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  • Cusco

    This town’s like a small European town, but with mind-blowing ancient stone walls everywhere. So very sad that we know so little about a once magnificent and powerful people. Just to think about how they built such massive walls with no steel- just other rock hammers inginuity and a lot of time… and they had no slaves. All was done according to the tax system of labor exchange and the power of religious fanaticism. If I could travel back in time, I’d go to Cusco before the bloddy Spanish came and ruined everything. At least the language survived…

    We’re stranded, though, due to yet another huelga (stike). Roads are closed, people are pissed, tourists are scared, and the town is filled with riot police… another day in South America, I guess. But the tourist leeches are out in force innundating our already slightly uncomfortable ambiance with, “hola amigo, massage? postcard? art? finger puppet? strange box thing? earings? good food? internet? shoe shine? hat? water? water holder? cigarretes? gum? some other useless craft?” Uhh… “no, gracias.” Please for the love of Christ almighty, leave me alone damnit!! I was thinking about getting a big sign or sticker that says, “No. Gracias.” and sticking it to my forehead. I’ve never wished to have dark skin so badly before.

    But they got to eat too I suppose. I think the strike today is about the exceedingly low minimum wage in this country. It seems the only work that doesn’t suck around here is sucking the tourists dry. So you can’t help feeling sorry for these people… the only reason to by another useless piece of art here is to spread some of the wealth around some. However after dropping a ridiculous sum of money on a 5 day trek to Machu Picchu I’m feeling a bit poor myself.

    On Saturday we start walking with 8 other extranjeros, a guide, a cook, and a couple porters through the mountains of the Andes. The Inca trail is booked months in advance, so we’re going an alterate route. It sounds pretty sweet, hard and painful, undoubtedly, but sweet. And the trip is rounded out with some 6 hours on Machu Picchu. Hopefully I’ll be over this cold by then. I got the dreaded cold… what a pain in the ass. I haven’t been able to party since we got here because of it. Lame.

    Anyhow, Cusco is an awesome town. Aside from the tremendous surplus of tourists and tourist related business, I would recommend everyone to check this place out. And if you’ve got $$, even better. They’ve got plenty of 1st rate accomodations and services for those who like to travel in style. Just be prepared to feel like a giant tourist, with a big fat tourist arrow over your head saying, “bother me, I have money!!”


    We just left a mountain paradise in the Andes of Peru. Nestled between the Cordillera Nerga and the Cordillera Blanca lies a small but busy town of Huaraz, which was completely destroyed by an earthquake then resulting flood in 1970. This quaint little town is the stop over point for the many mountain adventures that flock to explore the vast peaks and valleys that surround it. We weren’t planning on doing much trekking ourselves, but a few hours in a town surrounded by massive mountains made us yearn to go exploring.

    Shortly after hearing about the The Way Inn mountain lodge that hugs the base of the Cordillera Blanca at 3700 meters, we decided to check it out. Lada, two Australian brothers, two British chicks, and I hopped in a hatch-back cab and made our way up the mountains. As the noise and clutter of Huaraz gradually died away and the vast serenity of the Cordillera Blanca embraced us, we knew we made a good decision. Arriving at the quaint little lodge was like taking a breath of fresh air after growing accustomed to life in Bombay- we remembered how beautiful planet earth could be.

    An ex-Brit and his now estranged wife built this place from mere dreams, and with a lot of sweat, over the past 6 years. Now they enjoy the success that comes with owning one of the few mountain lodges in one of the most touristed areas of the Peruvian Andes. Luckily for us we arrived sooner than later, since they plan on expanding the operation to cater to the high-end market- offering large suites, jacuzzies, and other rich-man services- so someday this place might be much to pricey. But for now, the friendly young staff and their lack of much experience with guests gave the place a relaxed and even homey feel. We enjoyed sitting around by the wood heater, reading, eating, and chatting it up with other budget travelers.

