Monday, November 06, 2006

Up and over the Andes

Day 18
Taking the Manuel Tienda Leon service to the airport, I meet Sami (Samuel) Abadi, a professional musician with Ultratango ( - he's on his way to Santiago for a gig. They are just releasing their second CD, and their music is some kind of Electronic Tango - the only vague concept I have as to what this might be is Gotan Project. Anyway, they are really popular in South America, and are planning to tour Europe at the end of next year! He tells me to call him when I'm next in Buenos Aires and he'll bring me out to their gigs etc. Cool! He's surprised at our common name (Samuel), apparently it's quite unusual in South America, and would normally only be expected for a Jewish person. Anyway, it's his first time in Santiago, but as they've played every evening for the past 4 or 5, and mastered the CD overnight, the whole band is looking forward to a rest. He tells me that Peruvians have a reputation for being more shy and reserved, Brazilians more outgoing and friendly, with Argentinians.. He's not sure speaking about his own nation, but maybe somewhere in between the two. Anyway, I´m buzzing because it´s my first interaction with a local!

In this airport we get to use the American Airlines lounge. Not up to BA lounge standards obviously, but seems okay. Except I have problems connecting to the wifi (suspect it's me not the wifi, damned chipset), and after munching a couple of slices of toast I notice mould. Yeugh. Just when I thought my bowels were on the mend! Boarding in about 25 minutes. I'm going to read Peru stuff on the plane over. Hope my bag makes it - apparently this airport has a reputation for things going walkies in checked luggage. Not that there's much in the way of valuables in my bag, but if the whole thing went, well that would be annoying. Most people here use a service where they wrap your whole bag in clingfilm stuff to protect it, but not for me, not when my Karrimor rain cover will suffice! I'm sure when the bag was designed, they didn't expect this flimsy piece of blue material would be checked-luggage protection. However, I think it's the best way of avoiding straps getting caught all over the place. Some airports provide plastic bags for backpacks, but not the UK or here.

So on arrival, do I stay in Lima or try to head straight off to Huarez, the gateway town for a few treks. Answers on a postcard..!

Update: am on the plane now. Bored of reading about what will be. Anyway, first point, I have a horrible suspicion I've been stitched up again! There appears to be a First Class bit to this plane. Just three seats. There's hardly anything in it. I might be wrong. But my ESP for these things detects a slightly larger seat, and fractionally larger TV screen. Again, the main issue at stake is frequent flier points. Grrrr! Anyway, business is full, all the air hostesses are gorgeous, and we're on our way. I can't understand the English announcements on the intercom, which doesn't bode well. My book, ah yes, I should tell you a bit about my book, but anyway, it recommends lots of checking things with locals. Hard, very hard. But I have mastered 1-100 numerically. When I paid the departure tax at EZE, I asked to pay in pesos rather than dollars, and she said 56, and clever me, after about three seconds of hard concentration, worked it out!! I'm almost fluent, haha! Yes, so my book. I have the Footprint "South American Handbook 2006". Presumably they produce it annually. I went for this rather than the Lonely Planet Shoestring guide, despite being a LP fanatic, because almost all the online reviews favoured this over LP. Apparently LP is the usual mix of interesting fact boxes etc, and has good info for places once you're there, although it´s not kept as up to date as Footprint, but for getting from A to B if you're not somewhere big, the Footprint guide is apparently much more practical, and based on my experience so far.. well it hasn´t let me down yet! It also has the thinnest paper I've ever seen on a book - I'm browsing Peru at about p1245 and I'm just over half way through!!!

Almost finished In Cold Blood. Excellent book. I'm almost inspired enough to put pen to paper myself, but about what? The Telegraph has been running a "Novel in a Year" feature at the weekends for a while now, which I've caught small bits of.. I wish I had paid more attention now. Is it necessary to have a whole plot sketched out, or should one just launch into it? Opening lines are of course very important too. By the way, there's apparently a pamphlet I can pick up entitled "How not to get robbed in Peru". Nice! I think I will be okay though in terms of being outside normal trekker tourist season. I should also probably stay a night just to have a look around Lima, as I'm probably not coming back this way (might be wrong about this though). Vague plan having been browsing trekking book is:
1. A night in Lima.
2. Daytime (see stuff) bus to Huarez
3. Santa Cruz Trek with a few side-treks. This should take about a week.
4. Cordillera Huayhuash Circuit. This is the tough, and I'm worried about this out of season. There are some options if the passes are too risky, including just trekking along the Eastern side of the Huayhuash. Mental note, need to work out how to pronounce the "H" word! Potentially a couple of weeks.
5. Cusco, and Macchu Picchu via the Mollepata to MP trek. One week.
6. Over to Bolivia for the Copacabana to Isle del Sol trek.
7. Finish in La Paz then fly somewhere for Xmas and New Year.

