Category Archives: Peru

Much ado about Machu Pichu

12 o’clock noon. Magic hour! “Honey, should I start setting up the tripod?”

Machu Pichu has been done to death but you can’t really get out of visiting the Valle Sagrado without putting that feather in your cap. So thus, there we were. But, like everything else it had to be done the hard and cheap way as they don’t let just anyone into the independent adventurer and defier of all odds club these days.

There’s really a bunch of ways to get to Machu Pichu. You can take the train, walk the Inca Trail, or take one of several tours that all the different agencies around Cuzco tout. Some of the tours are kind of weird and mix up trains, busses, downhill bicycling, and hiking to get to the lost city of the ancient ones. It all boils down to the fact that Machu Pichu is just a giant clusterfuck of tourists and this might be sacrilige to say but if you don’t have a deepseated or genuine interest in the intricacies of the site itself and prefer to avoid the tourist hordes then Machu Pichu is totally and completely skippable. Most of the other sites mentioned previously are just as impressive and meaningful and require a lot less logistics and soles to get to.

Getting to Machu Pichu the top secret cheap way involves continuing on along the road after Ollantaytambo via vintage Honda motorbike instead of taking the tourist train. After crossing the Abra Malaga pass and reaching Santa Maria, take the death road to the left, skirting cliffs, vertiginous drop-offs, and knee-deep water crossings until you get to the town of Santa Theresa. From Santa Theresa it is a 6 hour walk to the base of Machu Pichu first along a dirt road and then along the rail-road tracks. Note that you can’t buy your ticket at the entrance to the site, although tickets can be purchased in the touristic ghetto of Aguas Calientes (now named Machu Pichu Pueblo), a half-hour walk away. Tickets are around $45. You can now take a $17 5-minute bus ride to the ruins or walk up. Walking up to the top will take a body somewhere around one hour. Bring everything that you might need with you into Aguas Calientes or the site itself as prices are similar to Woodstock 2 levels.

Once you’re at the site itself, forget about all the hassle that it took to get there as it is indeed an amazing place and meant to be enjoyed, especially after 7 hours of walking in stinky boots. The tour groups always cluster together and follow the man with the flag and are easy to avoid and so it is not that hard to be alone at the site, but you have to keep moving. Even so, getting caught in the crowd makes for superb people watching and even makes a body wistful of the days spent roaming America. Cinnamon bun babies, baby. More American accents are heard at Machu Pichu than anywhere else in Latin America these days and truly old, old people with midwestern accents laboriously climb and descend tricky stone ramparts hundreds of steps long all the while going painfully, infuriatingly slow in a last ditch effort to see the site of their dreams and cram it all in before the end. Nothing for a body to do but exchange knowing looks and dissaproving head nods with the tour guides.

Barb from Illinois as she breathlessly, shamelessly tries to navigate a six inch stone step, one of several hundred, while clawing at the arm of her native guide: Julio please! I can’t see depth very well! I can’t see depth very well! I dont wan’t to fall! Please! Don’t let me fall! Where is the next step!? Gahhh!

Travel Tip: Get your kicks in while you still can as it’s best to spend your golden days drinking beer and staring at the sun.

But look, despite all that the site still manages to retain an air of mystery. Legend has it that Machu Pichu was an abandoned and forgotten city at the time of the conquest, and it was never really finished at that. So who built it, why, and when? It was never touched by the Spaniards so everything was left just as it was when whoever made it decided to stop making it. For this reason alone it is worth a glance, but it’s not that different from the other sites and well, with all this sun worship, human sacrifice, and carving of megalithic blocks going on it is pretty obvious that the ancient ones were into some heavy shit back then.

Black magic type stuff, dog.

A little bird told me that the human sacrifice thing still goes on out around Puno by Lake Titicaca. Why, I asked the little bird? Because it works! it chirped. Geez, dejame paz bird. Get away!

Surprising to note is that the elevation at Machu Pichu is only around 1500m, which is about half of what most of the other sites are, making for a hot and subtropical climate. The jungle is not too far away!

Done and done…

¿Encuentrame en La Paz, porfis?

The Adventures of Nazca Boy and the Cuzco Kid

Leaving Lima:

Ah, the Panamericana.