    Of course, you can´t go into the mountains and not go hiking… lest you feel like a lazy pile of poo. And the closest peak of Churupita did look like a nice challenge. So the day after our arrival we set out to climb 1000 meters for a view into the park on the other side. But my dumbass didn’t bring a rain jacket. Three and a half hours of straight up hiking and scraping landed us on the second highest peak at 4632 meters. For 10 minutes or so we basked in the landscape and took photos. Then the rain and hail began to turn the once brown mountain into a white capped one. Undesiring of hyperthermia, we decided to turn around and head back. Less than an hour later, with sore knees and completely wet, we made it back to the lodge. Soup and sleep never felt so good.

    The next day was Halloween. And what better to do on Halloween than a San Pedro ceremony? Toby, from Lubick, Texas, was a traveling shaman of sorts. For a small fee he told us he would guide us through the spirit world of San Pedro, a psychadelic cactus. We were told the medicine (don’t call it a drug…) was mescaline based, and can induce profoundly spiritual and often unpleasant but necessary confrontations with your sub-conscience. Sweet, we thought. So by 10 o’clock that morning we were safely guarded from the evil spirits and waiting for the trip to grab us by the balls. Nine of us took it, 2 spewed shortly after, and most of us had quite a pleasant time. We were each instructed to ask San Pedro a question we wanted answered. Mine was, “will I reach enlightenment in this lifetime?” Unfortunately, and not to undersell the experience, the only answer I think I got was, “on San Pedro you sure won’t.” But I did have some enlightening thoughts and conversations with evolved souls that gave me that priceless feeling of complete gratitude for being alive. All in all, it was a worthwhile experience. Drugs can be a short cut to spiritual thought and experience. But they are ultimately very limited, and leave the user with not much more than one more assurance that there’s more to this experience than the mundane. That’s my disclaimer…

    Oh, by the way, San Pedro is apparently available legally in the US. And it’s super easy to cook. So, for all you experimenters and seekers at home, pick yourselves up some cactus! In a few months time you could be having your own San Pedro ceremony! After all, San Pedro is the one who holds the keys to Heaven’s Gate…

    Anyway, we’re in Lima now, trying to decide what to do tomorrow. If anyone wants to call me and doesn’t mind footing the long distance bill, my number is: 44 911 4704. But first you must dial the country code of Peru… which I don’t have infront of me.

    Tata for now!


    Lazy days of summer… well, almost summer. I can’t really tell by the weather down here. Except for the wind, of course… there’s this awful wind that starts at around 10 and gives up around 6, or pretty much the entire time the sun is blasting. The kite surfers love it, the surfers hate it, and I’m definately leaning towards the latter. I’ve been surfing the past two days on nice rolling breaks between a meter and 2 meters tall. Great for beginners like me. I’ve gotten over the steep learning curve of being able to catch the waves and stand up pretty consistently- now I’m working on riding the smooth face up and down as it breaks to the left. It’s terribly fun, and at around 10 dollars a day for a nice board and wet suit, it doesn’t require spending too much time justifying the expense.

    We had our first ceviche on the beach yesterday. Ohhh… it was tasty. Raw rish, squid, calamari, and shrimp mixed together in the staple lemon sauce, garnished with a strange type of potato and chile peppers, made a delicious treat. Aside from the fact that my intestines are not in the best shape today, it was well worth the four dollars we paid for it. For five they might leave out the parasites.

    But I did find the cure to travelers’ raw-anus condition that can result from a couple days of diarreha. It’s usually made worse by sitting down for long periods (busses), and maybe swimming in the ocean. You’ll know you’ve got in when wiping your butt feels like you’re using sandpaper, even with the softest of tissue. So here’s the trick: alcohol wipes and Gold Bond baby powder. Walla! Keep it clean and dry and you’re well on your way to anal relief. If you plan on traveling, don’t forget to bring these essentials! Note: it does help to have someone willing to apply the baby powder- it takes a steady aim at a hard to see spot.

