Micah: Unmitigated

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Posts Tagged ‘Peru’

Add It Up

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

The Numbers:

Days in South America = 206

Days spent traveling with another person = 35

Countries visited = 6

Overnight bus rides taken = 13

Longest bus ride (in hours) = 21

Different hostals slept in = 76

Average price per hostal = $6.17

… in Colombia = $7.52

… in Ecuador = $6.64

… in Peru = $5.66

… in Chile = $10

… in Bolivia = $3.62

… in Argentina = $10.03

Total hours (paid for) on Internet = 194.2

Average Internet price per hour = 60¢

… in Colombia = 70¢

… in Ecuador = 84¢

… in Peru = 41¢

… in Chile = 80¢

… in Bolivia = 39¢

Total money spent on water = $78.80

Total “Cremositas” (Oreo like cookies) consumed in Bolivia = 508

… thus, average per day consumption = 11

Money spent on food per day = $4.85

… in Colombia = $5.98

… in Ecuador = $4.95

… in Peru = $4.42

… in Chile = $7.40

… in Bolivia = $3.38

… in Argentina = $3.30

Empanadas eaten = 200

Feet above sea level, at my highest point = 15,600

Pairs of Sunglasses broken = 3

Beaches visited = 17

Total push-ups done in preparation for said beaches = 5,600

Pictures taken during trip = 11,480

… thus, average number taken per day = 55.7

Pictures that were kept = 5,938

Shirts taken on trip but never worn = 1

Number of times I was called “Gringo” = 55

Total spent on money management (foreign transaction and ATM fees) = $166

Cost per day = $19.77*

(*excludes unordinary expenses, like those listed below)

Total Cost = $5,262.99*

(*includes everything: pre-trip vaccinations, flights, Spanish classes, Christmas gifts, a new camera, …)

Places In My Past

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

I want to try and milk this trip for as much content as I can, so the following is a list of the “Top Ten Places I Visited in South America”. They will be in order from #10 to #1 for dramatic effect, and some words may be repeated from previous posts. I hope you enjoy:

10. Volcán Puracé, Colombia

directions

directions

The scenery was stunning, but it is on here more for the climb. My most strenuous day, it took over 4 hrs to get to the top and the weather was unfriendly. Accomplishing something like that feels amazing and the Colombian hiking group that celebrated with me at the rim, made it even more memorable. The skies cleared for the descent and I strolled through an active sulfur mine. All things considered, one of my favorite days.

9. Puerto López – Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

The Isla was just OK and the town is not worth writing home about, but the stretch of ocean between the two seasonally contains some exciting mammals. The tour was expensive, but watching the whales jump in the air and splash around was one of the coolest things I have seen in my life.

8. Colca Canyon, Peru

canyon

canyon

The 2nd deepest canyon in the world. Basically just a great, strenuous hike with cool things to look at. On clear days, you can see the tops of the snowy peaks down 3,140 meters to the canyon floor. The Inca agricultural terracing and friendly locals make Colca my choice for #8.

7. Baños, Ecuador

A tourist ready town at the base of the active Volcán Tungurahua. The area has lots of hiking opportunities and even more extreme sport options, that I decided not to pay for. I just walked in search of eruption views. Occasionally, smoke would billow from the top and rumbles could be heard all over town. I found out later that the eruptions were rare, as not many other travelers reported seeing the impressive sight. As with a few other places I visited, I was there at the right time.

6. Isla del Sol, Bolivia

A high altitude island on Lake Titicaca. I could hike around all day and then rest my head for less than $3 per night. The ticket takers, with their greedy little hands, were annoying, but the weather was perfect and the wandering was boundary free.

5. Kuelap, Peru

good views

good views

An Inca fortress set on a hilltop, with great views of the surrounding valleys. I loved the site, but the fact that you can reach the place via a 3 hr hike from the town of Tingo, pushes it up my list.

4. Huaraz – Cordillera Blanca, Peru

Towering snow capped peaks, colorful mountain lakes, numerous hiking trails, this place is amazing. Just staring at the extreme heights of the place, containing 33 hunks of rock over 6,000 meters high, was cool. With more money and time, I could have explored the space better, but I was happy with my budget touring.

3. Laguna Quilotoa, Ecuador

I wasn’t expecting much when I walked to the edge of the crater, but that first view made me say “Wow!”. Staying in a hostal, steps from the rim and at an elevation of over 4,000 meters, I enjoyed it all. A spectacular hike circles around the crater lake and the bus rides between nearby towns are guaranteed to be memorable. The freezing cold temps at night can easily be fought off with an open fire.

2. Salar de Uyuni – Far SW Bolivia

My love for this place has been well documented, with it’s unreal scenery and unique wildlife. Why is it not at the top of my list? Because – I had to use a tour and memories of being painfully cold are still fresh in my head.