Countless times I’ve heard from other motorcyclists about how indescribably awful the Panamericana is through coastal Peru. Boring they say. Not enough curves they say. The latter part is true as it’s a road through the desert but it’s not boring per se, just straight. This time of year is the Peruvian Coastal winter and it’s marked by mists that roll in off the Pacific casting everything in a perpetual grey. The climate is cool and just moist enough to not be arid and it’s a perfect break from the brutality of the highland summer where a blazing sun turns a body brown during the day and an ice cold moon shocks it with a deep freeze at night; the handover is nearly instantaneous . In the the cool desert air of the Panamaericana while riding the CB on straight, fast roads one can lay back, kick their feet up over the front turn signals and remove their hands from the bars, taking snapshots and receiving thumbs up and squeals of delight from passing motorists. In the eyes of the Sundog the desert will always reign supreme, even if the winter’s garua mists permit few glimpses of that beautiful shining orb and even if the Andes are trying desperately to stake their claim in the heart. Straight roads make for good time and allow one to drink it all in and appreciate the desert’s immense scale and the land where the sand meets the sea. Out there in the seemingly lifeless wastelands civilizations like the ones at Caral, Nazca, and Paracas thrived and flourished in the distant past and then faded away, leaving only grand remnants out on the desert floor to let us know they even existed.

We were growing comfortable in deepest darkest Lima: basking in the perfect climate, sleeping in a bed with a pillow, gorging ourselves on McDonalds and Incan Donuts from Dunkin’ Donuts, and enjoying the fruits of modern man after the Easter Island exodus and return, but a body grows restless and it was time to leave Lima. A farewell was bid to owner Scott at Tambopacaya Hostal and his monkey on the roof that always has a boner which looks like a nail and a course was struck for Cuzco!

Travel Tip: Another place with a bad rap, one can discover the hidden gems of Lima’s dispicable slums if they really want to but in walking, riding the dog, and riding the bike all over the city nothing even approaching the poverty/inbred heroics seen in small towns along the coast and in the mountains was spied or even came close. Lima is a relatively safe, surprisingly clean, quiet, and boring city. Unless one wants to ride the bus, go to museums, eat McDonalds, or walk into a restaurant without the record scratching and everyone staring at you, no one really needs to spend any more time in Lima than they have to to catch the next flight or bus out of it.

Save for quick stops in Huacachina and a cursory glance at the Nazca lines, it was all a straight shot to Puquio, a little Andean town on the road to Cuzco. The first rumblings of the Altiplano are felt as the CB crests a 15,000 foot plain and cruises past an alpaca sanctuary while it gears up for the 300 mile marathon to Cuzco. Leaving Puquio in the cold Andea dawn it was all curves to Cuzco and the CB responded with aplomb, coasting into the ancient Incan capitol cum modern-day touristic navel in thin air and dark night. The greatest motorcycling thus far in over a year on the road. The road from Puquio to Cuzco is a full day’s ride of 300 miles of sinewy Andean tarmac passing trundling trucks on blind corners as you dip up and down and around and around in pursuit of Incan gold.

Yo no soy marinero, soy viajero.

 

Boleto Turistico: For a scant 130 nuevo soles($50), one might lay their grubby lil’ mitts on the Boleto Turistico, an all-entry pass of sorts to some of Cuzco’s, and even a lil’ bit of the Sacred Valley’s, cultural and archaeological gems.

Sacsayhuaman: Pronounced Sexy-woman, this ancient fortress cum ceremonial site cum whatever it was intended to be is the preeminent archaeological site of the Americas and possibly even the world as it squares off against the pyramids in an all-out grudge match to be the be-all get-out megalithic death rattle of a dead and lost culture. Great big ol’ blocks o’ tha Gods(!), some over 20 feet tall and weighing over 100 tons, are fitted together without mortar and so precisely that not even a blade of grass will slip between them, nor even the infintessimilly thin .002″ feeler guage that one must use to adjust the valves on an equally ancient Honda motorbike. Impressive more so or at the same level is that some of the blocks were quarried 20km away and trundled over the Andes before being fitted together like Duplo blocks in God’s crib, fittingly forming the jaw of the puma on which the ancient Incan capital of Cuzco was laid out upon. Indeed, the ancients are still pulling tricks from their sleeves and out from under their colorful frocks, putting even lil’ Criss Angel and his Vegas buffet to shame. Insert Cris Angel photito here.