    We’ve really enjoyed the laid back atmosphere around here- just the kind you’d expect from a beach community. We are itching to move on, though. There’s too much else to see in this massive continent. Besides, we’re getting very tired of having money in bills too large for anyone to accept. I think it’s a conspiracy, or a scam to get more out of the waves of tourists that made this place what it is. You take money out of the ATM, and you get 50s and 100s (3 Soles = 1 dollar), but store owners, hostals, restaurants, and everyone else complains when you pay with anything bigger than 10! Ridiculous. We end up spending less because we don’t want to go through the hassle of finding someone with cambio. So much for their evil plan.

    I’ve got get go, though. It’s feed the Poo time, and I’d like to maybe ride some waves this afternoon for a bit. Tomorrow we’re headed to Puerto Chacama, which supposedly has the longest left break in the world- under perfect conditions one could ride a single 2m wave for 2km!! Sweeeet.

    Banos de Agua Santa

    We’re in a small mountain town on the eastern cordillero next to the Orient, which is what they call the jungle portion of Ecuador. Today it’s raining, so there’s not much to do other than sit on the computer and write. Now we understand why this is the low-season…

    Downhill mountain biking to la Garganta del Diablo

    Downhill mountain biking to la Garganta del Diablo

    Yesterday was stupenderisiouly-magnifinormous. We rented some bicycles for $5 and rode downhill through mountain ravines for 2 hours. The sky was clear, the weather nice and cool, and the tourist traffic to a minimum. The hills here are covered with jungle- everywhere there’s green, except near the rivers rumbling below that are carving deep rifts through strange looking volcanic rock. I wanted to take pictures of it all… to somehow save it, maybe hang onto the it’s vast beauty for years to come- always remembering what it was like to be here. But then reality told me that the photos can’t do that for me. Nothing can. All that we see and do here is gone just as soon as we turn around and move forward. Sadness accompanied the joy of it.

    And then the people you meet wipe that sadness away, because they too are here for those fleeting moments of awe. They know just as well as we did that this is a special place, and knowing that for the first time uplifts you, but ultimately we are destined to experience far more than one view of creation. We must turn away, and move forward. People share the same human experiences, understand the same limitations, and are blown away by the same vastly beautiful unknowns. So stopping to forget with them all that we think is ours is a welcomed relief. Two men we met along the way yesterday we’re exceptionally pleasant distractions. One was an ex-pat from Canada, who came here to tend a garden next to the rumbling Rio Verde. The other was a restaurant owner who’s kindness and obvious honesty allowed us to relax a bit in a foreign and sometimes unforgiving land.

    Antonio the gardner wanted to tell us about the “3rd Dimension”, the interconnection of all things, the end of the world, truth in all texts which inspiried faith, a mythical dwarf who is between good and evil, devils and angels, and other mysteries of the universe. And, of course, he wanted to tell us about his “Garden of Eden.” What a gem that guy was. We promised to meet in another life, again in this one, or in the hereafter.

    The restaurant owner fed us, took care to stash our bikes safely in the back, told us what we should go and see, and was generally just a sweet little old man. The food was good too.

    Afterwards, we ate and went to the hot springs. They were hot, alright. And brown. It felt almost like we were all children of the womb, splashing around in warm and organic fluids, relaxed and placid… awaiting our moment of uncomfortable birth, when the dip into 16 degrees Celcius water shocks you awake. We slept like babies.

    Time to read on the hammock a bit.

    Laguna Quilatoa

    Me Pointing at God's Toilet

    Me Pointing at God's Toilet

    There’s a lake in the middle of an old volcano… around the year 1780 this mountain exploded, spewing fire and ash miles and miles, and when the smoke settled a giant hole was left where the mountain once was. Over time the crater filled with water, forming what is now known as Laguna Quilotoa. This is one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen in my 24 years.

