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Friday, January 31, 2014

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC TO DEUTSCHLAND

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

Normally, it costs $10 (again, in USD) to enter the Dominican Republic.  Since I was just transferring to a different plane, they kindly waved the fee.

Despite what I'd been told in Lima by the airlines, a nice man told me I'd need to pick up my luggage to manually transfer it to the next plane.  You have to keep an eye on your luggage despite what many airports tell you.

The best thing about the airport is you could smoke almost anywhere in it.

The worst thing about the airport is they could double the size and it still wouldn't be enough.  It is a madhouse.

Teams of a dozen porters would assault every van pulling up and have the luggage unloaded before the passengers even had a chance to get out.  They were all after the tip.

They tried to have mandatory picture taking with a bunch of native girls dressed in native clothing.  Later, they tried to sell you the pictures.  This might have worked back when photographs were a rare and wondrous thing but in these days of digital cameras it seems a bit silly.

There were a lot of flights to and from the USA.  The airport was full of fat Americans shuffling listlessly about or, when their bulk had become too great, being pushed about in wheelchairs.

Going with the ancient tradition of 'put the person with the worst English on the mic', they had some lady who sounded as excited and incomprehensible as a soccer announcer begging someone to please show up to somewhere.  All I could understand was that their plane was leaving without them.  Even had it been my own name announced, I wouldn't have understood it.  Hell, I don't know if she was comprehensible in her native tongue.


While sitting there, bored out of my mind, I decided to write an article on 'five types of tourist you are likely to spot'.

Golden oldies:  These are the people who kept saying 'Some day, we'll go on vacation to a foreign country'.  Eventually, they woke up and realized they were nearly dead.  They'd put off going on a vacation for so long they now get to lug wheelchairs and oxygen bottles with them as they peer out through the world with rheumy eyes.  They're going for their last gasp (literally) for life outside the box.

Older professionals:  These aren't the line workers - they don't have any real vacation time.  These are the bosses pulling down real money and have a good enough job to have a couple months of vacation time.  They are often found with their middle aged fat wives or with the newer, younger, slimmer upgrade.  They enjoy treating the locals like their wage slaves and would fire many of them if given the chance.  Cutting in lines and being the 'Ugly American' (despite nationality) is their passion.

Youthful and idealistic:  These two things often go together because age demands compromise. There are several different categories.  They may be of the vegetarian "I can make the world a better place unlike the filthy savages that live there and obviously need white leadership" sort or just people who enjoy volunteering.  They could be students during a gap year.  Either way, they wander around wide eyed and keep their faces planted in Lonely Planet guidebooks.

Fashion hippies:  I call them 'fashion hippies' because I've met actual hippies who were protesting the Vietnam War - while it was still going on.  Yes, I'm old.  The current hippies, in order to show of their unique individualism, keep to a strict uniform dress code.  Big hair whether multicolored or in dreads, piercings, tattoos and bright often native clothing festoon them with cheap native jewelry and bracelets made from string and plastic.  They either work as they can get it or more often have indulgent rich parents who are happy to get rid of them.

Young, rich and beautiful:  Where these people come from and how they get the money for traveling is a complete mystery.  They often have matching suitcases or can afford to take their small children to different countries.  The scarier versions often have the family all in matching track suits or some equally as appalling wardrobe.  In general terms, these are the jet set.


I don't really fit into any group but I'd like to inherit a bunch of money and get in with the jet set.  If you were curious.  In a few more years, I'll probably be a 'golden oldie'.  Sad.



ALLES FUR DEUTSCHLAND

Back in Germany.  Again.  Were I more wealthy, less tired and demotivated I'd catch a cab for a few hours and tour the sites of Frankfurt.  Since the opposite is true, I sat my fat ass in the huge airport for my fourteen hour layover.

In my quest for affordable food, I mistakenly ate McDonalds but a couple of antibiotics stopped the sludge from continuing to come forth from my bottom.  Yes, it was real McDonalds and affected me just like the stuff in the states did.  Why do I listen to the siren's call of evil American fast food?

In German airports, everything works.  They allowed my baggage to be dropped off over ten hours before my flight rather than most airports only allowing it a couple hours ahead of time.

The only real bummer was getting rousted by the cops.

One of them yelled at me till I woke up.  "What?"

"Can we see your boarding pass?"

"Ah  - you think I am a homeless person?"

The female cop gave me a big manic grin.  "Maybe!"

They left me alone after they found out I did indeed have legit business at the airport.

Unfortunately, other Germans not knowing I spoke German (or caring) made various dark mutterings about the homeless in airports as they passed me.

It's not only difficult to afford a better wardrobe but even finding stuff in my size is nearly impossible.

After chatting to some girls working at a bar, they sold me a weiss beer for a bit less than the posted price.  Hopefully they weren't thinking "What a charming homeless man!"

Later I went through airport security.  The security guys were better than the ones in South America but they still missed my security pouch, which is about the size of a snub nosed .38 pistol.


I've been told in Ukraine smoking on the streets has been made illegal.  Hence, I checked with a German guy and asked him in German "Can I smoke outside?"

He looked as shocked as though I'd questioned if Germans were still aloud to have children.  "Natürlich!" (naturally) he responded.

Heck, there was even a smoking room at my gate.

Score!


Eventually, I flew off to Turkey.  More on that sleazy airport in the next blog!



DOLLARS SUCK

Because Americans like to stay in the USA, they don't get to see the value of their dollar going away in quite as dramatic way as the rest of the world.  The dollar has been steadily losing against the brand  new Euro pretty much since the Euro was first printed.  Fortunately, Americans don't worry about anything even if it kicks them in the face.



TRAVELERS TIP

How much luggage is too much?  If you are rich enough to pay off porters to lug your stuff everywhere, you can take as much as you want.  If you are a normal person, here is my opinion:

You have to be able to carry everything you want to take with you for 500 meters.

You.  Not your boyfriend, husband, wife or dog.  You.  Can you carry it for 500 meters?  Have you tested this or are you guessing?  Test it.  If you are rolling it, pick it up.  Dragging doesn't count.  There are way too many unexpected mud fields you have to cross where dragging it isn't an option.

If you are winded at the end of it (or have collapsed under the weight of your crap) you have too much.

This is for a short vacation.  If you are going on a longer one, take even less as you will often be carrying it.



PHILOSOPHY

I've always been more impressed with architecture than natural beauty.  It's the difference between "We built this" opposed to "We haven't fucked this up yet!"

Thursday, January 30, 2014

ROUND THE WORLD IN ACHING DAYS

MR LOGAN'S WILD RIDE

Last night I glanced at my computer clock and said "Oh my god, I've only got an hour and a half till my flight!"

Hate leaving at 2:30AM.  It's a dodgy time that shouldn't exist.

First step, go wake the house.  I need a taxi right the hell now!  The cleaner summoned the owner who hurried off to get a cab.  "Rapido!" I pleaded.

I began tossing stuff into my bags.  No time to do it right - just make sure to get everything!

The cab showed up in record time just as I had finished filling my bags.

Quickly thanking them I rushed out and tossed my stuff in the back.  "Aeropuerto!  Mucho rapido por favor!"  (Note - the next few parts of the conversation were in Spanish - I'm putting it as English for ease of reading.)

We got in and started heading to the airport.  "An extra 10 sols to get me there very fast!"

He was into it and we were going very fast.

At this point, I realized my passport and money were still hidden under the bed back at the hostel.  "I'm stupid!  We have to go back!  My passport!"

We called the hostel and he talked to the owner.  I told her where my passport was and to please get it and meet us out front.

"OK - double the normal fare, 60 sols, fast back to the hostel and then to the airport!"

In the 1970's, you could tell how fast a car was going when a hubcap would suddenly shoot off while it was doing a turn.  We were going that fast in his rickety old station wagon.   He was, however, out of hubcaps.

We squeeled up in front of the hostel and the sleepless owner thrust my passport case at me.  I gave her 10 sols for the trouble and we raced back into the night.

Nearly biting the back of the seat in frustration I watched as we slowed only for speed bumps.  Running red lights nearly got us into a few accidents.   Were the police more watchful we'd have gotten busted for sure.

Squeeled up in front of the airport.  Paid the courageous driver.  Grabbed my shit.  Rushed to the front entrance.  You've got to show your passport at the door to get in.  There was some other customer there who seemed to be having problems with this concept.

"I'm late!" I roared and thrust my passport into the hands of the guard.  He looked at it to make sure I was the correct gringo from the picture then waved me through.

There was the counter and two people older than dust.  They were moving at the usual speed of old people - the death shuffle.

"I'm late!" I roared at them and thrust my paperwork at the surprised attendant.

She took a close look at my paperwork.

"Your flight isn't until tomorrow."

Blink.

"Pardon?"

"Today is the twenty-sixth.  Your flight is on the twenty-seventh.  Come back tomorrow at this time.  Or earlier."

"Er...  Are you sure?"  At this point I began thinking back to my earlier bottle of wine just before realizing the time.  All is not lost - I could still blame it on my computer.

When I mentioned perhaps I could just stay at the airport to avoid the shame of going back, she told me to go get some sleep.  She called the hostel for me to let the beleaguered owner know I would be back.  And they all had a good laugh as I smiled weakly, the adrenaline still chugging through me.

After stupidly spending about $35, the owner of the hostel gave me a free water - as a type of consolation prize I suppose.



TRIP HALFWAY AROUND THE WORLD

After (again) leaving the most quiet place in Lima, Casa Ana, I went to the airport.

The correct time, this time.

After endlessly waiting for the counter to open, other tourists and I were presented with the "Floor Show of Ineptitude".

They have movable posts with retractable red ribbons.  Retractable queue barriers.
We watched an employee trying to set it up.  She couldn't figure it out and kept moving them to different areas.  To make it worse, she had a diagram of where they were suppose to go.  After trying and failing for fifteen or twenty minutes, she decided to consult with what I refer to as the 'brain trust'.  Sadly, they couldn't figure it out either.  We watched and quietly mocked a succession of no less than five inept people working alone or in groups fail.

Eventually, the people who were suppose to open the desk showed up and put things to right.

At the counter was the same lady I'd met up with previously.

Today, the tickets being one way bothered her.  "Do you live in Ukraine?"

At this point, I began wildly inventing.  "Yes!"

"Do you have your residence card?"

"Not on me,  it's there."  In my mind, I began to assemble a wild house of cards and figure out tricky ways of using the language barrier to the best of my ability.  She went and spoke to a college and they decided it would be in the best interest of the continent to expel me from South America.

At this point, I was told I'd need to pay the 'escape this shitty airport' tax of $31 USD.  In USD.  Naturally, I'd already exchanged my remaining Peruvian Sols for Euros since I had a stop in Frankfurt.

Fortunately since I am suspicious, paranoid, jaded and experienced I always carry some small dollar notes on me.  I would now be permitted to begin a grueling series of flights connected with debilitating layovers.

I'm actually more nervous about going through all of the airports with their bureaucracy than heading to a country which the news paints as 'teetering on revolution'.  TSA and airport staff - worse than revolution.  Certainly after all of the indignities and inconvenience the TSA and airports put you through some people must find the plane simply blowing up to be a relief.

At this point, my normal self fell into an extremely disorganized role.  It seemed as though I was attempting to hide papers from myself I'd just looked at but needed to reference again.  Despite chaos attempting to trip me up, I ended up in...

...the Dominican Republic?


Stay tuned!



FICTIONAL STORY (not meant to be a religious debate)

Describe Heaven.  Most reading that sentence have either glazed over it or believe they can and it's not even worth stopping to think about.  This is not so.  Even the Bible, which I had been brought up as a child in the Roman Catholic faith to believe is surprisingly vague on it.   All that I recall was in John 14:2 "In my father's house are many rooms."   This is not helpful.  The scriptures are about how to get into Heaven but what is it like?

Vague things are brought up.  That's where you will be reunited with your mother, father and old friends - unless they were wicked and went to Hell.  This tells you nothing.  Long after I had died they began saying things like 'reunited with the source'.  Nobody knows.

Contrast this with Hell.  Even when I was alive, the 'Divina Commedia' - later called the 'Divine Comedy' - had been around for close to five hundred years.  So exacting and gruesome were it's descriptions of Hell that everyone was terrified.  Everyone wanted to go to Heaven - anything is better.  Later, I was given the same choice.

Although I had begun working at the age of five and had begun to produce notable work by the age of fourteen, money always fled from me.  I had squandered it on lavish living.  Perhaps one of the people I had borrowed money from had poisoned me.

My wife and two sons had just left the room when the man with the odd spectacles appeared.  He was wholly unremarkable and appeared as a common laborer might complete with a somewhat paunchy stomach.  Indeed, the only remarkable thing about him were his large darkened spectacles.  He locked the door and pulled a chair near.

The thought that he might be here to murder me filled me not with dread but relief as it would end the pain, swelling and vomiting which had afflicted me for the last week.

The man spoke my native German, but he spoke slowly, deliberately and would often mispronounce words and would hesitate for several moments before answering any question.  It were as though he was not wholly familiar with German and was reading it.  Indeed this was the case.

"You are going to feel a small hurt.  Then you will feel better.  This so we may talk short time."

I barely felt the prick upon my arm but almost immediately, I felt well enough to converse and even managed to sit up.

"Short time last.  We must talk private.  If you call help, I leave."

My throat was still stinging from the last time I had vomited but I managed to croak "Who are you?"

"I am the choice man.  You have choice.  You may die normally.  Or you may live.  If you live you must come with me.  Never again see wife.  Sons.  Friends.  Familiar.  Nothing.  But you may choose."

Even though his garbled German, I believed his accent to be English.  My success in Vienna could have spread to England now.  It would have been much simpler toinvite me to England rather than this elaborate poisoning plot.

"Who would choose death?" I whispered.

He frowned at me before responding.

"Many."  He leaned forward and looked at me through his large dark spectacles.

Within I could see my wasted, shriveled body.  I've always been small and fair before but now I looked like a white ghost.  He seemed oddly melancholic as he stared at me.  It seemed that he had the unenviable task of offering me two poor choices.

"Is life a good choice?"

He rubbed the stubble on his chin, considering his answer.