Tambomachay and Pucapukara: Get your boleto punched for both at the entrance to Tambomachay (Pucapukara is just down the road within sight of its bigger bro). Tambo was a ceremonial center and sports an Incan fountain which still pumps out the waters of eternal youth. Pucapukara is a hilltop fort or something which provides 360 degree views of the Cuzco countryside and surrounds. In any other place, Ecuador for example, both would be serious attractions unto themselves but are none too exciting after having laid one’s grubby lil’ mitts on the blocks of the Gods at Sacasyhuaman.

Q’enqo: Pretty cool lil’ site chillin’ out in the hills above Cuzco, replete with ceremonial cave housing naturally refrigerated stone slabs on which mummies once reposed. Q’enqo is basically just a huge boulder outcrop which the Incans, or whoever, carved to their liking. Nobles only!

Monumento Pachacutec: Imposing tower built in modern times using ancient techniques in downtown Cuzco with a huge bronze statue of an Incan of some sort perched atop it. Skippable but worth a walk if you’re determined to get every site punched on your Boleto Turistico, and we are.

Museo Sitio de Qoricancha and the Qoricancha: Crappy lil’ museum (save for the trepanned and elongated skulls on display) in front of the Qorichancha, which ain’t included in your boleto. Regardless, the extra 10 soles needed to enter the former temple of the sun are worth every centimo as it will enable a body to catch a glimpse of more rocks and stonework, which are extremely intricate and amazing. My favorite part was the thumbnail sized stone fitted between and surrounded by much larger blocks, the whole thing perfect and without flaw. The entire site is all haphazardly fitted together around or under a church, built by the Spaniards as to superimpose Catholisicm on and discourage the Incan’s black magic.

Pisac: A huge, incredible ruin reachable only by vintage motorbike or plush tourbus, Pisac is compromised of several different ceremonial sites and oodles of Incan terracing. Pisac contains some of the most impressive examples of terracing in the Sacred Valley and the ancient’s ampitheater-like handiwork extends all the way to the valley floor. Temples abound and even the occasional rock etched Incan seat pops up, upon which weary travllers can rest their magical bums. Lots of little shacks selling chicha on the way up, tambien.

Pikillacta: A refreshing break from the constant barage of in-your-face Incandom, the site of Pikillacta showcases an ancient Wari(pre-Inca tribe) settlement. Pikillacta was built entirely from stacked rocks and is huge. I’m sure it must have taken an incredibly long time to construct. The stonework is crude indeed and really can’t hold a candle to the work of the great ones but I was the only one there and had the run of the place, and run amok I did.

Tipon: A short ride from Cuzco, Tipon is another terraced Incan site impressive for its irrigated canals which still flow and stretch for miles. A cool site indeed which receives few visitors compared to its Cuzco brethren. An opportunity to hike up to the head of the canal and witness yet another temple was dashed when I decided that I was all Incan’d out for the day.

Museo de Arte Popular, Museo Historico Regional, Museo Municipal de Arte Contemporaneo, Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo: These are all pretty terrible and clearly designed to pad the Boleto Turistico. Of them all the most hope was held out for the Centro Qosqo de Arte Nativo, which is not a museum or ruin or anything but a show of native dancing and music. It turned out to be really boring and all the dances looked the same just with different outfits and every single song was indiscernible from the last. A lazer light show at the Sacasyhuaman blocks would give much more bang for the buck and I’m sure it is coming. The outfits were cool though.

Chinchero: Ah, Chinchero. Chinchero is sort of half ruin, half functioning modern-day Incan town. More blocks and an impressive cleared plaza overlooking the river below make up the ruins part of Chinchero and Incan Spanish fusion architecture make up the rest with a really cool olden tyme church that is filled to the brim with painting and carvings, nearly every inch of it. Joven, diez soles los guantes, solamente diez solitos, joven.

Moray: Another site that the Cuzco Kid had been wanting to see for some time, Moray is supposedly an old timey agricultural experimentation center, as supposedly the terraced rings that make up the site provide different microclimates for various crops. But no one really knows for sure and it is an impressive site nontheless. Standing all the way at the bottom and in the middle prodces a cool echo effect. Check it off the list.