    We arrived at the summit of the crater before noon on Thursday. After negotiating our sleeping arrangements, we packed our day hiking gear and went to see for ourselves what we had heard so much about. And we weren’t disappointed. The 30-minute straight downhill slide to the bottom was a lot of fun. We hung out near the clear green water for a few hours, ate some frutas and cliff bars, wrote, meditated, and told the local burros (donkey) guides that we were planning on walking back up… Strangely enough, we met an older couple from Decatur there too- Bob and Janice we a nice bunch of gringos on a planned tour. They said that they weren’t so stupid to try and walk back up.

    Then for the next hour and 20 minutes we scrapped and dug our ways back up and out of the crater. That was our first major excertion… we took a nap shortly thereafter. Later that night we ate dinner with a local Quichua family huddeled around the wood stove heater- that was the best meal we had had yet on the trip. Afterwards we had a beer or two and chatted with one of the younger girls about their traditions, culture, the world, music, etc. in a mix of german, belgian, spain, and quichua spanish. That was a whole lot of fun. Sleeping that night, though, was a bit difficult due to the cold, the hard beds and pillows, and the weight of the 8 thick wool blankets that covered us. It gets chilly at night at over 12500 ft in the Andes.

    The following day, we started the long (er than expected) hike to the next town on the gringo trail- Chugchilan. Because our packs were much lighter, we hadn’t too much trouble staying on our feet… but we struggled a bit trying to find the trail. Local guides ripped out all the signs, as they seemed to want solo travelers to get lost. But with some luck, a lot of work, a gps, and the help a 8 year old boy we paid $1 to show us the way, we managed to find our way to a hostel some 5 and a half hours later. Now that hike kicked our asses. But it was worth it! Man, what a beautiful journey that was! Ah… I can’t even tell you. Maybe the pictures will help. I’ll upload them when I get a chance.

    Anyway, I’m supposed to get of this machine and let the next traveller tell their stories to friends and family. We’re in Baños now, about to rent some mountain bikes and ride to some waterfalls that are supposed to be spectacular. Then we hit the hot springs and relax…

    We’re also looking into Amazon tours. So we may spend 3-4 nights in the jungle very soon.

    Adios Quito, Bienvenidos a Latacunga

    We had to say goodbye to Quito today… too much to see further south to be hanging around the big city.

    I’ve said before that detailing all the events of my time here is more like work to me than fun. And we left our work back in Atlanta… Besides, I imagine that that sort of writing is not nearly as enjoyable to read. Pictures we have to show some of our high points, but in many cases you’ll have to imagine the stories that go with them.

    It suffices to say that we’ve had a lot of fun. All the people we meet are nice, welcoming, and generous- both travelers and locals. Ecuador is truly a wonderful little country on a spectacular strech of land. We went to the equator, both the massive monument 200 ft away, and the actual 00º 00.000 line. They say you’re actually lighter on the equator (less gravity)… which might help explain why we had such a light-hearted time playing with the gimmicks that demonstrate the ‘power’ of the equator. You’ve heard about the water in a draining sink spinning opposite directions depending on the hemisphere you’re in, right? Well, we got a demo of that. After the guides left, another american couple, Lada, and I had a fun time trying to figure out how they did it. We’ve got two theories now: the angle of the ground upon which the sink was set, and the way the water was poured in before the plug was pulled. Then again is could be the power of the Line. Any ideas? We took video of it if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about.

