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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.

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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 |

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