Ollantaytambo: A real favorite, the ruins of Ollantaytambo are most impressive for their monolithic stonework, which is much more precise than the work at Sacsayhuaman although there’s not as many blocks. Huge perectly carved stones lay scattered about, having fallen sometime in the distant past or having never made it to their final resting place. Six monolithic stones in the guise of rectangles, all separated by thinly carved columns of smaller rocks, stand as the focal point of what was once an important ceremonial site. Below the ruins lies the hamletito of Ollantaytambo, another modern-day Incan town in which people still live in houses built from stone, albeit polished off with modern tops. Narrow cobblestoned alleyways laid down centuries ago lead one to all sorts of fun and an ancient canal still runs through the town with people still using it to pee in and dump their garbage into. Ruins are everywhere in Ollantaytambo and ancient grain silos loom over the Plaza de Armas. The silos are free to explore on foot by any and all wandering souls, and precarious trails lead to treacherous cliffs all the way up high above the town. Rumor has it that this was the favorite site of Nazca Boy.

Sacred Valley Bonus Track:

The Salinas: Leaving Moray a narrow, steep, and precipitous dirt road leads off to some ancient Incan salt pans(the Incans were busy back then). Impressive indeed both for their ingenuity and scale, the pans are fed by a natural spring which culls salt from the earth and are STILL in use today. Not included in the Boleto Turistico but worth a wink and a nod, the Salinas will set you back solamente 7 solitos, joven.

Peruvian Bonus Tracks:

Nazca Lines: A rickety lookout tower (dos solitos, si yo puedo recordarlo) off the side of the Panamaericana (which was built right through the Nazca lines before anyone even knew they existed) yields a relatively unimpressive view of a couple of minor Nazca figures. Nevertheless, the lines themselves do not fail to impress as their scale is immense and they crop up all over the desert floor as you’re riding the Panamerica at a good clip for miles and miles.

Huacachina Oasis: The sand dunes out in the desert near Ica, Peru stretch as far as the eye can see. A truly surreal scene in one of the most arid places on earth. The Huacachina Oasis is a little watering hole surrounded by an overpriced tourist ghetto and is skippable, although one might want to come just for the dunes, and there’s sandboarding and dune buggy rides also.

 

Coming soon: Macho Pichu: Flex-off on top of the hitching post of the Sun, son.

 

¡Vamos a tomar un poca de chicha! ¡Ahora!

Vamos Vamos…

Live update from the Sacred Valley…

Ah, you know anything that comes out of a mud jug with an Incan woman sitting next to it has got to be quality stuff.

Supposedly ubiquitous throughout Andean Peru, the Chicha house is designated by a red flag, or t-shirt or rag or whatever, hanging from a pole outside of someones house. I’ve been keeping my eyes peeled but this is the first one I’ve seen during nearly 3 months in Peru. Chicha is a fermented corn drink, made from crushed and boiled maize and left to ferment in clay pots until it reaches an ABV of about 3%.

And the verdict?

Si, esta bien. ¡Dame mi chicha, puta! ¡Dame la, ahora! Pero, recuerda que es mucho mejor para tomar en las sombras de los sitios antiguos de las Incas, esperando por el fin del todo tiempo.

Pisac

…and the Peruvian pipe-band played on: Musings from old Peru

…sure, the guidebooks might want you to believe that Peru is all cockfights and ceramic genitals but the truth is that it’s more than that.

But just a little more.

Best to get your info here because we’re here on the ground, riding the dog for the moment in deepest darkest Lima as the CB cools down for a spell; taking some time out to genuflect.

But lets go back, way back to one’s first crossing into this strange and savage land of Incans and gold. One remembers the death roads, ah yes the death roads. One remembers them because they simply cannot be forgotten.

The road to Kuelap: Up and up we go, inching towards the sun on a death road carved into the side of the Andes, leading a body to the ancient fortress of Kuelap. The Chachapoyans were on to something here man, and one gets the feeling that something big was going on all the way up here in the mountains of Northern Peru back in the days of yore, but just a little something half-spied through the swirling mists of time. Cloud warriors, white skinned and blond, usurped by the Incans and dying out sometime in pre-history before the coming of the conquistadores. A mystery for the ages. The last vestiges of a dead race appear in the guise of different archaeological sites that dot the area, remnants reachable only by foot or the occasional death road to nowhere, built to service communities that shouldn’t even exist.