"It is only a..." and then he said a word I could not understand.  Eventually he managed to to sound it out and the word became 'erweiterung' - extension.

Because I feared the stick of death, the carrot of life seemed better.  There was another prick in my arm.  As blackness took me, I wondered if I would ever finish my Requiem.



LOGAN'S VOYAGE INTERVIEW

Today we are interviewing Logan of "Logan's Voyage".  Logan, welcome to the show.

"Am I getting paid for this?"

"No."

"Shit."

"Now Logan, what makes your blog different from the other travel blogs?"

"Mine is hopefully less dull.  Most people's blogs are pics of nice things they've seen.  With them in front of it.  Stuff I could find on the internet and photoshop the person in front of it.  The sites aren't what gets you - it's the stories."

"Could you give us an example?"

"Sure.  If a guy goes up to Manchu Picchu and takes a bunch of pictures, nobody cares.  Everyone has seen pictures of them.  But if he sexually satisfies a donkey on the way up or has pictures taken of him dry humping artifacts thousands of years old, it is more interesting."

"I see...  What else makes your blog different?"

"Honesty.  Most of the travel writers and TV personalities you get to see being slick.  They have teams of people who set up everything ahead of time.  You don't get to hear about them in a drunken panic driving pell mell to the airport to catch a plane that isn't until tomorrow.  You get to see them wandering around.   Being all slick.  With budgets.  Getting paid for wandering around.  Hate them so much..."

"Logan!  Logan!  Snap out of it!"

"Oh - was I talking about humor?"

"Obviously not.  And that concludes our interview with Logan of "Logan's Voyage"!  We hope that it encourages you to go traveling but not do any of the things he does."

"Except sexually satisfy donkeys."

"Shut up.  And that's all for now.  Back to our regularly scheduled viewing."

Sunday, January 26, 2014

CUSCO PERU

CUSCO TO LIMA AND RANDOM MUSINGS

The cheapest airline ticket (around $100) I could find was through 'Star Peru' Airlines.  I expected their website wouldn't work due to slipshod programming and I wasn't disappointed.  They have an office right here in Cusco.  I recognized the street name and staggered (still altitude sick) over to it.

Since they weren't open yet, I stopped by a little artsy place and had some cheese cake and coffee for breakfast.  There were strawberries on top of the cheesecake, so it was healthy.  As I sat around this little art deco place, musings started in my head along the lines of 'where would I visit were money not an issue'?

Every year for half a year, I'd probably be in western and central Europe.

Were I forced somehow to have a residence, it would be somewhere in Germany.

Rich or poor, unless I get hired or bribed heavily, I think I'm done with central and south America.  With the exception of a few diamonds in the rough (Copan, Banos, Cuzco) most of the cities have no more charm than cinder blocks can provide.  Don't get me wrong - I don't mind them if the cost of living is cheap (SE Asia) but here you end up paying quite a bit and wondering 'why?'


Cusco might be the highest I've been in my life.  Aside from Amsterdam.



THE TOUR BUS

As I was wheezing and shuffling around the main square, a tour guide presented me with an offer to get on his double decker open topped bus for 20 sols.  What the hell.  Last day here.

Videos of this trip are below in the 'video' section.   I appologize for the extremely unsteady cam but I suspect the shock absorbers had been sold for magic beans years ago.

En route I was nearly decapitated by a very low hanging wire.  Were it not for moderately fast reflexes and a bit of luck I'd have a tough time with hats.

The truly sad thing is this bus drives the same route several times a day and nobody even though to warn the passengers - much less get the wire hoisted up a bit.  Since I was in South America it didn't astound me.  Glad I didn't say 'it didn't shock me'.  That could have been taken the wrong way.  Oh - so could that.

Moving on.

Two minutes after leaving the first ten minute stop, we did another ten minute stop at a souvenir shop.  Taking a captive audience to an over priced shop where the bus people get kickbacks is a normal tactic.  Normally, the only people who buy anything at these places are the same sort of idiots who think shopping in airports is a grand idea.  We had two on the bus.



PERUVIAN ALCOHOL

Due to being sick, I didn't sample nearly as much as I'd have liked.

The wine I had was excellent.

The beers, however, are cold, wet and infinitely safer than the water.  That's about all that can be said for them.  They're not bad but neither are they worth drinking for taste.



HOW TO SELECT AND USE AN ATM

When going to an ATM, pretend you are a spy who is going to get a hand off.  Be suspicious.  Make sure you're not being sized up for a quick grab and dash.  After using the ATM, make sure you're not followed out.  Get in and out quick - don't linger.  Don't hang out near an ATM if you're not using one.  Tourists tend to have a lot of money compared to locals in most countries.  Don't be a target.

From worst to best, here are the ATM's.

Exposed to the street, no guards.

Inside of an unlocked room.

Inside of an unlocked room with a bored security guard.  This includes ATM's in stores, etc.

Inside of a locked room.  There are ATM's you have to swipe your card at the door just to get in or better still guards have to let you in.

Inside of a bank, only accessible when the bank is.  This is the best because banks tend to have more security to deter people from putting phishing equipment on the ATM.  Also, should the ATM steal your card or give you the wrong bills (or counterfeit) the bank is right there.

I believe it is better to have too much money on you than not quite enough.  As recent history has shown, shit happens.  Your cards will get stolen or compromised and then it comes down to 'do you have rainy day money hidden away somewhere or are you just fucked?'



SHAMPOO

As anyone who has traveled knows (should know) bar soap isn't really good to carry around.  Liquid soap is the way to go.

For some reason, nobody in Peru seems to use liquid soap and it isn't for sale anywhere I could find.

So now I have to make due with shampoo and see if it rejuvenates and makes glossy my pubes.



THE HOSPITAL

The doctor I'd seen in Cusco was insistent that I have my blood pressure checked.  While out wandering around, I came across what appeared to be a hospital.

They had two hefty women at the door checking bags.  In Spanish they demanded to know if I had a camera on me.  Unwilling to admit to or relinquish my camera and not wanting them to be able to search the bag more thoroughly (I could have had a gun in there and they'd have not found it) I began repeating 'photo' and making various outrageous poses as though I wanted them to take my photo.

Rolling their eyes, they let the idiot foreigner inside.

Yeah, boy!

It was a mad house.  Entire families with the 'don't use birth control or you're going to hell' size families all jostled for position.  A kind worker spotted the immense gringo, figured out what I wanted (my Spanish isn't great but blood pressure test isn't hard) and became my personal guide through the bedlam.

It's times like that - when you immediately get a personal guide that being an obvious foreigner is a good deal.

He took me to a much quieter wing and I immediately had three doctors.

The cuff to take the blood pressure was pretty tiny.  When I inquired about it, turns out this is a children's hospital.  I told them I was a 'grande nino' (giant child) and that got a laugh.

They had to use surgical tape on the blood pressure cuff but it worked and showed my BP had fallen 15 points since leaving the high altitude of Cusco.

Excellent.

They all bade me farewell.  No charge.

Afterward, I went and celebrated with empinada kaso (cheesy bread).



TRAVELERS TIPS

Never be the last one back on the bus after a stop.  You might lose your seat, everyone on the bus thinks you are inept - especially if the driver had to look for you and lastly you might just get left behind.


If you are in a poor country, don't buy things which accept credit cards.  Heck, you should only be using your credit card (or debit etc) at ATM's anyway.  There is a huge markup at these 'nice' shops.  Instead, buy things from individuals hawking them well outside of the tourist area.  Not only will you get a better deal but you put money directly into the pockets of the people to whom it makes a great deal of difference.  But mainly, you get a better deal.


Use liquid soap:  With a bar you always have three choices:  Try to dry it and stick it in a bag (lot of work for little result), keep it in a soap dish (inevitably it leaks) or buy them for each place you go (extra weight and waste).  The liquid soap in a plastic bottle is easy to carry and doesn't get disgusting in repeated use.  Also, it doesn't mess up your bag.



VIDEOS

Bus tour 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11



TV SHOW REVIEW

I've been watching 'Jonathan Creek'.  Interesting but as with all British TV (compared to American) painfully slow.

It's like Sherlock Holmes (pick one) except that the audience has a good chance of actually solving the crime.



STRANGE DREAMS

Had a weird dream I was writing a book and when I woke up I felt compelled to write down what I'd written in the dream.  I suspect it's the weird rum here - it causes the spirit of Hemingway to enter your body and make you write.  Not well, but make you write.

If a time travel offered you the choice between death and exile, which would you take?  Exile seems the most likely.  Nope.  Death?  No.  The answer is neither and with a lot of bitching and whining.  And that's after they believe it.

Not the way I'd do it at all.  Kidnap and replace with the double.  Take them to the future and say "Do you want all this or death?"  If they choose death, boom - done.  "But we're not murderers!"  Not unless you count the poor clones.

Instead of just pulling the whole switch in a quick shuffle, we have to interview them and get all touchy feely with their feelings.  Look buddy - I get that you love your wife but no you can't take her with you.  Fuck no you can't tell her you're dead and getting taken off to the future to be a living zoo exhibit while your clone gets the bullet in it's head.  Hell, how do you think she'd feel knowing you are getting loads of adoring students and an elongated life while she gets stuck burying a corpse with half it's head missing?  And that she isn't going to get taken off with you?

Where it all went wrong with me was probably Martin Luther King.  It might have been my off color joke that we were just now getting to him years after the program had been going because he was black.  Probably not funny.  And then there's always the problem of getting him alone.  What an entourage that guy had.  Then, I gotta convince him to go.

I beg him to let us switch him out with the clone at the last moment.  Nobody will know.  He tells me that if he is fated to die and become a martyr he won't base that legacy on a lie.  I bite back telling him he should come with me back to the holy land and see the schmo they built all them churches to.  But I keep quiet.  People only believe what they want to believe.  He won't let me take him.  And that's not the worst part.  The boys upstairs start accusing me of not wiping his memory.  Or doing a botched job of it.  The shrinks are saying that after I meet up with the man they see tiredness and resignation in his eyes.

Keep tellin' them of course I zapped him.  Don't think they believe me.   Did I zap him?  Yeah, sure.  Sure I did.  He was a class act.



PHILOSOPHY

"The worst thing about being an atheist is the inability to effectively blaspheme." - Logan Horsford



PRICES

In Cusco, around 50 sols for a private room seems pretty average.  You can get them cheaper but they are fairly terrible.  Even the 50 sols ones aren't that great.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

MORE PAIN

NARRATIVE

After traveling from Nazca to Cusco via 14-17 hours with Cruz Del Sur (they're a good bus line) I arrived in Cusco.

Not only had my back and such gone into spasms from the bus, not only was my leg getting worse but now I had altitude sickness.  I didn't realize it before but the city of Cusco is at about ten thousand feet.  Don't jets normally cruise with their pressurized cabins at that altitude?  The symptoms I was experiencing included dizziness, disorientation, nausea and a growing hatred of Peru. 

I was fucked.

After staggering off the bus, talking with some tourists who were leaving to find out a good place to stay (and I did - being social can pay off) I tried to eat some food.  Nausea trumped hunger.  Off to the doctors.

Like all doctors they wanted to run a bunch of tests on me.  As 'medical tourism' will become more and more of a thing as the USA gets more and more out of control, here are the tests and the costs.  Note I think they were giving me a very good deal because I don't have travel insurance and was having a nice time chatting to the doctors who spoke excellent English.

Blood test.  Cost, 70 sols ($25).  Results back within a half an hour.  Everything looked fine on it - which impressed me as I've brutalized my kidneys for years.

Chest xray.  Cost, 70 sols ($25).  My heart was slightly enlarged due to high blood pressure making it work overly hard.  Not life threatening but certainly need to get that blood pressure down.

EKG.  Cost, free.  Nothing showed on that.

Doctor exam.  Normally, they charge 80 sols but kindly did it for free.

Medicines (various).  Cost, 20 sols ($7), including a drip they wired up to me.


Not sure if my blood pressure is going down but I'm stuck here till Sunday to find out.  The one thing the doctor said that really stuck in my head:  "Sometimes, the high elevation of Peru causes problems for people with high blood pressure."  I took this as "Peru is trying to kill you, bitch, and may do it.  Escape while you can."

All of these treatments were done at "Macsalute", a private clinic across the street from the amazingly crowded 'national regional hospital'.  A big thanks to them and I will write a Sunday followup.



THE LOCK INCIDENT

My room has an external lock with a large, crappy lock.  There is an inner door that can have another lock.  Since the security here isn't especially tight I broke out one of the locks I carry everywhere and locked that puppy up tight.

Then I noticed my bag I carry everywhere wasn't on me.  It had the keys for the lock within.

Well, shit.

I figured this wasn't the first time this had ever happened and owning a bolt cutter - or at least a hacksaw should be mandatory for all hostels.

Naturally, they didn't have anything like that.

After some time went by of the locals discovering how much tougher locks made in the USA are than the crap you can buy overseas and breaking some rocks on them they told me they would get a workman and it would be one, maybe two hours.

In this part of the world, that gives three possibilities:

1.  Nobody would ever show up and I would never see my stuff again.  The room would become a kind of memorial to Logan and never be used again.  In the year 3062, someone would find a way in, possibly through a wall while digging for archaeological treasures.

2.  They would end up tearing off the door and possibly breaking several nearby windows.  Since this is my fault, I would be charged the cost of the entire hostel.

3.  The workman would bring no tools or the wrong ones.  When they eventually showed up with the right tools, I would be charged for several visits of the workman and end up putting all of the children he and his wife can pump out through college.

Instead, I told them "I'll take care of it."

This brought looks of mild astonishment as though they'd never considered a non-Spanish speaking gringo could figure out how to remove a lock.  It's probably best I didn't have lockpicks handy and just pick it.  That would have probably brought the police to deport me to a country where I'd have to pay the 'reciprocal fees'.

After interrogating several unsuspecting locals I found out the name for what I wanted, the district it was in and the word I suspect means something like 'hardware store'.

While there, I picked up a new lock as well.

After sawing off the old one, I then sold the hacksaw to the hostel owner.  She may have bought it just to get it out off my hands.

Holding up a hacksaw and laughing manically does that.