Oooh, hold press. Just read about the Nasca Lines, huge pictures which can only been seen from space. It's a 6 hour bus ride from Lima to Nasca. Really ought to do it. Ought to… Okay, I'll head up to the Cordillera stuff first, then back down via Lima to Pisco, then across to Cusco from there. A plan, a man with a plan. Now enough planning, back to my books. And ah ha! Solids! I shall say no more on this subject ;)

By the way, current plan for next year is:
1. Patagonia for trekking
2. Chile, and maybe Iguazu Falls (but they are a long way from anything else… not convinced yet)
3. Final pottering around South America.
4. Easter Island
5. Tahiti
6. New Zealand and Australia, then fly via HK up to:
7. Japan then ferry across to:
8. Korea, and ferry or fly across to:
9. China - will probably do Shanghai to Beijing to Xian via the home of Shaolin, then on the high railway to Lhasa:
10. Tibet, maybe across to Mount Kailesh. Not sure. If not, then through to Nepal, maybe via Everest.
11. India. Would like to go to Darjeeling, some Ganges holy action, err, not sure what else yet!
12. Across to SE Asia, maybe via Bangladesh etc overland, or maybe fly.
13. Sri Lanka from Bangkok {just the OneWorld way of doing things)
14. Back to HK before flying to Jo'berg and finishing in Cape Town.

At the end, not sure if I'll hop straight back up to the UK, or do an overland thing. Lots of the guys on the Gecko Tour in Egypt had done African things and all loved them, so I'll leave it open. By then I might be gagging for a Dilbert-esque cubicle job, will have to go crawling back to Andre and Stu!! All a long way away, and yet, am on day 18 already. Almost 3 weeks of 52 gone. Don't panic!! Immediate concerns are more about 1. getting mugged in Lima 2. Dying up in the mountains. Apparently guides are $50US/day. That makes a two week trek bloomin' expensive. I'll try to find a donkey that knows the way - after my Valley of the Kings fun I am the master of the asses!

And am I lonely? A bit. I think it's been nice to calm down after the manic Aussie-induced partying of the Nile, but the only local interaction I've had in South America has been Sami. Then again, I wasn't really up for socialising in Buenos Aires - stuff on my mind back home (you know who you are, PB…). Also need to major on this Spanish-learning. Apparently Peru has the purest form of Spanish, in terms of their intonation etc - even purer than Spanish people (they like to call Spanish "Castellano" down here, as Espanol is more the Nationality).

By the way, haven't seen any evidence of Andes, but we're over them already and I'm on the wrong side of the plane anyhow.

Landed! I'm in Peruuuuuu! I've got to say, the name conjurs up more excitement in me than Argentina. Peru! Peru! I almost skip off the plane! As we land, I notice that there is nothing high-rise in the city. The only buildings to break the uniform double or triple stories are the water towers, evenly scattered across the city. Also the colour - grey and misty, washed out, partially due to the weather. To be honest, at first before realising this was the city, I thought we were coming down over Andean ruins! Through immigration, through the customs lottery (you have to press a button, if it says green, you're through, red, you're gonna be searched!). And out. Only one type of ATM in the building, and it looks suspiciously touristy, so I don't take out too much. The helpful tourist information lady tells me lots of things, and recommends the airport shuttle bus into town. I have a choice - pay $9US and share, or $18 and have it to myself. I pay 9, then no one else turns up for it. Sweet. One can tell this is a poorer country from the touting for taxi services - nothing like this in Buenos Aires. When we hit the road, I am reminded of Nepal. The main thoroughfare is serviceable, but I can see side streets are mostly dirt tracks. The driver, seemingly friendly, radios to someone and I hear the name of the hostel I've suggested, Hostal Roma. I worry I'm about to be fleeced, but it turns out okay. I try to make conversation using my guide book: "Peru no large buildings similar London" etc. It works, he doesn't rob me. Am slightly worried by the amount of danger signals all the books are sending out. Think it's time to engage the fake wallet. In to Hostal Roma and a bit of haggling gives me a $10US / night room, which in terms of standard and facilities faintly reminicent of the lodge rooms up in the mountain in Nepal (okay at least it´s on suite - I decided not to go for the *even cheapèr* rooms!). The rather camp chap on reception has suggested a bus company for the ride to Huarez which I'll do tomorrow morning, but it's not on my approved bus list from nice lady at tourist information. I'm going to play it safe and go to the main bus company, Cruz del Sur. This is an 8 hour bus ride after all, and I like the sound of their Imperial suite of buses (what can I say, I'm a tart! Hehe!). Whilst we're on the subject, I noticed OneWorld Sapphire was printed on my boarding pass for the flight over here, I presume this means I've hit BA Silver (yay!). I have status finally! Though I suppose it would have been more useful to reach it by the end of the year, as I'm not going to need it much between now and next October!