1. Cabo de la Vela, Colombia

Sunset

Sunset

Why it’s #1: If I had to choose one place to go back to and spend a week, this would be it. Multiple quiet beaches, warm weather, hammocks, climbing hills, a salt flat, unbelievable sunsets, and very few tourists. I was able to wake up everyday and decide between just laying on the beach, hiking a rugged coastline, or doing both. Put this place on your list, but only if you can handle the 2 hr ride out in the back of a truck and live without a shower for a few days.

Mr. November

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Even though my trip is entering it’s last week, I am not going to just set the cruise control, there is more adventure to be had.

My time in Mancora was spent laying on the beach, watching the World Series, and eating fruit. Only my last day there provided clear sunny skies and sunburn, otherwise it was a little too cold to swim and a little too windy to read. One positive was the beach roaming Empanada guy who was willing to cut his price in half, allowing me to pad my count. I also seemed to be there over a holiday weekend, with more Peruvians than Gringos on the sand and souvenir shops in full bloom everyday.

Now to the adventurous part: The prices for direct buses north into Ecuador were all very high. Thus I opted to cross the border with local transport and buy my long distance ticket in-country. The first leg was easy enough, a mini-van 2 hrs up to Tumbes for half the price of a bus. Upon arrival, a man poked his head in and promised a $5 bus ride up to Guayaquil. I ignorantly jumped at the chance and ignored the mild warning from a friendly local in my van. He said it was “dangerous”, and that word would become a common theme from strangers. Partly because this main border crossing on the Panamericana has been deemed the worst in South America.

So, I hopped into an unmarked car with the seller and a driver. Light conversation is shared and he tells me that there will be a strike this afternoon at the border, shutting buses down, and that I needed to get one right away. We roll by a bus office and he yells out the window to a guy, asking if buses are running, and the man apparently says no. They continue to drive me through town, telling me that now my best option is for them to drive me across the border and arrange transport there, for $35. I laugh, tell them I only have 20 soles on me ($7), and flex the fact that I know more about the Ecuadorian bus system than they do. I ask them to stop and let me out, but again the words “muy peligroso” (very dangerous) are uttered as we are now a few kms outside of the center. They drive me back to the main plaza and I reluctantly pay them 5 soles. Mostly just glad to be out of the car and consider it a stupidity tax on myself. I should know better than to jump into an unmarked vehicle based on false promises, when I could have easily strolled the bus offices myself and gotten the same “deal”. I figure the whole thing was a scam, reading web forums, people have often had to pay in excess of $30 just to get out of those situations, I feel somewhat lucky. Plus, it was fun to have an argument in Spanish.

After the brief ordeal, I walked across the street from where the guys dropped me and immediately was waved over by a mini-van loading up people for the last 30 minute stretch to the border. The public transport I should have looked for in the beginning and the type the shyster said didn’t exist. The van dropped me at the Peruvian migration office, where I was immediately met by a mototaxi driver asking for my passport and holding forms. I used my supreme intellect to decipher that he was not official and that exit stamp formalities normally aren’t handled by a man wearing Jordache jeans.

A simple stamp in my passport by a man in uniform, and now the mototaxi guys wanted to drive me the last 1.5 kms to the actual line in the sand. I said I preferred a mini-van, and again heard the words “muy peligroso”, which caused me to chuckle. I ended up walking the remainder, feeling very safe at mid-day. It felt good to get into a bustling market area at the border, and to be back in Ecuador. I found the bus stations in Huaquillas and joyfully saw a direct bus to my next destination, Otavalo (15 hrs north and 3 hrs south of Colombia). I purchased passage for 4 pm, figuring that 3 hrs would be plenty of time to walk to the Ecuadorian immigration office and take care of business.

For some reason, passport formalities are handled 3 km north of town, and I walked. A brief wait for buses to handle their business, and then I handed the man my documents. He looked over them, said some things, let his stamp sit idle, handed them back, and then waved me to some other place. I didn’t understand, and went over and asked another guy to look at my stuff. The problem was then presented to me: When I left Ecuador back on August 11th, at the remote border crossing in La Bolsa, they didn’t put my exit in the system. Plus, the stamp mark was blurred and date hand written. Apparently this was a problem. Now 1.4 hrs until my bus leaves town, I approached a 3rd man who told me 20 minutes.

Sitting, waiting, nervous. After the time elapsed, I again presented my case. They got another man, who went in search of a 5th man to help. This man seemed to be “The Man”. Listening to him talk to the others leads me to believe that this wasn’t really that serious of an issue and that the others just wanted to pout. Probably upset with the other offices error and now wondering why they had to clean it up. Either that, or they were waiting for me to bribe them.