DOCTOR FOLLOW UP

Went back to the doctor.  He said I am getting better but honestly, I can't see it.  I think getting the hell out of this altitude may help a lot.  He prescribed yet more medicines for me to take and said I should get my blood pressure taken in Lima.

Personally, I can't wait till I no longer have medical shit to write about.



WINE

A friendly tout had been trying to get me to go into his restaurant for a couple of days.  I finally went - mainly because it was close to the hostel and the weather was shit.  It's the kind of place with cloth tablecloths.

I resisted the waiters attempt to up sell me and just went with the ravioli.  He asked "Would you like some Peruvian wine with your meal?"

"Do I look like the kind of person that drinks wine?"  Note, I am dressed pretty poorly with my sweater and wrap pants on.

"Yes." he replied.

So I looked at the wine list.  He sold me a small bottle (300ml) of wine (25 sols).

You should have seen his expression when I smelled then tested the cork, checked the wine for 'legs' and sentiment and chewed the initial taste.  Yes, Logan knows how to taste wine.

Weird, I know.



COSTS

Taxi, pretty much anywhere, about 5 sols.
Hacksaw, 20 sols.
Good meal at the Irish pub which tastes so much better than any local food I've come across, 20 sols with coca tea.
Beer at Irish place, 10-15 sols (expensive).
Peruvian wine at a 'fine dining' establishment, 25 sols.
Ravioli, 16 sols.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

EMERGENCY MEDICAL PROCEDURE

NAZCA vs NASCA

I've seen both spellings around, hence both are either correct or incorrect.  Either way, it refers to the town near the famous Nasca Lines.

Both spellings are used here at my whim.



NAZCA FOOD SUCKS

So far, the restaurants I've eaten at have all been pretty shitty.  Like get up in the middle of the meal, pay and leave.  Count yourself lucky you don't have to eat the rest.

Great for a diet plan.

Found a local tailor and asked him about pants.  The old guy (like pretty much everyone in Peru) only spoke Spanish so the conversation was a bit difficult.

From what I gathered, no he does not make cheap pants.  However, if I want to take a hell ride back to Lima, I can seek out some district famous for clothing.  There, I will probably be told no they don't make cheap pants.

Seeing my extreme reluctance to go back to over priced Lima on a fun filled multi hour odyssey, he suggested Bolivia.

It's hard being 'full figured' (read as fat) in a world of mediums (read as midgets).



NAZCA NAKEDNESS

Oh, the looks I get.

Today is a big laundry day.

Hence, I have no clothing other than a pair of shorts on.

And I need to stand out on the street to smoke.

Keep in mind that gringos are rare in Nazca and I doubt any have seen this fat of one before.

Oh, the looks I get.



BAG WEIGHT

Down to a hair over 10KG.  Before you congratulate me, know that my small computer bag may be the same.  While I'd like to trim that down, the computer I use every day for hours and hours is a brick.

"Oh, Logan.  I traveled the world without a computer!"  Yeah.  It is indeed possible but I enjoy spending a lot of hours on the computer.  It is my vice, my teacher, my secret lover - oh wait.  Anyway, the important thing is I get my use out of it even if it and all it's attendant cords and plugs weigh me down.



SECURITY IN PERU

Before you get on to a bus, they like to scan you with a non-functional metal detector.  It can't pick up the change in my pockets nor other metal on me.

Then, they ask to search your bags you are taking on to the bus.

When I travel on a bus, I have two bags - my 'carry everywhere' bag and my computer backpack.

They didn't ask to search my 'yes it could hold a 10mm pistol with extended magazine' 'carry everywhere' bag.  They did ask to search my computer bag.  Without thinking about undoing a couple small zipper locks on it I handed it over.  Finding a couple of large compartments were locked, the guard decided to just do a perfunctory search on the other compartments then handed back the bag.

For the last bit of the security, a policeman gets on the bus with a video recorder and captures the faces of those riding the bus.

Naturally, he got the crazy Logan face.

Oh, the looks I get.



BUS MESSAGES AND INSTRUCTIONAL VIDEOS

Because the Hispanic mentality seems to require a constant input of loud music and movies, all long distance buses in this part of the world come equipped with loud distorted speakers and built in TV's.

The bus safety video told us for our safety we should always keep the curtains closed.

Gosh, that was ominous.

If the reavers see you, there will be trouble!



NASCA PERU

If they didn't have the famous Nasca lines, nobody would ever visit here.  If they did, they'd just ask themselves 'why'?

Everything useful for tourists (restaurants, banks, travel adventure places) is pretty much located along the central boulevard.  Boulevard is way too grand of name for it.  Street will suffice.

The further you go from this, the more dilapidated and scary the streets become.  I'd suggest keeping to the main strip here.

Although the town is kept moderately clean, it is totally bereft of charm.  The building style is what I privately refer to as 'shit-box buildings', or very basic cheap buildings.

Unless you are wanting to put out the money to go up in an aircraft - and given how they drive I'm not curious to find out their safety record - totally avoid this town.



MAP DISTANCE VS REAL LIFE

Sweet merciful crap.

Here's the difference between what we see on the map and what reality tells us.  Note, this is especially useful for gamers.

http://tinyurl.com/lswamfk

To get to the first town on this journey it is 610 KM.  For those in the USA using a system of measurement everyone else in the world has wisely given up, that's about 380 miles.  If you were going say 60MPH driving in the USA you're looking at say 7 hours.

Google is not even realistic when it says eight and a half.  Maybe if you don't mind some carnage along the way.

The actual time is over 14 hours.  Non stop.  Not kidding.  Why so long?  Unlike in the USA, Western Europe and such where they have super highways, here you get a lane and a half of curving roads going through villages where the locals regard it as their god given right not only to stop unexpectedly and inexplicably on the road for variable amounts of time in their vehicles but also to just hang out on the roads.  I agree that the speed may be a bit better for smaller cars but given the amount of civilians, speed bumps and such - not really a huge time saver.  Take that in to account the next time you sit down with your gaming group.

I don't even want to think about how long it will be to get over to the Bolivian border.  Guessing 20+ hours.

As the town I'm currently in seems to suck ass, I will probably be getting a bus ticket tomorrow.  It will either be for the next day or the day after that.  I'm going to try to get a seat in the front of the bus on the upper floor so I can make a movie of some of the parts of the travel.



A RANT BY KEVIN D ON LOGAN

"...it is a lie that Logan has friends. He has people assigned by various government agencies to watch him there fore they are subjected to daily doses of his debauchery. I have been on disability for seven years now since my stint as a watcher of Logan ended. In order to keep my benefits I must continue to put on this act that I actually like him and listen to the mindless insulting dribble that flows from his twisted drug riddled brain. The only reason that they have not executed him is that they fear reprisal from Cthulhu. Please Logan you offensive, morally bankrupt excuse for a fleshbag, do us a favor and get lost in the jungle and be eaten alive by a tribe of cannibals. On second thought, ingesting you would probably corrupt the young virgin women of the tribe and impregnate them and a whole litter of Logan Spawn would descend upon the earth."

If I ever get a publisher who wants to turn this blog into a book, I'd love to have this on the dust jacket of the book.