30 foot high walls of stone

The ancient fortress of Kuelap at dawn’s first light and the magic hour. Awaking from my tent to an icy Andean dawn, I would have the run of the place, sneaking around the back and then inside like a covetous Incan. Kuelap is a tremendous ruin, well-built enough to withstand the ravages of time, and huge. Muy impressionante.

Revash: Ancient bones still line the floor inside the sarcophogi of Revash, set in cliff’s niche high above the Leymebamba valley. Yet another site I would have entirely to myself, Revash is left unprotected to all and is in surprisingly good condition, considering it’s nearly a thousand years old…and with all the names and shit carved into it.

Emoliente in Leymebamba: Dubbed emoliente, this weird drink has a gooey texture and is used to cure all sorts of ills, and even chills as it comes served up piping hot; a perfect tonic for the cold Andean night.

Considered one of the pre-eminent death roads in all of Incandom, the stretch from Leymebamba to Celendin is just another one of the death roads that bring new life as we go up and up through the rain and sleet and slick muck over the pass only to do it all over again as next we go down to the Rio Marañon and back up to Celendin. All in a day’s work.

Eyeing up death-road continuation whilst looking across the Marañon River valley. That’s the same road off in the distance, an hour or two’s ride away.

Scenes of utter-destruction as the Ecuadorian welds fail epically, yet conveniently just as we hit pavement, and right in front of a welder’s shop…who sloppily, lazily welded up the frame with a couple of pieces of rebar for added strength.

Conga No Va! A chant a body would hear ad nauseum over and over again as we get stuck and have to spend the night in Celendin. There would be no gasoline for sale, especially to white interlopers on vintage Honda twins, and the CB tank was plumb-dry. Conga is an acronym for an American mining interest who the local populace fear will pollute the environment. Images of angry protesting Incans interspersed with images of angry Incans pissing and shitting in plain sight, throwing plastic bags of garbage into rivers and streams and everywhere else while wearing brightly colored traditional clothing and adorable bowler hats are forever intertwined and scorched into the memory. Although, taken in I was that night by a couple of kind-hearted mestizo school marms, and even given my own personal room with dirt floor and sexy posters of Jesus and babes lining the walls.

Markwahuamachuco: Another sassy pre-Incan ruin with hilltop setting. Pushy security guards and Frenchmen on recumbent bicycles would ruin the set and one is led to the conclusion that Kuelap conquers all. A massively fucked up boulder strewn road tops out at 3800m at ruins edge.

Back to the sea: A gray mist blankets the Peruvian coast as the garua fog rolls in and signals that ‘winter’ has come to the sea. Up in the North and outside the city of Trujillo the impressive remains of Chan Chan scour the coast. Built from mud and straw, the ruins of Chan Chan may only be appreciated for their size, which is immense, and even in this modern age with Trujillo fast approaching, they can still be oggled. One can make good time riding the curveless and paved Panamericana and the desert highways of Peru’s arid shores. Little settlements pop up here and there and glimpses are caught of obscene poverty and most houses are nothing more than four sticks and reed mats for walls and roof.

Hey lady, I can see you through the wall!

Huaraz and the Cordilleras: Death roads galore as the legendary Cañon del Pato road leads a body away from the coast through oodles of tunnels blasted and carved into solid rock as it inches its way up Peru’s Cordillera Negra and into the beating Andean heart of a nation. Dozens of snow and ice-capped 6000m+ peaks are all jammed together in and around the dirty burb of Huaraz, representing Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. Completely surreal and amazing is the setting and the scale so immense that it blows the mind. Incredible no doubt but after a while the alternating hot days, cold nights, and altitude will eventually get to a body and lead it to Lima.

The Canon del Pato road through the Cordillera Negra

View from Punta Union pass at 4750m.

Looking down the other side of Punta Union.

Laguna Churup

It seems as if one is always, always waiting for sun. Camped at 4000m, the difference between sun and shade is stark.