Right, I'm off out to get robbed… laters peeps (and to work out how to send this as there's no wifi here and I'm loathe to whip lappie out).

Update 2!

Hope you lot are keeping track of me going back and editing previous days of my blog etc. I have a strong suspicion that about two people are reading this - Rob and Chris!! Is there nothing else to do up there, lads¿!

So, Im in an internet cafe, if you could call it that. What can I tell you? This city is whacky! I wandered out, with a tip to eat Chinese from gay Errol (for that is his name). Wandered along the street, but noticed a few really lively looking local places along the way, so doubled back and went into one of those. La Rejita Chiclayana on Jr Ica. Was led upstairs, and dragged through the "what do you want to order" skit by a very cute small waitress called Esther. She appeared to be not much taller than me, and I was sitting down on a fairly low chair! Anyway, this is the case with most Peruvians. They are small. I feel tall! Perhaps they´ll bite my ankles until I hand over my wallet?

I order Ceviche, with random sides which were suggested. And it turns out I am committing traveller food murder of first degree! All the rules are being broken in one go! I am having:
1. Raw fish
2. Raw vegetables
3. Salad
4. A milky dressing
5. Suspect nutty things
All in the same dish. I´m going down for this!

But it´s good. Damn good. The fish is marinaded in some sort of lemony peppery dressing, then mixed with raw onion. No one will rob me after lunch today. To drink I (of course) order Inca Cola!!! Yes that´s what it´s called! It´s radioactive yellow and comes in a coke-style bottle. I am excited. Until I drink some. It tastes like those horrible little plastic pop drinks one used to have, where one would pierce the lid with the straw, possibly "bubblegum" flavour? Anyway, I've tried it, and would have bought the t-shirt had one been available.

Finish off the food, and exchange contact details with Esther. Why, I don´t know, as she speaks as much English as me Spanish. Anyway, it´s fun. I end up tipping rather too much on the way out too, as I became confused between the meal (13 pesos, or 2UKP), and the tip, and ended up tipping the meal price again. Mug. By the way, after the delights of Inca Pop, I point at what everyone else is drinking. Far more palatable "Chicha morada", made from purple corn juice. Still not something I´d fill my Camelbak with though, I have to say!

Off to the bus station South from here. Cruz del Sur. Obviously my pronounciation is terrible, as no one understands my pleas for direction until I show them it written. They then echo out exactly what I thought I was saying. Sigh. Anyway, get there, and I have a choice - the Imperial overnight or the (something better?) during the day. Daytime one tomorrow then. It´s booked, but goes from the bus station the other side of town, dammit. Wonder if they have on-board wifi?! Anyway, I´m mega-happy when an old Peruvian chap waiting next to me asks me if I'm from Chile! Hurrah! Why no, in fact, I'm Inglez, but thanks for suggesting that I'm almost a local :)

Back and into the internet cafe. Off the street, there's a long corridor of tiny workshops. Most have printing presses in them - in fact there are lithographic machines all over the town, it's like Rotherhithe but without the traffic jams! Speaking of, I'm still on top guard walking about. There´s something sort of menacing about the town - maybe the narrow pavements with fast traffic whizzing by from all directions, or the dark little doorways every few yards... either way I'll feel safer when I head out of town, especially as I've just been to the ATM and taken out, shall we say, slightly too much money!

So this net cafe consists of cubicles just big enough to house the keyboard. I managed to get a usb key to work in the second one i tried though, hence half of this blog entry. Sorry peeps, there are a load of emails queued up on lappie, but it ain´t comin´ out here, that´s for sure, and no wifi in the room, unsurprisingly. I also would not be even slightly surprised if there were keyloggers galore running, so no bank transfers thank you very much!

Anyway, my hour´s almost up. Suppose I ought to do some more touristy stuff. It shows how I'm feeling that I would prefer to not take the Canon out. Though perhaps it will be okay away from the roadside.. More at some point (though I am heading from tomorrow into mountains proper so no guarantees). Having said that, it'll probably be much easier than here! I should qualify my comments with the fact that I'm not staying where, as a tourist, I am supposed to be - there is an area called Mirador which has all the shops, restaurants, bars, nice hotels etc, it's a suburb of Lima. I'm too hard for that though!


1 comment:

sami abadi said...

hey sam!

i´m sami abadi, great you wrote about our meeting!
Ultratango´s concert in Chile was better than anything we could expect!

have a good trip, keep updated about our music & tours at: