After checking out the old city and watching a piss poor honor guard at the Presidential Palace, Kelly and I walked through Lima to the bus station. We noticed that Lima, like most cities in South America so far, has shopping "ghettoīs". By this I mean that if you need a hair cut, there will be a street with literally 50 barber shops/beauty salons in a row. Same thing if you need shoes, trophys, appliances, watches, or really anything you can imagine. We decided that they would all make more money if they would split up or diversify somewhat. I mean really, what makes your "Statues of Mary" store any different from the other 90 on your block?
We caught a bus to Pisco that morning, and headed down the coast to the town that is the namesake for Peruīs national liquor "Pisco". The Pisco Sour is Peruīs drink of choice. Itīs made from one shot of Pisco, a grape brandy, lemon juice, and egg white. They are very tasty, I recommend them highly. We were not headed to Pisco for the booze, however. There is a national park that is affectionately known as the Poor Manīs Galapagos". We took a boat out to these islands ad were treated to thousands of Blue Footed Boobies, Pelicans, Corants, Penguins, and other water birds of all shapes and sizes. The tour guide recommended that we bring a jacket and wear a hat as the "guano" is somewhat of a problem
. Actually, in an interesting side note, the guano is a very highly sought after as is one of the best fertilizers there is. In fact, in 1865-1866 Spain and Peru fought a war over these shit covered islands. I kept wondering about the poor mothers that got telegrams annoucing the news that their son was killed over bird shit. Itīs probably just like getting one saying that your son was killed over oil and one mans ego. The islands themselves were really just a series of tunnels, caves, and rock arches. What was really cool was that there were thousands of Sea Lions swimming in the water, lounging in the sun, or teaching their new pups to swim. (It was calving season) The sound of hundreds of Sea Lions barking and their echoes reverberating through those caves is something that I hope I donīt forget.
That night we hung out in Pisco and had a nice time getting harassed by street vendors. We tried to get a bus to Cuzco the next day, but due the fact that the Peruvain election was in a few days, bus tickets were hard to come by as campaign workers were taking buses to rallys all over the country. So, after trying six bus companies in two towns, we were able to score tickets on a crappy chicken bus to Nazca, a town about four hours down the coast. Unfortunately, the bus didnīt leave for another day. So we got another day in Pisco, which was okay, but there just wasnīt that much to do
. I decided to get a hair cut, which was hilarious. Not only did it cost me 90 cents, but my barber about pissed herself laughing at the Popeye cartoons she was watching. These were obviously dubbed in Spanish. I don't blame her, Popeye is funny in any language. Kelly and I got antsy and took a walk down the beach that afternoon. So we walked and walked, and walked, passing beach front mansions and gorgeous small hotels. I canīt imagine that these mansions on the water cost their owners more that 200K. Retirement ideas anyone? We also passed a kite surfing school. I wouldnīt say that Iīm the most driven cat in the world. In fact, goals have been a bit elusive for me lately. Kite surfing might be the coolest sport ever invented though. I made up my mind then and there that after this cast comes off, Iīm getting in shape and learning to kite surf. The next day we were able to escape from Pisco.
Iīm going to digress for a minute. As I mentioned earlier, Peru is in the middle of electing itsī next President. In fact, today is election day. Itīs been an interesting process to observe. First of all, there are 23 candidates. Most of whom are the Peruvian equivallant of Gary Colman or the porn queen Mary Carey running for Govenor of California, but 7 or 8 are real players. Politics here are a bit different than in the states. Peruīs government is notoriously corrupt and they are no stranger to dictators, secret police, and ill advised wars
. On second thought, maybe our political systems arenīt that different after all... Grass roots support of the candidates here is something that would make Ross Perot proud. Everywhere one goes in Peru, from Lima to the smallest backwater jungle hamlet, there are walls painted supporting one candidate or another. There is nary a naked utility pole in the country as their are covered with campaign posters. Home grown marching bands, parades, a rallys are the norm. As is the bizarre act of strapping massive speakers or bull horns to ones car, covering said car in posters, and then driving around town at all hours of the day playing shitty music at the loudest levels possible. As if hearing P-Diddy through tin speakers at 6:30 in the morning is going to swing somebodyīs vote to your man. In Nazca, we saw a dog that had been spray painted to read "Alan" (one of the main contenders). Peruvianīs that I have spoken with seem to be fairly disenfranchised with their government and donīt see much hope in getting a clean regime in office. Itīs a bit ironic, that given their synocism, they are forced top vote by law. Not voting will get you a fine equal to a monthīs wages. Itīll be interesting to see how this plays out. Iīm sure there will be a run off election.