    Anyway, a lot has happened since then. We checked out the South American Explorers group, joined and got our bearings, moved to another hostal in the new part of town, partied, slept, researched out next step, hoped in a taxi then in a hurried panic transferred to a bus, sat for 2 hours, landed in the small and nearly tourist free town of Latacunga, made our way to this cool little hostal, got a room, ate, and here I am. Lada just brought me back some little bananas or oritos (little gold) from the market, and I think she’s now taking a nap. I’m beginning to feel tired myself…

    Tomorrow we embark on our first strenuous trek through the mountains. We’re headed to a massive lake in the middle of the crater of an old but not extinct volcano. And it’s some 4500 meters above sea level. On the way there and back, we’ll be busing, hitching on trucks, hiking through indigenous villages, and sleeping in cheap hostals next to warm fires. We’re excited. Wish us luck- hiking for 5-6 hours at that altitude could be a challenge. We’re leaving all the unnecessary stuff at this hostal to reduce weight, and we’ll come and pick it up on the way back.

    See you in 3 or 4 days.

    Hole desde Quito!

    We’ve successfully arrived in Quito, Ecuador!! And we’ve already exhausted ourselves… at over 9300 ft above sea level, that’s not hard to do. Getting acclimated is always fun…

    Anyway, this country is awesome! The people are friendly, the city is clean, there’s more to do around here than a small army could do in weeks, and the food ain’t half bad! I’m still crossing my fingers, though, that the food gods don’t punish me- but I won’t keep my hopes up. I’ve a bad track record with that so far.

    The trip was also surprisingly pleasant. The immigration and customs check points were smooth, the cab ride was pleasant, the hostal was expecting us, the beds are comfortable, shower hot, and besides from the incessant street noise blasting through our second story window, quiet. We slept like logs.

    Today was a rather auspicious day to arrive, too. Something that only happens every so often went down today: general elections. I’m not sure what or who they were voting for but I learned these tidbits from the cabby and a fellow traveler: they are voting to amend/change the constitution, all Ecuadoreños must vote or give up some of their rights, and there was a ban on the sale of alcohol this entire weekend. I suppose if they make their citizens vote, it makes sense to also make them do it sober. It’s easy to imagine swaths of drunk quiteños stumbling into the voting booths in the early morn…

    As far as what we did today, I’ll give you a quick synopsis. We ate desayuno on the hostel roof, walked all over Old Town, checked out the Andy Warhol exhibit at the big art museum (he was awesomely wierd, by the way), ate, bought a cheap cell phone, napped, walked to the New Town and checked out some beautiful artwork in the Mariscal Sucre park, ate, and now we’re at an Internet café. I refused to wear sunsceen, so now my face is red, and Lada is still suffering periodically from a stomach ulcer. We’re treating her with Pepto Bismo before meals. My dumb ass will have to deal with the slight burn.

    So we’re happy. All is well, we are living day to day, and so far we’ve been lucky. My spanish isn’t as rusty as I expected, as it has been rather easy to get what we need without those uncomforable moments of language misunderstandings. I even negotiated the cell phone purchase entirely in Spanish, and listened to the guide tell me all the strange things about Andy Warhol that I didn’t know while comprehending most of it. Lada thinks it’s hot. teehee.

    That’s it for now. We took some photos, and we’ll upload them soon. I even plotted some spots with my gps, so you’ll be able to put the photos into geographical context on The Map page of this site! But I don’t think I’ll do that now.

    Tonight we will be hanging out at the hostel (the only place that may sell us beer) and talk with one of the travelers who we met earlier. He’s also traveling for several months, and plans to go to Cuzco ( then Machu Pichu) and the Amazon. His name’s Ross and he’s been in Quito for a week now… so hopefully he can give us some tips.

    Tomorrow I think we’ll head to the equator. La Mitad del Mundo!!!

    Just a few days left

    So, the journey is two days away… time sure is creeping up on us. At this point I’m more ready to be done with all the bullshit preparation, and move on to the excitement of the journey. Alas, that won’t happen until we land in Quito, two backpackers in a foreign land… trying to figure out how to arrive at an accomodating hostel. Ohh… they days of nothing to worry about but where to sleep, eat, and have fun… It’s been a while! I welcome them back, now, with outstreched arms.