The 5th man had me make copies of my passport and then I waited some more, while the man drafted a letter or stared at a computer for another 30 min. Time was running out. I checked my clock often, the time to pickup my stored bag had come and gone and departure was now 5 minutes away. This was the first time all trip that I had reverted to work mode, operating on little sleep and food, my stress level rose. I quickly went over my options: Could I make it through the country without any stamps? Are there checkpoints on my way to Colombia? Could I just get off in Quito and go to the Embassy for help? How bad could Ecuadorian prison be?

With little time to get back to Bogota, I called the bus company, somehow communicated in Spanish, requested that they throw my “grande azul mochila” on the bus, and pick me up on their way north. It worked. Five minutes later I got my completed passport back, and 5 minutes after that the bus rolls up and I jump in. My window seat was double booked, but I didn’t really care. On the ride, I had a prime view of the widescreen TV and they showed a relatively entertaining movie with Robert DeNiro, Stephen Seagal, and Lindsay Lohan. A dynamic trio that aroused the most emotion from a bus I have seen all trip.

Now in Otavalo, I plan to take it easy for another 4 days, before 1 more long bus ride to Bogota. I hope this last leg is a little less adventurous, but you never know. That stretch of highway in southern Colombia is known for frequent bus hijackings at night. Podría ser una buena manera de obtener una descarga de adrenalina.

E = 180

Movin’ On Up

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

The plan seemed simple; ride for as long as I could, and just get to the next relaxing city near a large body of water. I thought about bailing twice during my marathon of bus journeys, but stuck it out. All I had to do was sit in a seat, how hard could it be? Of course it did hurt, there was never really enough leg room, the seats weren’t quite soft enough, and the roads were a bit too curvy. But, I made it and it actually worked out very well.

Leg #1: Copacabana to Cusco = 11.5 hrs, 80 bs ($11.33);

There was a brief stop in Puno, where another company took us the rest of the way. (I feel the need to mention that again I could have saved money if I would have just booked the Puno leg and bought my own onward ticket to Cusco, or even Lima. I knew that we had to change buses there, but the price seemed very reasonable. I could have saved about $2 though eventually saved $20 by stopping in Cusco and purchasing my own Lima, instead of direct from Bolivia, like I figured. In summation: If you ever have a journey that needs to change buses, just buy the first leg and make your own connections. That is all.)

I got into Cusco at 5 am and flirted with the idea crashing for a day, but toughened up. Next bus didn’t leave till 10 am, so I had some time to walk around the city and enjoy the wee hours of the morning. It was prettier than I remembered, with some tight, quiet, cobblestone streets. At that time of day, the tourists were few and the benches in the plaza were empty. I sat in on a service in the cathedral, before getting a cheap, real food breakfast at the market. The market was big and diverse, making me wish I had more time to explore the gelatina section. But, I had to move on.

Leg #2: Cusco to Lima = 21 hrs, 60 ps ($21.80);

I enjoyed the daytime travel, going along rivers and up and down hills, before finally reaching the Pan-American Hwy. I slept a little after the sun went down, but felt very weary upon our arrival into the capital city. The city was as ugly as I remembered, with the ever-present smog and early morning drizzle. My thoughts of staying were only in reaction to feeling a little lost and walking by a hostal. The price was too high though, and I pulled out my map and found the the way to the bus offices. My next bus left at 1 pm, thus giving me 4 hrs to try and find some love for Lima.

I must say, I grew to not hate it. Within a few blocks, I stumbled upon a religious parade, complete with confetti and streamers raining down from the buildings. I enjoyed a large churro and strolled the car-free main drag filled with venders. Then cruised past the plaza on my way to the market for another cheap meal. Too much lunch meat and cheese were then purchased for the ride.

Leg #3: Lima to Mancora = 20.5 hrs, 50 ps ($18.18);

Warmer travel conditions. The man in front of me decided to take off his shirt and make-out with his girlfriend for a while. A little uncomfortable. I had my own row for a few hours, which greatly aided my physical condition. To help me mentally prepare for the battle of my 3rd night in a row on a bus, they showed “Transporter 2” and “Crank”.

I slept more that night than any of the others, probably due to pure exhaustion. Near the end, the pain in my neck was stronger and my left knee was sore. I got into Máncora at 9:30 am and was happy to see the sun.

Total: 63 hrs real-time, 53 hrs on 4 buses, $51.31, about 2,500 kms

The city is larger and the main beach is smaller than I thought. Despite the size, the tourist stuff is all along the one street down to the water or the Pan-American. My hostal is rundown but cheap, and the rooms are full of all that I desire. Many restaurants sell meals for less than $2 and the internet is only $.55/hr. Even with the cool windy weather today, I will stay 4 more nights before jumping into Ecuador. Then, after a few nights in Otavalo, back into Colombia.