EMERGENCY MEDICAL PROCEDURE

Disclaimer:  People who talk about their medical problems without contest are the worst bores imaginable.  There is nothing quite so disheartening as some person, usually old and without a life, wanting to go on and on about their boil or rash.  Nobody cares.  They sit and listen to you and hope you die soon so they don't have to hear any more stories about your various ailments.  In many cases, this is all that is left to people to talk about because they have nothing else interesting going on in their lives.  

Because of this, I normally don't talk about my medical condition.  If people ask me "Why doesn't your head turn" or "Why are you so bent you look like you're working on developing a hunch back?" I try to give them a quick glossed over answer and move the conversation on to something else.  If the person is a medical professional and I want some free advice, I might linger but either way the conversation is generally over in about sixty seconds or less.  I figure everyone wants free advice from medical professionals so I try to spare them that.

So why am I writing about this in the blog?

Because people seem to be very interested and it's happening at facilities only a couple steps up from American Red Cross tents set up in Africa as field stations.

Plus, if you don't want to read about it, you can skip ahead.

Were you to ask me about my current leg problem face to face, I'd say something along the lines of "Yeah, it seems to be pretty fucked up.  So where all have you traveled?"

But for those wanting the gory details here we go.

Two days ago, my right leg (the same one with the Thai tattoo) started leaking some sort of clear fluid with no smell.

[Thai Tattoo:  In Thailand, moped taxis are cheap and common.  You hop on the back and are driven by the driver.  Because you are sitting on the back your right leg is very near the muffler.  Since these moped taxis are substandard and shoddily maintained, they usually do not have a muffler cover.  Hence, when your right leg touches it, you get a lovely burn on the left flank of your right calf.]

I kept a close eye on it but was concerned.  One of the things early settlers (read as Spanish invaders having a rape-fest) discovered as that things tend to get infected quickly here.

On the third day it started to sting a bit.  Still leaking.

Now, you have to understand I'm staying in a hotel locals stay in.  The people who work here speak less English than I speak Spanish.  So a lot of sign language goes on.   He told me that near the main park was a red cross station where a doctor consultant could see me for 10 sols.  Since that's under $3, I figured why not.

For those who don't know a better way to do it, here is how you see a doctor in a country you don't speak the language of.  You go to the biggest, nicest, most expensive hotel you can find.  I've yet to find a luxury hotel that doesn't have someone who speaks English.  These places also usually have lists of English speaking doctors they can set you up with.  But it will cost you some money.  Hopefully you have travel insurance.  I don't, hence the $3 option sounded lovely to me.

The red cross is a simple affair.  Personally, I like going to places where the locals get their medicine.  It will sound horrible but as a tourist you often get preferential treatment.  Nobody wants some fat gringo to die in their waiting room.  There would be questions and probably paperwork.  Police coming in and scaring people.  So you get bumped up to the front of the line and the doctor takes a real interest.  I'm good with that.

The absurdly young doctor sat in his pink (not kidding) office with a big fan blowing at him and a flickering florescent light that made me start seeing squiggles at the edges of my vision after only a few minutes.  He spoke absolutely no English.  This surprised me a bit.  Usually medical professionals, being better educated, speak some.  Nada.  He got on the phone and started what I call the 'brain trust'.

The 'brain trust' is when a local doesn't know something and they contact many other locals so they can come to a committee decision of ignorance.   I hate trying to talk to people on the phone who aren't completely fluent in English.  That's one of the reasons I don't own a phone.  If their body language and facial expressions are invisible, chances of me actually understanding them are horrible.  Turns out none of his contacts actually spoke English despite their opinion.

At that point, the extreme "Logan Luck" (TM) kicked in and the nurse came in with a guy from the USA.  He is a Peace Corps volunteer.  For those who don't know anything about the Peace Corpse, these are do gooders who work unpaid for a year or more in foreign countries they don't get to choose.  This guy had lived in Nasca (yes, I feel sorry for that) for about a year and a half and had learned Spanish during that time.  He was happy to translate though the doctor tended to speak in lengthy paragraphs.  Both translating and speaking through translators are skills not a lot of people have.

The doctor didn't know what the hell was wrong with my leg.  Since I can't have it treated here and it will take time to get somewhere else, he prescribed some antibiotics.  Don't use rubbing alcohol, he cautioned, it will make it get worse.  That surprised me.  I've no idea if it's true because it sounds backward.  Don't really feel like testing it though.  When asked how I should was it the doctor suggested bottled water since the water here is absolutely shit.  Possibly literally.

What I need to do is go to a large city and have a dermatologist do a 'biopsy' on it.  For those who don't know, a dermatologist is a skin doctor.  A biopsy is 'let us cut off a piece of this and try to figure out what the hell it is'.  Logan definitions are the best.

Might Cusco, the town I was resisting going to for the last several days during my self imposed exile to a shitty town have a dermatologist?  Yes.  Well, shit.  Guess I'm going on a seventeen hour bus ride.

Currently, my leg has attracted the attention of a couple locals who looked at it with the 'wtf?' look.  It hasn't gotten bad enough where mothers hide their children lest they have nightmares.  Going to try to get it fixed up before that happens.

The biopsy will cost (they claim) between 50-70 sols (around $20).  Hopefully, the entire thing will be less than the 140 sols (under $50) bus ride to the town.

And I still need to research more on where to go next.



FIGURING OUT WHERE NEXT

Yeah.  Feel sorry for Logan.  Boo hoo.

I'm sitting here with a world map trying to figure out where I want to go next.  Sounds horribly depressing in a 'he must be fucking rich' sort of way, I'm sure.  Not really rich at all.  Guessing people who work at Starbucks have more income.  I just don't spend mine on silly shit and I'm happily homeless.  [Disclaimer:  Not the lifestyle for most but if you bitch about not being able to afford going on vacation but eat out, you are a silly wanker.]

Banos seems to have completely ruined me to South America.  It was cheap (Logan affordable) and had charm.  The people were friendly and I was making friends.  Sure, it was noisy but everyone who lives in both Central and South America seem addicted to making as much noise as possible all of the time.  Not sure why - it seems to be either a psychological or cultural compulsion.

After Banos, everywhere else started to look like a shithole.  This normally doesn't irritate me, but the prices are going up.  Who wants to stay in an expensive shithole?  I've stayed in plenty of cheap shitholes and was happy with it.  But expensive?  Hell no.

So I'm plotting and scheming on the next part of my journey which I call "Escape from South America".  Apologies to my friends in Banos but I don't think I'll be back for just one town.  Doesn't make a lot of sense with travel costs and such.

Something I'd learned from my travel mentor (Adam) is to find large airports and use those to fly to and from.  Saves money.  I don't have the luxury of looking for those special deals and checking travel sites for months.  From Brazil to Istanbul (round trip or one way) looks to be $1100.  Holy fuck is that expensive.  I'm going to look in to other options after I get settled in my next place and finish up with my current outbreak of medical follies.  I just need to get to Europe.  After that, the evil (yet cheap) RyanAir can be used.  It's like $100 to go almost anywhere.

My biggest problem is trying to figure out "Where do I want to go?"