After a boring day in Nazca, Kel and I were able to catch a night bus for the 14 hour drive through the mountains to Cusco. The bus was very nice. The seats reclined to a comfortable degree, it was air conditioned, they served breakfast and dinner, and they played movies (in Spanish). Thankfully, the movies were like "The Transporter" and you donīt need to understand the dialogue. That Traansporter guy is a lot like Popeye.. he kicks ass in any language. Sadly, the quality of the bus did not extend to itīs septic system. About two thirds of the way through the ride, this overwhelming, sickening, stench began emminating from the back
. Everyone was quite distraught, and began trying their own ways two keep the funk from reaching their olfactories. Kelly was stuffing toilet paper up her nose, when I looked at the guy across the aisle and he was smearing his girlfriendsī perfumed lotion under his nose. He was kind enough to share with us and the rest of the bus. Itīs funny how you make friends. Kel and I ended up hanging out with that couple, Tiago and Claudia from Brazil, for the next few days. Later in the ride Tiago would come up with some incense that he lit in the bus, much to everyoneīs relief. As if the septic stench were not enough, we were stopped by yet another landslide on the mountain road about an hour from Cusco. A front end loader was already on the scene, but this was a big landslide. This machine was picking up huge boulders and sending them down the mountain where they would break apart or smash trees like they were match sticks. As much as I wanted to get to Cusco, I was perfectly content to watch the bulldozer throw big rocks don a hill. I wonder if Iīll ever stop being a kid? I hope not, being fascinated is fun. Even if itīs by a John Deere.
Since we had some time and the view was nice, Kelly and I took a walk to look at the valley below. I was admiring the view, when I hear Kel screech, "Donīt Move!!". So I froze. I was a bit nervous by her tone. She finally took me by the hand and pulled me slowly away from the ledge
. I then saw that I was standing in a virtual mine field of human shit. Iīm not sure why there would be so much crap next to this road in the middle of nowhere, but there it was... everywhere.
We finally arrived in Cusco and discovered a fanatically beautiful colonial city. It is run by and for the tourists and within a moment of getting off bus I realized that we were just walking wallets to the residents of this city. Everywhere you go in this town people are grabbing you and trying to sell you a tour, a finger puppet, coca leaves, dinner and anything else you could ever or never want. The Brazillian couple and we decided that it must be what famous people feel like being constantly harassed for a photo or an autograph. Iīve about "Sean Penned" a few of these mother fuckers, and Iīve only been here a few days. Itīs a good thing Iīm too ugly to be famous.
The main reason for visiting Cusco is the fact that it was the capital of the Incan Empire. Itīs also the main jumping off point for the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu. The city is full of Incan walls, streets, and stairs that are still being used 600 years after they were built. The walls are perfect. I donīt know that Iīve ever seen anything that is perfect before, but looking at these walls literally gave me goose bumps. I am not smart enough to begin to understand how they constructed the things they did, in the ways that they did, with such precision. The Incan buildings, walls, and temples are earthquake proof. In fact, they have held up though a few major earthquakes, when all of the supposed modern buildings crumbled. I think the folks who build houses in Califorinia would be well advised to start taking a page out of the Incan playbook.
Kelly and I have been spending the last few days exploring the city and itīs surrounding ruins
. Like I said before, itīs fun to be amazed. The temples, irrigation systems, farming methods, and shear magnitude of the Inca ruins is staggering to the imagination. Climbing around on and through these buildings takes me back to being a kid and playing in the woods or damming up a creek. Exploring and letting your imagination do itīs thing is something that we adults just donīt do enough of. Admittedly, itīs pretty easy to let yourself get carried away among these ancient sites.
Iīve got lots more to say about the ruins, but Iīve been typing for a long time and Iīm tired. Kelly and I are going to hike for five days starting tomorrow at 4:30 AM. Our hike will end up at Machu Piccho. Iīll have a lot to report Iīm sure.
After getting out of the jungle, Kelly and I spent another night in Lima. This time we stayed in a Hostel close to the Presidential Palace. This place was straight out of a Scooby Doo episode. It was a HUGE old mansion that had been turned into a Hostel many years ago. As we walked in, we were struck by the massive, Grecian looking, marble busts and statues that were everywhere. As we started checking in, I noticed that there were real human skulls in a case behind the desk. Tom Bodette and the Motel Six people would have been appalled. The rooms were comfortable though, and after a mosquito free night of sleep, I got up early to explore the city center. As I walked out of the door to my room, I heard an angry hiss and felt something under my foot. I looked down and screamed like a little girl. I had just stepped on a massive turtle. This thing probably weighed 50lbs. I later found out that the Hostel had a few of these tortoises, a few parrots, and a couple of cats just hanging around