The end is very near and the thoughts in my head are either about trip memories or what I want to do back home. The budget is less of a concern, partly helped by cheaper buses than expected for the return and Apple Inc’s nice market performance (my last source of income). My only concern now is the difficult Empanada goal I have set for myself. The land of cheap and plenty (La Paz) is behind me. My biggest complaint about Peru is it’s lack of fried meat-pie pastries. Some bakeries sell a dry expensive version of the culinary wonder, but it doesn’t feel right. Do I sacrifice my pride in pursuit of a statistic? I think about all those times at the end of basketball games, when players have gone out of their way to complete a triple-double or sub-in injured to get a scoring mark. I don’t want to have an asterisk by my number in the record books. If I reach 200, it will be because they were the cheapest and tastiest form of satisfying my hunger. Lo debo eso a ustedes, mis lectores

E = 168

The Facts of Life

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

(Please note the new page link on the right. I finally got around to posting the poem my nephew wrote for me back in April. Gracias)

I believe it was Socrates who said, “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both, and there you have; the facts of life, the facts of life.” So, I have decided to heed his words and accept my mistakes and the troubles I had in Chile, believing that for every chute there is a ladder.

The Good:

  • The Train ride to Arica, Chile was smooth (my first time riding the rails all trip).
  • The food was different with their specialty being the Completo (a big hot dog covered in guacamole and tomatoes and other fixin’s.)
  • I ate a delightful shrimp and cheese empanada.
  • They had some new chocolate treats for me to try.
  • The beach was fairly clean and had a cool old dock with many missing boards and railings.
  • The hunk of rock south of town called “El Morro” had great views of the city and was an easy walk.
  • The main commercial walking street through town was clean and had lively entertainment.
  • Parque National Lauca was stunning, with high altitude plains, lakes, and snow capped volcanos. The hiking around Putre was wide open and dog free.
  • The weather was perfect for Lauca and comfortable in the city.

The Bad:

  • Too expensive, the cheapest hostal was $10 per night.
  • Only one bus direct to Putre (in Parque Nat. Lauca) that left early in the morning and from an office far from the center of town.
  • Accurate information was difficult to obtain: My hostal told me the bus to Putre left at 6 – 6:30 am and that I could take a city bus there. Turns out the bus left at 7 am.
  • Drug dealers roaming the streets: Initially, I was going to walk to the station and prepared to head out at 5:30am (still very dark). The lady opened the front door for me and pointed out the drug dealers on the corner. After talking with her husband, they agreed that I should take a taxi a couple blocks to the main drag and try and catch a city bus. When the taxi driver drove me to where they said, it was obvious that nothing was running. We agreed on a price to the office where my bus to Putre would leave from. Upon arrival there at 5:45 am, it was closed with an unknown open time, and in a dangerous neighborhood. The driver kept doing a slashing-the-throat motion. We hung out for a few minutes, talked to a newspaper guy sitting in his van, until I just decided that it wouldn’t be long till they opened and exited the cab.
  • They have a mixture of worn old bills and nice new ones: As I departed the taxi, worried about the possibility of having to defend myself by swinging my bag around, the driver requested the original price he quoted due to his waiting with me. I agreed (though I shouldn’t have) and pulled bills from my pouch. In the dark of 5:50 am, I made a stupid mistake. Attempting to pay the man 3K pesos, I handed him what I thought was a 2k bill and a 1k bill. Later on I realized that I gave him a 2k and a 10k (One of the old 10k’s, which are faded and in my current light, looked similar to the 1k. The new 10ks are completely different and unique.) The result, I gave him $18 more than I should have. The timing made it even worse, due to the fact that now my supply of Chilean pesos was running low and I was about to enter a national park. I had to cut my time short.
  • The transportation around the national park was scarce and pricey: The day after hiking around Putre, I shouldered my pack and hiked the 5km up to the main hwy. Waited about 90 minutes with some locals and later on a nice German couple, for any bus. The only buses that roll through the park are on their way to La Paz, Bolivia. Luckily, one of them had a seat, but charged me $6 for the 1.5 hour ride to Lago Chungará. I was dropped off at the border control station there, only to be told that there were no hostals or rooms for tourists at this location (My guide book told me there was). I walked around the lake and took many pictures, not wanting to waste the stop and just hop back on a bus. When I returned to the place I was dropped, assuming that a bus would pass sometime in the near future, an officer told me that the next buses were in about 5 hours (7pm).
  • It was extremely cold at 4,500 meters above sea level: Many thoughts rolled through my head, I could try and hike the road to the border and find transport there, I could hitch a ride with one of the few passing trucks, or I could wait and hope that the next buses have available seats. I scouted the area, considering my overnight options and if I could survive the night or if someone would take pity and let me crash in one of their offices. But as the sun went down, and my many layers did little to keep me warm, I knew that all my hope now rested in the few buses that were coming. I enjoyed that scene, trying to help direct truck drivers running around with paperwork and drinking mate de coca and eating fried bread to stay warm. Finally, just as my hands were going numb, a bus rolled up at 7pm with seats available and a reasonable price.
  • The Chilean salida stamp guy was a little upset: One of the bus attendants talked to the guy at the window, trying to explain that they picked me up and that I was not on the passenger list. I tried to explain my day and that I just stopped there to take pictures, but for some reason he wasn’t happy. He called the bus guy around into the office and they argued for a while. Finally, another guy who has the authority to use the rubber stamp, checked me out of Chile.
  • The post-border stuff was a little confusing: After paying for my Bolivian visa and having my pack inspected, I exited the building but was unable to find my bus (I never paid them anything). I took shelter from the wind against a wall until a guy said that I needed to walk down about 100 meters, through the dark, and that the buses park there. I rolled up, just as my bus was pulling away. I tried to yell and wave, but to no avail. Luckily, there was another bus loading and they had seats available, so I climbed aboard. While my feet stuck to the floor and I watched a terrible movie about an American kickboxer who goes to Thailand but ends up using heavy firearms in Cambodia to free his kidnapped girlfriend, I felt relieved that a bed in La Paz was only a few hours away.