It will probably be another (yes another) go to Europe, travel across it and end up in Asia sort of thing.  Once I get to Asia, sit on my ass for a few months to try to regenerate some money.



TRAVELER'S TIP

How to get a table (etc) into your hotel room.

Sounds like it should be pretty easy, but there is a technique to it.

Also, this is just for cheap places.  Expensive places tend to spring into action and do stuff when asked.

When I travel, I always want a table and chair in my room.  Lots of time on my computer.  Doing things like writing this blog - so be happy.  The better hotel rooms have a table or a desk.  If they don't, I ask if it would be possible to get one when I first show up.

And then I stand there with my backpack on and wait for them to bring the table up.

Seriously.

If you take off your backpack or listen to their claims of "We'll get one later", you get no table.  You will get the excuses instead.  "We don't have one"  "I thought we had one but someone else is using it" etc.  The real reason is usually "I am too lazy to bring you a table."

If you stand there with your backpack on and it looks to them that unless you get the table/chair/towel/etc you requested, you may leave and not give them money - miraculously things will happen.

If you are too soft of person for this approach, you can always go with the passive aggressive 'steal a table from the lobby or some other room', but it's not recommended.

This also goes for hot water.  If you ask them "Do you have hot water?" and they say yes, go turn on the shower.  Stand there with your hand in it wearing your backpack and wait to see if the water really heats up.  The temperature you feel it that second is what it will probably be.  Regardless of their stories.  I didn't check at the place I'm staying at now.  It took three days for them to admit it didn't really get hot, just less cold.



VIDEO

Demonstration.  Note the guys in riot armor wandering by.  Normally, you don't get to film cops but I got by on this one.  Not speaking Spanish well I'm guessing the purpose of this demonstration was to protest the imprisonment of four (?) people.



COSTS

Brand new tuk tuk, 11,000 sols.  Really.
Hotel room, decent but no hot water, 35 Sols.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

PERU

PUT ON FACEBOOK 24 HOURS AFTER ARRIVAL IN PERU

My Peruvian plans have utterly fallen to shit.  Currently regrouping and did some research.

After traveling for over 24 hours straight.  Right now, waiting 7 hours for my bus to go to Lima.  Yeah, I thought I could hit Huaraz and Trujillo enroute but I was told I am wrong.  Buses no go there.  Get on bus to Lima fat boy who not speak Spanish!

Right  now I am feeling pretty cripply (lots of pain) but working on pushing through it without freaking on the nice people who can't understand why I don't speak Spanish.  

It's looking like I'll be constantly traveling for about 48 hours with little sleep and much jolting before I reach a hostel in Lima.  

I'm looking forward to the hallucinations the most.  Maybe they'll teach me how to speak Spanish.

New truncated Peru plan looks to be Lima > Nazca (big drawings in dirt) > Cusco (maybe Manchu Pishu?) then Puno (perhaps get visa for Bolivia after much research to see if $150 is worth it.)

Wish me luck.



As I write this next part, I'm sitting in what seems to be a pretty shitty hostel and drinking medium to low grade rum.  Makes me feel a bit like Hemingway.  Aside from the talent.  Money.  Women.  Fuck it, we both drink rum.

From the bus station at Guuayaquil I stood in a very long line.  It seems that queuing is not part of the Hispanic culture.  Why nobody teaches their children to 'wait their turn' is a mystery to me.  I'm taking it as 'software not loaded into their computer'.  There was one guy hopping back and forth, helping which ever of the two lines yammered the loudest.  When my turn came I ended up paying him $20 for the $17 ticket.  I figure getting ripped off was worth it just to escape his personal hell.  At that point I felt so low, sleep deprived and stupid that McDonald's seemed like a good idea.  Paid $7 for a shitty meal though it made me feel less horrible than the stuff in the states would.  Either I was physically exhausted or they make their food from better shit.

The bus station contained the usual mix of families with squalling babies, haggard looking people and downright creepy ones.  All of these are mandatory.  If they don't show up, the buses are cancelled.  There are always weird things going on.  Like the guy carefully carrying a huge watermelon.  Who the fuck needs to take a big watermelon on the bus?  Why?  A lady wearing a scalp massager as a hair accessory.  Weird, but practical.  Lots of people in overly tight clothing that should have known better, years ago.

In all of the buses I've been on within the 'Hispanic world', two things seem omnipresent - overly loud shitty music on speakers pushed far past their tolerances and unhappy noisy babies.  Bring earplugs.  Lots of earplugs.  And a gun.

I arrived in the beachfront town of Mancora and immediately got ripped off five dollars by a taxi driver who drove me about that many blocks to a place that was completely full.  To be fair, he did warn me it was full several times but I'm use to them lying to me to get taken to the place they get kickbacks from.  Checked on another few places who weren't receiving visitors that late and wound up at an all night grocery store.  A woman with the dead eyes of an ex-hooker wanted thirty dollars (US) for a shitty room that doubled as an oven.  For thirty dollars a night I could be in the UK.  Rather be in the UK.  Why people pay that much to see cinder block and corrugated sheet metal architecture when they could be in Europe is a complete mystery to me.

I've begun thinking of Peru as the 'Paris of South America'.  In other words, if you don't speak Spanish you can well fuck off.  An expat told me this is because Peruvians are shy speaking to gringos.  Don't know if this is true but so far they speak the least English of all the countries I've been to south of Mexico.  And seem the least willing to work with you to figure out what you are saying.  Hell, they do the same thing in a lot of Russian speaking countries.   Not speaking English is fine - it's my fault for not speaking Spanish but being unwilling to put forth a little extra effort to help fellow humans?  Not cool.

Haven't been able to find what I call 'value for money'.  Looking around I keep thinking "How the fuck can they charge this much for this?  Hell I could pay the same to see Estonia/Latvia/Lithuania and it is more nifty.  I don't get it.

I booked a bus all the way to Lima.  For those at home (ie geographically challenged USA residents) it means I've skipped about half the country so far.   After a fun filled seven hour layover I got to go from the beach town all the way to Lima on a fifteen hour ride or so.  I splurged and went for the 'super delux' model at 150 sol (about $50) instead of the standard 90 sol ($30) one hoping not to have any babies in my compartment.

Damned if there wasn't one in the same row.  Does the government subsidize them?  It could have been my fault the babies were crying.  I smelled fantastic.

After hour 30 of straight traveling, I started to develop facial ticks.  No idea why nor when the hallucinations would start.  Sadly, they didn't.

Eventually, I made it to Lima.  Got some research done.  Wow, Lima sucks for prices.  I'm not sure why there are some countries where lodging is more expensive in the capital and others where it is much cheaper in the capital.  This is a country where it is more expensive.

A bed in the dorm was $10 per night.  I'm not sure how that price was come up with but in most places in the world, that's about what it ends up costing you.  If you are in expensive countries it goes up to say $15 or $20.  Cheap countries, down to say half.  But ten is the average.  Be advised, you will probably get roomed with someone who snores and doesn't like to wash.  It's just how it usually is.  Take precautions such as (again) earplugs.  Or you can be like Logan and just pass out from the pain of the last 48 hours of constant travel.

Before passing out at the hostel equivalent of the 'high density feed lot', I requested the people get me onto a bus to Nasca.  After 70 sol, they did.  It's another seven hours but it is further south toward Bolivia.

