Thursday, 24 October 2013

Jungles and concrete jungles

I finally arrived in Lima after one hell of a bus ride. 23 hours on a small seat that reclined just enough to give off the illusion that it was possible to get some sleep. As we left Cusco through the mountainous terrain and winding roads, I felt a bit ill. I popped a few pills and hoped it would pass. I didn't get to see much of the country side because it was an overnight bus but there was one section of the trip where it seemed as though I was traveling directly through a cloud. I wondered how much visibility the driver must have had. Bus rides are interesting in Peru. Although the bus's themselves are more comfortable then Indian bus's, there are other concerns. Often there are reports of drunk drivers as well as even one story reporting a company wanted to save money by hiring a young boy without a license to drive. I question whether these are simply just travelers stories. This particular bus ride I would just begin to shut my eyes when we would come to a halt and 3 or 4 customs officers or police would board and shine a flashlight in the passengers faces. I sound like a whinging gringo. The bus ride was definitely not bad considering it went for over 20 hours.

Lima is definitely a lot better then I expected. All I had heard of this place is that its gloomy, boring and expensive. I was lucky enough to be staying with a friend and his girlfriend at a second story apartment in the popular Miraflores suburb of Lima. It was nice to have a kitchen to cook my own meals again. That night, my friends Peruvian girlfriend took us all out to her favourite restaurant in Lima. I tried octopus with squid ink mayonnaise, a Frito misto type dish, fish cooked in citrus with some kind of sweet potato and arroz de mariscos, a beautiful paella type rice dish. All the dishes were great albeit quite expensive. The next couple of days, I spent catching up with my friend and relaxing after being in hostels for the last few months. We decided to take the bus to mancora, a beach location in northern Peru. Mancora is absolutely beautiful. I write this by day sitting on a balcony sipping a beer and soaking up the sunlight that was so lacking in Lima. Watching birds dive headfirst into the ocean to catch fish and whalkes breaching and leaping out of the water, not even 50 metres from shore. Beautiful.The plan is to explore the neighboring cities to mancora that are less touristy, head back to Lima for Halloween and then fly to Colombia to bypass the ridiculous border crossing and extending bus rides.

Also, I have to explain the title to my last blog entry. I had been on a rather intense shamanic diet in the lead up to my ayahuasca ceremony and missed salty and well.... Unhealthy food. Anyway I bought a jar of peanut butter and for breakfast completely devoured the stuff. That jar was gone in less then a week!

Tip of the day - when you swear or say rude things in Spanish, try to remember everyone in Peru speaks Spanish...

Friday, 11 October 2013

Peanut butter binge

Cusco, the storied capital of the incan empire and gateway to the imperial city of machu Picchu, has been one of the undisputed highlights of south america and even my trip. Stone streets and building foundations laid by Incas more than 5 centuries ago. Cusco is one of those rare places that seems to preserve its unique character and enduring appeal despite its prominent over abundance of tourists and tour companies. The Spanish conquistadors understood that it was essential to topple the capital city to take control of the region, a feat they ultimately accomplished after an epic battle at sacsayhuaman. The Spanish razed most incan buildings but in many cases, they found the structures so well engineered that they built upon the very foundations of incan Cusco.

Apparently, the Incas designed their city in the shape of a puma, (although I cannot see this for the life of me), with the north side being the head. I've tried looking at a map but I guess with huge amount of growth it more closely resembles a city rather than a puma. The center of the city is plaza de armas. Jam packed with travel agencies, shops, restaurants, bars and hotels. I was often offered some obscure art by a local who would then offer some cocaine, marijuana or other illegal substance. After saying no to everything, I would often get the reaction, 'well what DO you want?!'

I have spent a huge chunk of my trip in Cusco and that's no coincidence. Its a developed city where anything you might want is readily available as well as not being a dirty, dangerous city which some people may consider Lima to be. (My next destination funnily enough). Throughout my trip in Cusco, I've been staying at dragonfly hostels. Just 4 months old and managed by a ridiculously nice and quirky Frenchman. You can often find me at the bar spitting out broken French while he fixes up pisco sours on their 2 for 1 nights.

The markets in Cusco are great, regardless of what you're after. I bought a dozen eggs for a dollar and then turned the corner and picked up a llama fetus to aid me in my future endeavors. I'm just kidding but the fact is, I could have if I wanted to. Almost everyday I would head down to the markets with a friend for a freshly squeezed fruit juice. We made friends with a woman who despite having a seemingly endless supply of customers, never had any change for us. It was all quite a laugh. Change is half the battle. The other half is figuring out what the Spanish word is for basil, coriander or soy sauce.

I will try to keep on top of my blog from now on. Finding wi fi in the valley on my day trips can prove difficult. Next stop, grande mala sucio Lima.