¨When the world never seems to be livin up to your dreams, And suddenly you’re finding out the Facts of Life are all about you, yoooouuuu.¨ I am not really sure what that last part means, but I do know that I learned a lot from my mistakes. I will do more internet research on transport when my guide book is vague, and check my bills carefully when paying for things. All I wanted was another stamp in my passport, but I got the good and bad of Chile in just 3 days. Now I get to relax and enjoy 2 months of cheap living in Bolivia. Si pudiera volver el tiempo atrás

E = 125

Canyonero

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

The Setting: Colca Canyon, Peru

The Time: Beginning of September, 2010

The Cast: 1 American (Micah), 1 Brit (Zed), and a brief appearance by 3 guys who speak German (Johann, Sebastian, and Bach)

It begins in Chivay; It’s morning, the skies are cloudy, a little rain, a little hail, a lone white alpaca sits in the hostal courtyard. Zed suggests walking to the next town, Micah agrees. Rain coats are worn, Inca terracing is seen covering the valley that soon will become canyon, Colca Canyon. The 2nd deepest in the world, measuring 3,136 meters from peaks to floor. Zed spots a prickly pear fruit, they shall fend off starvation for another day. Straws will not have to be drawn to see who lives and who dies.

walking

walking

They arrive in Achoma after the 3 hr, 14 km walk, but they cannot rest. The only hostal in town is closed for renovation, the journey must continue by bus into the heart of the beast, (pause for dramatic effect) to Cabanaconde. Upon arrival, they are in high demand by hostals, and go with the young man offering a room and breakfast for $3.75 per person. Now on the rim of the canyon, information is obtained and the trek is planned.

Nighttime; The gents are sitting in a local dinner spot. Enter Johann, met previously on the top of a sanddune, followed by 2 new friends. Hands are shook and tales are told. Relatively expensive beers are purchased back at the hostal.

Thursday morning; The sky is half blue and half white. 1 hunk of cheese, 8 rolls of bread, 4 mandarin oranges, and 2 packets of chocolate cookies are loaded into small day bags. Micah and Zed embark on a 2 day trip, Johann and Sebastian are on a 4 day adventure, Bach is a daytripper. They all start on the same path. Vistas are spectacular, many photos are taken, at the bottom there is a bridge. A traditionally dressed woman sells snacks and offers cheap accommodations. The 2 day’ers like the room, dinner, breakfast and tea for $7.50 and a quick end to the hiking day. The group splits. The canyon floor is peaceful, the dinner is illuminated by candles, and taking photos of candlelight is entertainment until an 8 pm bedtime.

.... and on the door handle was a hook!

.... and on the door handle was a hook!

Morning of Friday the 3rd; Clear, crisp, and cool, two pancakes are eaten before the long hike begins. Micah and Zed prepare themselves mentally for the ascent back up the canyon wall. The side of the canyon is traversed, passing through small villages before reaching ¨The Oasis¨ and a bridge. They are tempted by the lodges with crystal blue swimming pools, but must stay focused. Uphill awaits, 3 hrs of uphill. Donkeys are descending with goods, the midday sun drains energy, legs begin to wobble, water supply is running low. Finally the top is reached.