Images shown from Santa Cruz ‘trek’. They call hiking ‘trekking’ here, which I don’t appreciate. Done solo – no burros allowed yo. This is one of the ‘bathrooms’ that pop up every now and again. For some reason, half of them were stuffed with dead animals and I never got a straight answer as to why.

The Purple Potatoes of Old Peru: Peru has something like 80 different kinds of potato. This is not interesting to me in the least because most of them taste and look exactly the same but some of them are purple. That I can dig, and the purple ones taste sort of like yams. Subdued yams but yams nonetheless.

C’mon, what’s in the box?!: Pizarro’s remains repose in an annex of the Lima Catedral, battered and bruised, head and body reunited after all these years. The OG conquistador.

Travel Tip: Free Yellow Fever shots are dispensed at the Hospital Laroazya in Central Lima on Avenida Ugarte every Tuesday from 8 to 11am. Make sure you’re on time or you’ll need to argue for your shot in broken castellano. You don’t want to end up like these two gents, eh?

Inkin’ Dunkin’ Donut:

 

Tales From the Cockpit

Cuzqueña Dark: First impressions are always deceiving. Maybe it was the death roads that got me to this special place, or maybe it’s part of the bundle of emotions that come with finally making Peru, or maybe Cusqueña is just a decent beer. Tasty, en serio. Not bad at all. A dark brew that conjures up memories of a Bohemia Oscura sipped so many moons ago on a beach down old Mazunte way. Not too syrupy, not too sweet, but just right. Although, wouldn’t want to push it and have more than a bottle or ten. Best sipped tentside behind a gas station in Peru as a celebration of conquering death roads.

Culled from the journals of one Ryder P. Strongstrom, some time ago, upon entering Peru. Indeed, border crossing days are most always a stressful affair, even on the days when they aren’t, and one can always expect to be found rounding out the day with an ice cold beer, or tipple of some sort. But that’s neither here nor there and we’ll get to it soon, in due time. But now, let it be known, that after a year on the road facing life’s great challenges on a vintage Honda twin, we’ve finally made it to Lima. And here we are, kicking back in a hostal of sorts and doffing a pint of Pilsen Polar out of a thousand year old penis-mug lifted from the Museo Larco’s erotic ceramics gallery.

And after 9 months in Latin America, I was finally able to horn in on a cockfight and truth be told, no great Latin American adventure would be complete without witnessing one. My first ever. They’re against the law in the states, although illegal immigrants are constantly getting busted for running illicit cockfights out in the sticks. And yet, one wonders if it is worth all the hassle for 30 seconds of glory.

Would you sacrifice your cock on the altar of despair?

Really, that’s it. 30 seconds is about all these things last. One rooster just kills the other one, almost immediately, as soon as the first kicks are landed with the help of a 2 inch long razor sharp blade that’s tied to its leg. A lot of folks dismiss the gallant pastime of sportcocking as a cruel and unusual affair that is both barborous and mean to animals. That’s fine, but I never really had any feelings one way or the other going into this thing and I don’t really have any now. The roosters don’t care, or even have any idea of what’s going on. And they die really quick. But is it better to die destined for the dinner plate or to slug it out in the ring for fortune and glory. Is one end more dignified that the other? Either way, they’re just being used by people for their own selfish means.

…but it’s not like chickens are very dignified animals anyway.

Uh, we report YOU decide.

Cockmanager in the process of strapping knife to the leg of the rooster as proud owner holds on and eyes up the camera. Minutes earlier the owner had come to the ring in a silk cape with the rooster hidden beneath, revealing both in a flashy display of showmanship.

Tres Cruces: Look, don’t ever get your hopes up in Peru. Coming in a fancy bottle and costing a few more Nuevo Soles than what the other beers on the shelf cost, it was assumed that this little sparkling number would yield something above average, something pleasurable. Again, our hopes were never really high, because we’re in Peru. “Cerveza Premium” dice la botella. Meh, methinks Cerveza General is a more apt description. Tastes like every other bottle on the shelf, yet with a whiff of pretentiousness.

One day in Lima makes a hard-man humble.

Horror stories abound but look, we’re not in Tegucigalpa.

