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Current location: Aguas Calienties, Peru

07.17.07

Price of beer in a bar: Drank on the street for free last night
Song currently stuck in my head: Heart of the Sunrise (Yes)

Pan flute covers of Scorpion songs and girls with names like
programming languages help structure today’s email.  Well, okay, not
plurals of either of those things.  So a cover and a girl then.  And a
new Jacket.  And some guy was serving some kind of traditional
corn beer out of a bucket in the plaza last night.  The bucket used to
hold vegetable oil and not antifreeze, like in Nicaragua, so I didn’t
think twice before accepting.

Traveling in South America is drastically different from doing so in
Central America.  There are far, far fewer travellers and while hotels
abound there are few hostels as well.  Travelers, hostels and sand
became my life for months, it’s a bit of a shock.  But at least
there’s no Reggeaton.

I’m in Peru right now, leaving for Bolivia tomorrow if things go well.
Sarah and I have been to Machu Picchu this morning, arriving and
situating in time for the sunrise.  I’ll echo what everyone else says
about Machu Picchu because I agree:  it’s a monumental pain in the ass
and cost about 14 days budget just to get to and get into to,  but in
the end it was pretty much worth it.  Getting there involved a ticket
clerk with horrendous misinformation, a mind-bogglingly overpriced
train (most expensive of my life for the distance, and I’m in the 3rd
world), the only way in, that was 105 minutes late, bad exchange rates
and ticket clerks that couldn’t perform simple subtraction, a 14 bus
ride, 3 other buses, hours of pan flute music and Spanish covers of
soft rock number and numerous arguments (my favorite was when Train
Ticket Agent #2 said that he couldn’t change our tickets because they
were round trip, but Train Ticket Agent #1 had refused to sell us
round trip tickets… IN YOUR FACE, PERURAIL!!!!!  …now here’s my
US$166…)  Train Ticket Agent #1 lied to us and said that all of the
trains were filled except one.  In reality we got on an earlier train
and our car was nearly empty.  The number of riders daily is tightly
controlled, this was no mistake.

In person, though, Machu Picchu is cooler than I can possibly describe here.

Before today’s big outing, I spent a couple of days in Paracas kite
boarding (which I’d been wanting to do this whole trip) and a few
hours visiting the Nazca Lines, which I’d wanted to see since I was a
kid.  My trip has taken a much more tourist-like bend since I arrived
on this continent.  I’m going to try to limit this, but there’s not
much else going on here, especially in Peru.  Here it’s all affluent
vacationers, Euros, Argentinians, and Chileans, flying by on spotless
tour buses.  This town is no exception, except there are no buses (or
cars, or accessible roads to the outside… the train is the only way
here aside from hiking for days).

The kite boarding was terrific.  It was my first time, I took lessons
with Katja, who is said to  be the #3 female kiteboarder in South
America.  The location was perfect, a bay with good winds every
afternoon surrounded by massive sand dunes on the edge of the Peruvian
desert.  Alongside my board were a couple of French Canadian kite
surfers, Matthew and Pascal, who are probably in Cuzco right now.  I
was shivering in my wet suit by the end of the day and for some reason
I was dreaming of a slice at The Flying Tomato.  I hadn’t thought of
that place in at least 5 years.

Bolivia is cold and that’s where we’re going next.  I’ve heard rumors
of snow in La Paz and no one has heat there.  I’ll be glad to move
past that part and into Chile.

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