The day after: Bus ride back to Arequipa. Left side window seats allow photo extravaganza. 50 taken, 23 saved.

agricultural terracing in valley

agricultural terracing in valley

Back in the big city, before following the OSU football game on his Ipod, Micah shows Zed the joys of casino gaming. Free pisco sours upon entry, fruit buffet, ladies offering tortilla crisps with guacamole, and walking out with 8 soles more than you enter. Though he will feel bad if Zed becomes addicted and can’t afford a flight home.

The Future: Zed heads to Cusco. Micah heads south to Tacna. Johann, Sebastian, and Bach? Unknown, but all their paths may cross again in Bolivia. Micah sólo necesite que recordar para ver los partidos de fútbol Beaver en vivo por Internet.

E = 115

Crossroads

Saturday, September 4th, 2010

Life is short, things die. Sand is soft and fun to play around in, but not if you are an electronic item with multiple moving parts. Your short life was an exciting one, up until the day of August 28th, 2010.

You are setup on top of a dune, ready to take an amazing shot of your owner holding his sandboard, and the next thing you know you are nose down in the small light brown stuff. You refuse to close but a hand forces your lense to retract. Thus, from now on you will refuse to open. Hands now use tools to remove your shell, despite failing with the last 2 computers, and your delicate innards are exposed. Something goes wrong. Shell is put back on but you show no signs of life. Nine and a half good months. You should feel honored that he still carries your carcass around, just in case, someday, a cure is found. See you at the crossroads.

Welcome new camera, Fujifilm FinePix AV100, the color Jayhawk blue. You do some things better but lack a few key abilities.

camera

camera

Pros: 12 megapixels, HD video, thinner, fewer moving parts, more efficient battery use, came with a 2gb memory card, and a cool photo viewer that displays 100 photos like a mosaic.

Cons: Fewer modes, only 2 timer settings, can’t lengthen your shutter, can’t adjust exposure in set modes, only 3x zoom, and you think you are smarter than your master.

The sanddune city spawned not only a new photo taker, but a new travel partner. Along with “Fuji”, Micah’s other new companion is “Zed” from Wee Britain. Having the destination of Arequipa in common, hostals were shared and sightseeing was done. Both love market lunches and badminton. Both despise tours and expensive touristy cities. Both began traveling south through South America in April.

The exciting adventures of Micah and Zed though, will have to wait until next post. But at least now you know 2 new characters in this epic tale known as “Micah: Unmitigated”.

Information

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

I apologize for the vagueness of my last post, while hiking around the hills my mind thinks of weird things to write. So, here is a clearer recap of some things I have done over the past week.

Five nights near the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. Many peaks over 6,000 meters, capped with glaciers and flanked by turquoise lakes. Most of my time there was spent debating how to do the area justice. The popular 4 day trek known as Santa Cruz was the main option, but many small factors led me to decline. Cost, time, and energy were the main reasons, plus a fear that with so many tour groups on the trail, the tranquility would be diminished. I do hope to do some sort of trekking requiring a tent and sleeping bag before my trip is done, but that may have to wait till Bolivia.

I opted for day trips to the lakes and hiking around the hills for better views of the massive chunks of rock. Basing myself in the smaller towns of Caraz and Yungay, I found cheap accommodations and food. Though, walking farmland presents challenges in the form of barking dogs and unmapped routes. Sticks and rocks can only do so much in keeping them at a distance, I required the help of local women and children to hold back their pets. No bites, but a growing paranoia about walking past any home outside of the city. I am considering carrying dog food, but think that by the end of my hikes I would have about 30 new friends following me.

The weather was absolutely perfect until the day I left. On Friday, satisfied with the sights I saw and how I saw them, I headed south. A night bus ride from Huaraz to Lima, immediately followed by a 5 hr journey further down the coast to Ica. From there, a quick taxi ride to Huacachina.

A lagoon surrounded my towering sand dunes and expensive services. I attempted to sandboard but failed, though I blame the equipment and not my ability to ride sanded down pieces of wood. The views from the tops of the dunes were so amazing they broke my camera. Or it could be from all of the sand that is now in the lens retraction mechanism. Either way, I was unable to capture the stunning sunset view into a digital image. Some things I will just have to remember without the aid of technology.

One tired/pricey day/night there, eating and drinking with some new friends,  was all I needed.  Tonight, another night bus ride taking me 12 hours closer to Chile. I should arrive in Arequipa around 6am, and hopefully rest a few days. My last real stop before a new country, the area has more towering peaks but with the added bonus of the world’s deepest canyons. Should be very cool, I just hope I can fix my camera in time. No sé cuánto más puedo almacenar en esa cosa bajo mi cabello grueso.