Lima is turning out, at least on first glance, to be a refreshing break from the in-your-face awesome brutality of the rest of Peru. Somewhat laid-back, surprisingly clean, witty and urbane. Even the widely bemoaned ‘garua’ mists that blanket the Peruvian coast this time of year and cast a gray pallour over all are a welcome respite from the awful hot-cold cycles of the highlands. Cool and comfortable, it’s easy livin’ here in Lima. There’s even a Starbucks and a Dunkin’ Donuts.

And there’s EVEN a museum with an entire wing devoted to centuries old erotic ceramics.

Chucha grande!

Under the blanket, ftw.


Lots of unattractive people and everyone’s wearing a helmet.

Aia Paec and a woman:

“Another less common portrayal of the god in the act of love takes place, not in an arbor as in previous vessels, but in an open field. There is a small dwelling with a cripple on the roof in a watchful pose. His lips, nose, and feet have been amputated and he carries a warrior’s club in his hand. Sitting in front of the house at the door is another cripple. The god has lifted himself up while in the middle of ceremonial intercourse and with his raised left hand is making a gesture that can be interpreted as threatening or as administering justice. A bush sprouts from the woman’s genitals. Its branches are laden with oval fruits with central lines, thus closely resembling female genitalia. In the branches some monkeys are picking the fruit of the bush, which has been fertilized by the god himself, and collecting it in bags. Opposite Aia Paec is a stirrup-spout bottle. There is also a box that seems to be intended for the fruit of the symbolic plant; it looks like a two-headed serpent with ears. The box is repeated three times in the scene. Two men and a woman are proceeding towards the god, one behind the other. The first is a carrying a little dish and a bag is hanging from his neck. The second is also carrying a receptacle, but instead of the bag he has a human head hanging from his neck, or a bag representing a human head. The third person is the woman and she too has a small receptacle. On her shoulders she is carrying a child and she is followed by a laden llama. All three have their arms raised as if they were presenting offerings or making an invocation.”

Go ahead and read into the symbolism all you want but the Moche were into some heavy shit. What stands out is the gent with the severed feet, nose, and lips. Pure barberism baby and this theme would be repeated over and over again.

Spectacularly cruel form of punishment depicted on water bottle(?) which depicts prisoner tied up and left to have the ravens pluck his desiccated eyeballs out.

Similar scene to the one above but this time the bird is ripping off the guy’s dick (wtf?).

Also on display were some trepanned Incan skulls. The procedure carried out on the skull to the left likely caused death, as no healing is evident around the hole. But the one on the right…well that guy lived many moons thereafter and one is almost certain that a productive wonderful life it was.

Lima Bonus Track: Just down the street from the hostal is an ancient pyramid that’s over a thousand years old. Weird, because it’s right in the middle of the city and it’s surrounded by modern, concrete dwellings. Lima used to be full of these things and some, like this one, even survive but most have been built over or destroyed. For many years, this one used to play host to a shanty-town, although now it’s all legit and a team of archaeologists are working to restore this little gem to its former glory. Interesting to note that several mummies have been unearthed here, with the last three interred in supine positions, Egytptian style, which is not the norm at all for South American mummies. They’re, the mummies, also big. Much bigger than most mummies of the time, which leads one to suspect that they’re Spaniards…or something else entirely. A delightful surprise was that one of the mummies was on-site, and that I was able to jack a glance. Impressive indeed, and one waits with rapt attention for the big reveal.

Pilsen Polar: This would be like if Budweiser came out with a dark beer, but it seems even more puzzling here whilst sipping on a dark brew in Peru of all places. Latin America is the land of the straw colored pilsner and it’s nearly always a treat to try something out of the box. Pilsen Polar is alright I guess. It’s not good. Well, per se, but it’s not terribly bad either. There’s a cute picture of a polar bear on the bottle. Get out, in Peru!? Si. Tastes exactly how you might imagine a Budweiser Dark to taste, if it even existed. Which would be not good and not bad. I think at this point it’s safe to say that I’ve given up hope on finding a delicious brew here in South America, and the fear creeps in that even upon a trimphant return to the states my beloved Magic Hat will taste to me like a Tecate. Is there no hope but to become a trago addict, to wonder the backstreets of Lima shoeless and alone with a penis shaped goblet of trago in one hand…and a loaded revolver in the other?

