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    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!

    Theme: Esquire by Matthew Buchanan.