E = 110

Untogether

Friday, August 27th, 2010

(I recently finished reading the book “Midnight’s Children”. Thus, the following is sort of an homage to Salman Rushdie, aka Sal Bass. References to tragic historical events are used solely for the purpose of story telling and are not meant to diminish their reality. References to the adventures of Micah are meant to inform you of his travels. Thanks)

I was born in the city of Lawrence… once upon a time. No that wont do, no getting away from the date. Ok, I was born on March 18th in the year 1978. And the time? Well, that is important too. I was born at night. No, must be more specific, might as well come right out. I was born at 11:30 pm CST, the exact time Pakistani prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. As one life was ending on the other side of the globe and a country’s decline was accelerating, the life of a young boy on the rise was just beginning. Country and boy forever linked, their destinies inversely intertwined.

In 1988, as Micah celebrated an NCAA Basketball Championship for his Kansas Jayhawks, a country mourned the loss of it’s General Mohammed Zia ul-Haq in a mid-air explosion. Later that year, as they elected their first female Prime Minister to unite them, it was females in my 5th grade class that seemed to confuse and divide me.

When a nominal democracy was declared in June 2001 by the ruling military leader, Pervez Musharraf; my life was becoming a dictatorship, with me as the sole person responsible for my post-college future. And now, if the previous events aren’t enough, Pakistan endures tragic flooding, I walk 10,000 feet above sea level under clear blue skies. A dark time for Pakistan while my life has rarely been brighter.

I walk

I walk

But I am not alone in my special birth; while parents celebrated a new boy in Eastern Kansas (despite hoping it would be a girl), another Mother and Father in California smile at a new son. Yes, Brian and I (and a thousand other kids), linked by our historical birthdate, lives and appearances polar opposites while also exactly the same. Brian with his hair and me with my nose. Hair and nose, nose and hair. Both sources of our respective powers, both growing stronger with time, both red.

Powers? you may say. Yes powers. Brian’s more obvious, with bright red hair seen on national television, and mine only starting to reach potential as color is strengthened by the South American sun. Brian protects his hair with white headband, I use white sunscreen. Peruvian sun shines on red nose with white sunscreen amid red and white flags. My nose sniffs out fishing towns on bus trips and street food on city walks. My nose sniffs out vistas and trails, allowing map free wandering. And overcharging, yes indeed, when the shopkeep told me that the large water was 3 soles, I questioned his price and got the 2.5 I desired. When the internet stopped working and yet I was charged for the full hour, my nose started twitching. I will admit it does not always function wisely, unable to identify all foods that go into my mouth, but the vigor with which my nose operates is unmatched.

Lives seemingly bound for a collision, yet never meet. Brian attends a small high school in Washington state, I in Portland, OR. Brian chooses the red uniforms of the USC Trojans, I Oregon State University. Pac-10 rivals, life rivals. Graduating on the same day, beginning real and professional lives on the same day. Knowing but not knowing about each others existence.

So, as my nose and I stroll hills in the Cordillera Blanca in awe of things reaching great heights, in an environment where we do not fit in; Brian strolls hardwood floors, looking up at those who reach great heights in a league where he seemingly doesn’t belong. I use nimble feet to allude barking dogs; Brian to allude defenders. Water in my life takes the form of day trips to mountain lakes, Parón and Llanganuco; Brian practices for the upcoming season and drinks Dasani, supposedly from the mountains. I receive a free meal at Hostal Gledel in Yungay due to the amazing kindness of the owner; Brian gets free steak at Smith & Wollensky in Boston due to a Championship ring he acquired 2 years ago. When he scratches his head, I sneeze.

Lake Parón

Lake Parón

But back to our link with history: Have attacks been waged and are wars being fought with the sole purpose of the elimination of the Children of March 18th? At the same time as the story was told of a special birth in India back in 1947, were radical Pakistani leaders paying attention to the possibility of their fates being linked with the lives of infants as well? Isn’t it plausible that they drew the conclusion: as long as those kids born on the 18th day of the 3rd month in the 78th year of the 1900’s thrive, our homeland will languish? I only provide you with the facts, you must answer the questions yourself.

The future: All is I know is that my rival, Brian Scalabrine, continues to prosper even more so than I. Tomorrow, I leave massive hunks of rock behind in exchange for massive sand dunes. When my season of travels comes to a close in November, Brian’s season with the Boston Celtics will just be beginning. His 6ft 9in frame dwarfs my 5ft 11, and his $3.5 million dollar per year salary is slightly more than my $0 per year. The power of his red hair outduels my reddening nose. Yet we are the same person, and if he ever lifts the restraining order, we may meet someday. Él ya no regresó mis llamadas

(More photos can be seen here: http: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=75141&id=1408574607&l=20e6a83706 )

Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

Leaving Trujillo, my goal was to go straight to Caraz, the northern most city near Parque Nacional Huascarán. That proved to be more difficult than I thought. With only general information about departure times and destinations, and the lack of a central bus terminal to peruse (Buses leave from their company offices scattered around the city), I had to improvise.