I need to research a bit more on Bolivia.  Sure, I've been told it is super cheap but I get lied to more than a private detective in 1930's films.  Oh yes Logan!  It is cheap!  After going where ever they'd said I retort that a fifty dollar room isn't cheap and inevitably get either "The price must have gone up since I've been there" or "It's not?"  Note:  From my Romanian friends, I've gotten nothing but good advice so far.  Not sure what special Romanian super powers allow them to do this.  All of the countries in South America need more research.  Afterward, is South Africa possible?    I've been told South Africa is cheap...  It would be nice to have a big culture change.

Note, I finally made it to Nasca.  Rather than boring everyone with the minutia, lets just say it was a hell ride (ala Zelazny) and thus far I remain underwhelmed with Peru.  It's a 'why the fuck was I forced to leave Ecuador' type of place.  I'm going to explore around some to see if I can find stuff I like.  If not, it's Cusco, Puno then to the border town of Desaguadero to enter Bolivia.  They say I may (or not) need a 'yellow fever' vaccination to enter.  I'm going to look in to that once I settle.



TRAVELER'S TIP

For international travel, thus far Paypal seems to be kicking my bank's ass.  You can transfer money for free into your Paypal.  Unlike my bank which ends up charging me $15-$20 per transaction, Paypal seems to charge 1/10th of that.

If you're going to travel, get a free paypal card and put some money into the account.  It may charge less than your current bank.  Even if it doesn't it's another credit card for ATM's in case everything goes to shit and one credit card gets stolen.


MUSINGS

My buddy Travis shared with me an article that said some British guy visited 'all 201' countries.  If that is the current count, it puts me at 1/5th of the world done.  Even though this guy some how visited all of them on a $100 per week budget, I can't manage that.  Hell, my medicines to keep me alive may cost that.  But I'll visit what I can.  Especially since there are no other planets cheap to visit.  Sad.



HEROIC CTHULHU

For those who don't know about table top roleplaying games, here is the wiki on them.

Yes.  I am still thinking about it.  Based on more real world experiences than I can shake a stick at...  What a stupid saying.  Anyway, here are my thoughts for languages:

<=  5%  Greetings!  That's about it.
<=  10%  Farewells.
<=  20%  Various polite expressions.
<=  30%  You can request various simple things, some counting.
<=  40%  You can understand the answers people give you if they keep it simple.
<=  50%  You are up to being able to speak very basic phrases with some pantomime.
<=  60%  Basic conversation.  If people use large words, speak quickly or have a dialect difference you are quickly left behind.
<=  70%  You don't get left behind very often.
<=  80%  You don't get lost and can identify regional dialects.
<=  90%  People think you are a native speaker most of the time - or at least grew up speaking the language.
<=  100%  Totally fluent.  Anything beyond this you are just showing off.

Also with the HC system, contemplating having just a certain amount of skill dolled out.  As long as there are no charts during combat everything is fine.  This means having non-combat charts is acceptable.  Being able to raise skills by certain amounts (more for low skills, much less for high ones) may be better than 'lets see how many skills I can get checks in this game session'.

Should 'Logan's grand adventure' ever end and I'm stuck somewhere (probably due to health reasons - it is decreasing) I need to figure out a way to monetize the recordings.  Maybe iTunes and charge for some of it some small amount.  I don't need much to live somewhere.  If I'm able to make enough, I might be able to live somewhere there are gamers.  That would be a treat.



PHILOSOPHY

Why is "YOLO" only used when people are discussing doing things that are either stupid or selfish rather than grand or altruistic?  My guess, entitlement.



COSTS

660 ml water, 1.5 sol

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR, ECUADORIAN STYLE

ECUADOR CUSTOMS - NEW YEARS

Here, in Ecuador, they make paper figures of people or other things.  They put a couple days worth of work into making them.

I'm told that on New Year's Eve, they will be burned in the streets.  The reason is something like getting rid of all of the bad stuff from New Years.  Edit:  My friend James did a story that includes this - check it out:  http://myfivebest.com/  It's the story on New Years customs.  The only thing to add is while burning the effigies, people jump over them for luck.  Rum fueled my waddling over one and I'd say it was lucky I didn't catch my pants on fire.  Guess it worked.

I told the local who was describing this custom to me that in the USA people usually just get drunk, have sex and make many promises they don't keep.  Like losing weight.


Ecuadorian New Years was a lot tamer than I thought.

They have a stage show.  Most people just stood and watched it like they were at a concert, as opposed to dancing around like they were on shrooms.

There were a lot of fireworks, including 'roman candles'.  The smoke was so thick that I nearly choked on it, despite liking the smell of burned gunpowder.  The fireworks were pretty much shot off indiscriminately in the crowd.

Don't think that a huge throng stops cars from going on the streets.  No, there were people so idiotic they continued to drive on the streets despite them being filled with people.  I was actually hit (at a really slow speed) by one such moron.

It was very interesting to see yet another New Years custom.  I got some film but unfortunately my cheap camera doesn't film worth a shit at night so we'll have to see what it looks like after I get it uploaded.

The next day, the mess was cleaned up pretty quickly and the streets were clogged with people attempting to leave.  Glad I'm not leaving for Peru for a couple more days yet, probably departing on the fourth or fifth of January, 2014.  One year till 'hoverboards', six years till 'cyberpunk'.



CACAO

So I tried Cacao aka 'Creme de Cacao'.  For those who don't know (according to the limited information I have) it is a chocolate alcohol drink.

I have no clue why this stuff isn't more popular but it seems to only be made in South America, where the plants grow.  Perhaps it is exported.

No clue why it is not more popular.  Chocolate + alcohol?  It's a win.

Price is $3 per shot (I had two, it's New Years) and I'm told a bottle goes for $15 to $20.  If I could find one in Banos, I'd buy it but they don't carry it here.  Depressing.

If you can find it, I recommend trying it.



MINECRAFT

One of the things I enjoy about Minecraft (once you get past the graphics - which after awhile you cease to notice) is that you always have something to do.  Something different than 'kill monsters to level up and get better shit so you can kill more powerful monsters etc'.

Today, for example, Tim and I went out on a hunting party to gather resources.  Lots of different resources - flowers (for aesthetics as well as dyes), hides for making books, feathers to make arrows and so on.  Also, Tim built up his hidden castle.  I did some underground exploring to find tracks to make a subway between a couple of very distant places we have.

In pretty much every MMO I've ever played, you have a choice between hunting in the 'level appropriate' area or maybe - if the MMO has it and it is worthwhile - crafting.  The crafting is usually limited and overall a money sink.  Rare is the MMO where there is money to be made crafting.

This game has very much captured our attention.  If you haven't played Minecraft before, I'd suggest checking it out.  If you are completely unable to play a game due to only the graphics, you are missing out on a whole lot of interesting stuff.



VIDEOS

Sorry these are so dark but my camera is rubbish and night shots have never worked out well for it.

Banos New Years
Burning 1, 2

PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia - Michigan - Illinois - Colorado | England: Slough - Lancaster

For videos with a Loganesque slant, be sure to visit here. You can also Facebook Logan.

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