    But don’t be too hasty Master Took- all in it’s due time. First we must finish what we started here, and do our damndest to do it right! Thursday it’s back to work, and Friday we move all the heavy and delicate stuff. And I’ve got to load up the GPS with some coordinates of cool places before we depart. Got to get my shit together, mayne!

    Tada for now. Next correspondence, and we’ll probably be in Ecuador. Wish us luck!

    We are on our way

    We have purchased our tickets to South America!!  Finally, the commitment is made- the journey is now irreversibly underway.  It’s strange how those feelings of anxiety and fear seemed to somehow dissolve once we clicked the ‘Purchase Tickets’ button.  The Unknown is what restrained  my energy in a cage in the pit of my stomach.  The Committment allowed it to open.  Or switching from fearing change to accepting change.  Once you’ve accepted it and you begin taking the steps that lead you down that new path, you might find that walking the path was a whole lot less stressful than anticipating it.  Well, I hope, anyway…

    But we shall find out.  And even if this journey become one of the most painful experiences of my life, it is necessary.  I’ve known this day was to come years ago, and I never doubted that I needed to do this.  The only question was when.  And now we know.

    Now the journey can begin.


    Our nation’s capital

    We went to Washington D.C. this past weekend. There’s something about our nation’s capital that makes me want to crap words. You know? Feeling dumb-struck with wonder, yet petrified by the feeling that our own government may somehow blink me out of existence, makes me want to say something. I mean, standing there amidst all that progress and death- the towering stone edifices and temples to long dead heroes- gives me the sense that something of tremendous power has built all of this… and neither my delegates nor I have a clue about its true nature.

    And maybe that’s just me letting the fantasies about what we’ll never know affect me too much. I could give myself a premature heart attack stressing about all the secret evils past and present. Truth is, I don’t know squat. And maybe it’s better that way. If our government (or parts of it) really planned, executed, and covered up 9/11, and there wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it, would you really want to know? Screw that. I don’t want to watch some poor bastard getting his arm bitten off by an alligator for the very same reason.

    And then there are the people who are fighting the evil- the saviours of our collective soul. That’s a hell of a job, that one. Why not just try and evaporate all human excrement with rose petals and nursery rhymes? You can do it. It isn’t going to get done if you don’t try. And don’t forget to flip-off all the lazy conformists who think their efforts are better spent elsewhere.

    Does that sound bitter? Well, I’m sorry. I am glad there are people in the world who are standing up and saying things suck when they most certainly do. These people do make a difference. It’s just terribly disappointing when you meet someone who, from the anti-war and anti-torture signs they’re holding, seems like a genuine humanist and they tell you that you’re a worthless pile of shit for not protesting the eternal tragedy of our existence right along with them. Shouldn’t the humanist welcome your interest and rejoice in meeting one more soul that pains to see suffering? So I’m not going to stand in front of the White House all day with a sullen look on my face and a shocking Abu-Graib photo in my hand. Does that mean I’m contributing to human suffering? Does that mean I don’t care about our society’s willingness to ignore human rights? Maybe. Maybe it does. My mere existence makes me responsible for everything around me. Because I’m a lucky SOB, others are eating dirt, watching their loved ones thrive in misery, and strapping bombs to their chests. Everything I do or don’t do has infinite consequences- and only half of them are good.

    Depressing, right? Our world is a depressing place. But it is only half-way so. Every moment of our lives we are creating something. We either create something wonderful or dreadful. And we may not know which is which. But each one of us has potential energy that comes from the stored momentum of millenniums prior. And each one of us has the joy or pain of experiencing the next kinetic release. It’s a beautiful thing, our existence- even if half of it seems to hurt so deeply. But here’s the important part: it’s beyond us. You and I cannot blame each other for our respective actions. What I have done, and will do, is beyond me. And what you have done is beyond you. So knowing that, can I choose to forgive you and me for all the terrible things we have done?

    I’ve got the rose petals. Know any nursery rhymes?

    Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.