I arrived in the junction town/fishing port known as Chimbote, with hopes of making a connection direct to the mountains. Those buses leave in the AM and the time was currently in the PM. Spending the night there did not interest me, thus I booked an indirect night bus thinking it was direct. There are 3 different routes to Caraz and I was unable to clearly communicate my desired route, but more on the route later.

Dispatch time was 9 pm, giving me 7 hours to kill in this very non-touristy incorporated municipality. I stored my bag and started walking away from the terminal, knowing that there was a large smelly body of water near by to take a look at. On my right, I spotted a stadium and a few people walking around it. Some were going in, some were playing drums, some were wearing full riot gear with shield, and some were selling tickets. I peaked through a door and saw a fútbol field, then approached one of the people selling tickets, purchased a piece of paper allowing me entry, and went in.

Looking toward the visitor section

Looking toward the visitor section

Luckily I sat in the “Home” section and near the corner of a large banner that was covering a row of seats. The crowd was sparse and somewhat energetic. The game had it’s moments, with a few memorable opportunities for the home team that left the fans near me cursing and laughing. At the midway point called “halftime”, the leader of the cheering section had us grab our portions of the banner while it was unfurled, revealing all of it’s glory.

the banner, I have no idea what it says

the banner, I have no idea what it says

In the end, Home lost 1-0, but I was mostly entertained by the fans and the food vendors. Their main cheering section is similar to the “Timber’s Army”, with smoke things and some loud gunshot sounding device that I was eventually able to not flinch at. The weirdest thing was realizing that I was probably the only white person in the whole stadium. I tried to keep my head down and not draw attention to myself, but before and after the game I could feel the stares and got the whistles. Even though I have been traveling for over 4 months now, I could really feel my whiteness during my time in Chimbote, I think mostly due to a combination of the non-tourist town and the outgoing Peruvian way toward Gringos. Overall though, a good afternoon.

Now to the night bus ride: There was a noticeable lack of room for my knees which resulted in some pain. If I would have let myself think about the route, it would have caused me more pain. (For your enjoyment, go ahead and pull up a map of Peru on the internet.) My goal was Chimbote to Caraz, go ahead and look at the map now and determine the shortest route. We did not take that route. The path of this bus went down to Pativilca, then up through Huaraz, before finally reaching Caraz, 11 hours later. The only explanations are that the road is paved and that Huaraz is a large city (and that I chose the wrong bus). My explanations are that I didn’t want to stay in Chimbote and that I didn’t know. I could have taken an afternoon bus to Huaraz and gotten to Caraz at about 11pm, but then I would have missed the experience of the professional fútbol match and the events of my night bus ride….

So, about an hour before we got to Huaraz, a woman walks up the aisle in the dark, to the drivers door. She says some stuff to the man and he proceeds to turn the lights on and wake everyone up. The woman slowly walks back to her seat, crying, telling her story to all who care. At this point I had no idea what had happened, my thoughts ranged from her soiling herself to possibly her child or family member was ill or injured. Then there was a small search and talk about police, which narrowed it down. Apparently she lost, or had stolen, something made of silver worth 380 soles. I thought I heard “mi cosa” which Google translates to “my thing”, not helping me determine the item.

In Huaraz, we parked in the company lot, the Police came, the Huarazians disembarked and possibly got searched, and the bus was checked. I decided to feel my own pockets to make sure I wasn’t being set up in some big elaborate scam, luckily I was clean. In the end, nothing got resolved and a kind lady started taking up donations to help the continually crying woman. I pulled the “no entiendo” card and didn’t give. Maybe I am an insensitive jerk, but my initial thought was that she lost a $140 watch, and to that I say “que es tan malo”.

Huascarán (6,768 metres, or 22,205 ft)

Huascarán (6,768 metres, or 22,205 ft)

I enjoyed seeing the sunrise over the mountains, but will never know what really happened on that bus. Maybe the guy next to me stole it and that is why he was in such a hurry to get off in Huaraz. Maybe the woman left her “silver thing” in Chimbote or it dropped out of her pocket at the meal stop. Maybe there is no “silver thing” and she just wanted some attention. Either way, it was an adventure spawned by poor planning.

I guess what I am trying to say is: When you carry around one 4 year old guide book that is supposed to lead you through the whole continent of South America, you are going to have to figure some stuff out for yourself. I both stress-about and enjoy the challenge. Qué dirección se encuentra al sur?

E = 110