truck, I had to lift up the trunk lid a few inches so that the driver could reach a metal rod inside.He removed the rod and then used it to poke something in the hole where the trunk lock was supposed to be.I tried to set up a tour with Aerocondor, but their first opening wasn't until , so I ended up with a company that wasn't listed in the Lonely Planet guidebook.
The company was called Montecarlo, and was located right next to Aerocondor.They had an opening at , which worked out well with our bus departure time.Now we are watching a movie about the Nazca lines that shows scientists and alien-lovers talking about what the lines mean and how they got there.It's pretty wacky, but the gist of the movie is that the animal patterns come from shamans from the amazon.The geometric patters are of unknown origin.
Later the same day:
Nazca was the kind of place that you wanted to get out of quickly; small, hot and desolate.
It, more than any other town I've been to here completely relies on the tourism for sustenance.The only stores I saw were restaurants and used tire outlets.The town's dependence on tourism made the touts that much more persistent.I ended up paying $45 for the Nazca flight plus $3 airport fee.MJ had to pay $5 airport fee because she did not have a student ID.Her and I had to fly separately because they wanted to pack the small planes full and they had 2 planes with 1 empty seat each.To make up for splitting us up they let me sit in the co-pilots seat, which had the best view.Watching the pilot fly the Cessna 182 was like watching fat people fuck - it was messy, graceless and it looked like a lot of effort.Somehow tho, it worked.I wanted so badly to not get motion sickness, but I came damn close to booting in the tiny plastic bag they provided me with.Everything felt fine until I was trying to focus the camera on the ground below, and the pilot severely banked the plane.
Every time I was looking through the lens while the plane banked I got a little bit closer to sharing my shitty ham sandwich lunch with the tiny bag.But I managed to hold on, stare at the horizon when necessary and make it through.I don't know how the pictures look yet, but I think some of them should come out well.I got all hot and sweaty in the plane and spent most of the time with my face in front of the tiny blower.After we got back on the ground, we got back into the ramshackle taxi and returned to the bus station.Some bus showed up at , and I asked if we could take this one instead of waiting for the bus.I got a si, so we arrived in Ica at instead of at , which was nice.
Much smaller than Arequipa or Cusco, but much bigger than Nazca.Other than the ATM and bus station, We didn't spend any time there though. We went directly to Huacachina, which is like a mini fucking paradise, which I'll write more about once the bus stops moving.We are on the way now to Pisco for our tour of the "poor man's Galapagos".
On the bus but stuck in traffic.I'm not sure if the strikes blocking the roads to Lima have been lifted or not, but my most recent info (a second hand report from a guy at the Ormeno counter) is that the strikes are over and all is well.
Our current traffic situation, I believe, is due to a buildup at the tollbooth.
Now we are driving on the side of the road, past other buses and trucks.The freedom in this country is astonishing.Don't like being stuck in traffic?Fuck it!Make your own lane.Tollbooth it is.
So Huacachina is truly an oasis.Middle of the desert, high dunes on each side, and a small lake-like thing in the middle, kids swimming, paddleboats, etc.It is almost too good to be true.We walk around, eat cheaply at a local restaurant (entire meal for 2 = $8, including sea bass with rice and fresh vegetables) I’m tired, bus is moving, write more later.
Fuck, a lot of time has passed and I forgot to write.Huacachina was great.We stayed at the Casa de Arena, which was the same price as our hotel in Cusco (s/40) but with a bathroom in our room that actually had hot water, so it was much nicer.The place was run by these dudes that loved to party.Every night they ran an all you can eat & drink BBQ for s/15 and blasted Bob Marley and Techno.I think they just ran the place so they could bang all the hot young gold card hippie tail that came through.Not a bad gig.The Dune buggy ride was great, but it was the death of my camera as I stupidly tried to take pictures while driving through sand at high speeds, and got some stuck in the cameras motors, and now the lens won't retract.Fuck it, it was a great trip.