Richie Vs. the Volcano/Escape from Ecuador

It’s been a while since we left Ecuador. Weeks maybe. Perhaps even a half-moon? I dunno, but we were there for a while, nearly 3 months in total and almost running out our visa. A bit of a surprise to me Ecuador it was indeed. Cheap gas, the Andes, and a finally friendly and unsuspecting populace made for good times in the land of the Cuy.

Livin’ la vida selva was alright I guess, but the Andes are where it’s at, they’ve always been, and we was just itchin’ to get back to the mountains and commune with the giants after slingin’ verbs in Amazonia.

Volcan Tungurahua: Ever since passing up the chance to dose on the slopes of one of Nicaragua’s fire-breathing monsters we’d been pining for that perfect set of circumstances that would let a body get up close and personal with one of earth’s angry giants. Dubbed Tungurahua, which translates to ‘throat of fire’ in the Incan mother tongue, this little gem puffs its stuff out in Ecuador’s sierra oriental, poking its smoky ass through the clouds and looming large over various assorted hamlets but most notably the touristic mecca of Baños. Baños, an interesting place in its own right, would be our base of operations as we prepped for the climb and recovered from yet another round of infectious parasites. A spa-town, lil’ Baños plays host to a various different assortment of mineral-rich hot-spring bathing complexes and tour companies touting exciting jungle adventures, bungee jumping, and the like to both vacationing locals and enterprising palefaces alike. Palefaces and tanfaces mingling together in harmony there was and none of the nonesuch that comes along with those other places: Antigua or Granada or all of Costa Rica. Competetive prices would allow a body to score a $5 hotel room with cable tv and a private bathroom positioned just right to enable them to ride out their parasites while catching up on lost episodes of Two and a Half Men and 2 Broke Girls.

Gosh, I hope those bitches land on their feet

A trail from Banos leads up to the refugio just within the tree line, an 8km slog with 6000+ feet of elevation change.

Semi-abandoned yet still standing refugio at 3800m on the slopes of Tungurahua. Planning to wait out the weather, I would haul up 3 days worth of food. Delicious canned tuna and Ramen noodles for breakfast lunch and dinner it would be with a small stream nearby yielding clean yet ashy water.

Ashy Richie. The entire top half of the volcano is covered in ash, blowing everywhere. It gets into your eyes, your nose, your mouth…everywhere. On one of the trips up to the refugio we ran into a guide that has been up to the crater, who noted that a body would be mad not to scale Tungurahua’s ashy sides without an axe and crampons. Having little in our mountaineering arsenal save for an iron will the refugio broom handle would have to do double duty as an ice axe and, for crampoms, the Ecuadorian mystery boots and the manboy that made them legend.

View from the abandoned seismic-shack at about 4000m. Moonscape from here on up.

Moonscape baby. Just over the first crest now and looking up towards the crater, which lies somewhere just back behind the clouds.

Refugio attic. Cozy indeed.

That was it, I never made it to the top and it was probably a good thing at that. I got to within 50 or 60 yards of the thing. Close enough to kick a soccer ball into it. Winds near the top were picking up marble-sized stones and hurling them horizontally. Ash in my eyes, ash everywhere. A heart felt decision indeed it was to descend. Coming down to the refugio and taking a piss, the ground shook and lil’ Tungurahua made its presence felt. Had I had made it to the crater, I would have probably still been in there, chilling out reading a Louis L’amour paperback and eating a tuna fish sandwich, waiting for the winds to die down.

A nice cap to Ecuador and after Tungurahua, it was all downhill to the Peruvian border. A brief stop in Cuenca and then some desert delights in Vilcabamba before tackling the frontier ‘road’ to the Peruvian highlands.

A little RnR in Vilcabamba. Carrying 3 people on the back over shitty roads in the Amazon likely contributed to the rear frame cracking.

A little desert scenery in Vilcabamba.

A good section of the ‘road’ that links the southern reaches of Ecuador with the Peruvian border. 100 miles of slick ass mud and white-knuckled death grip, cursing God and whoever engineered this thing and called it a road the whole time.

Drying out a bit at a military checkpoint, Peru in sight. Who are you? Where you going?

Entonces, peace out Ecuador. It’s been real but it’s time to go, to move onward with the sun at our back and eyes on the prize.

The Incans await.

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