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Published: March 8th 2006
Well, the border wasn’t as bad as some - surly, unfriendly, unhelpful - but we got thru’. Bye Bye Bolivia, Hola Peru!
I should have taken the black dogs on the road as an omen, having just been thru’ another bout with my own, and having written thru’ it on the last blog. Can you tell? Anyway, most of the dogs along the way, and there have been many, have been the shaggy, fair-haired sheep dog types, (some very Candy-like), but this morning, across the frontera and into Peru, the first half dozen dogs were black!
Sometimes mine is a mangy, street urchin cur, other times a big wolf, in that howl-at-the-moon stance, altho’ always silent, even when he comes close he makes no noise, but I always know he’s there, sometimes just on the periphery, sometimes right dead centre, but always bringing the same load of every nasty, bad, awful thing I’ve done…but, enough of that..about an hour or so into Peru and nothing very different to Bolivia, much the same scene, same people, a bit more of a look at the great lake Titicaca, more like an inland sea here, no sight of the far coast…then, about 10 kms shy of Puno, a traffic cop inspection point, where are your insurance papers?..Ha, I drag out the “special” letter from BMW Mexico and hand it over…then he shows me the fine print, it expired on the first of March!…snookered, altho’ I strongly suspect he was going to find something to nail me on! even if this had worked, OK, the usual…. 330 soles is the going penalty, like 100 bucks!…so I’ve only got 30 and after the usual rigmarole its settled , but I’m pissed off and look nervously at all subsequent cops, the only hassle apart from Costa Rico! And they said Bolivia was bad! So, tonight I reformat the email letter and change the date, meant to do it weeks ago, too little too late.
Funny how coming out of it, it’s almost impossible to recall any of it, its like a whole new dimension, like trying to interpret dreams literally, a different set of values, understandings, it’s easier just to say it’s too hard and forget about it….and, of course, with the exhilaration, rejuvenation, absolute blissfulness that comes with the getting past the nadir, breaking the surface, breathing again after choking in the depths, light replaing darkness, identity restored, once more an OK person…one of the great pleasures that non-depressives will never know is the fabulous bliss and energy of coming thru’ a bout with the dog.
Post script to the carnival…they say it definitely ends Sunday night…and these people are really FIT, I’m here to tell you , the Oruro festa went for about 3 kms down the road, and they bop flat out for the whole way…anyway…we copped another load of water yesterday coming thru’ a string of small villages and the last 10 kms into Cusco was a veritable battlefield…and we were fair game this time!..but, back the story, many, many of the men in te parades were really dressed up, over-the-top high camp cowboy outfits, bright blues and golds with silver fluffy trim, masks and hats, dancing around, maybe a ritual mating rite? And the gaudiness of the outfits serving well to disguise the dribble, vomit, urine and associated stains as they bumble along, with the hollow, glazed eyes of the truly inebriated, sad, and a reflection on their culture, apocryphal, of the big 3 universal poisons of colonialism, worldwide the same, Alcohol, Religion and Disease, and the first 2 definitely the most devastating on these simple but complex lifestyles, cultures, destroyed or at least severely maimed. And don’t we have one of the worst examples in Oz? And now deny responsibility, amazing! But of course it was their stupid fault all along, wasn’t it? Oh, leave it out!
And where do these empires and stuff come from? Who is going to wake up one morning, living a peaceful life in some remote village where life has been going on for god knows how many years, and suddenly say “I’m going to start an empire”? allright you lot, start building a massive temple over there, you others go out and round up everyone you can find and subvert them? I mean what is it all about?… the same mentality that drives the empire builders of today? I’m sure they are not going to live any longer or take any more with them than the goanna, the desire for immortality?…haven’t we gotten over that one yet? To leave some legacy of another small life, aren’t we all just little bags of chemicals, wandering around for a few years then disappearing? Only the concept of a collective unconscious and maybe reincarnation could ever give any comfort, I would have thought.
OK, on with the show, on to Cusco, whoo flipping hoo, another iconic place on the voyage, 40,000 kms, 8 bloody months, now at the bead-sellers epicentre, the crystal gazers, witchdoctor-wannabes, uber-hippies, faith healers, hyper-chondriacs, mega-trekkers, students of everything from reiki to archaeology, basket weavers, lots of American grey panthers, Japanese shutter bugs, and the bloody water fights continue, but they assure us it ends tonight, again.
OK, a million tour operators and each one has 15 touts, you can’t move on the lovely cobbled streets without being accosted at every step with offers of “information”, sort of a cute, softly,softly approach! And they can tell the 'day 2' people from the newbies, (yet to go out to MP) and aren't so pushy!
We put ourselves in the hands of one who seems cool, Jesus by name, do a package deal. Start about noon and walk a bit, cram a cab a bit, walk the ruinas called something that is pronounced ‘sexy woman’, true, led into the tunnels, freak out claustro big time, then onto horses, yes, shades of Tantawanglo!, up rocky paths, thru’ mud, across the grasslands, along the road!, small kid, our ‘guide’ occasionally, and without warning, whacks my horse on the arse and we bolt off, me hanging on to the tinpot saddle, white knuckle fever, knowing why I prefer the 150 horsepower to the 90% of 1 horsepower!…walk another couple of ruinas, knock back endless offers of llama hats and jumpers, carvings, bowls and trinkets from the thousands of indolent indegenes, hey aren’t we supposed to be the ones offering blankets and beads for land ownership? Post-colonialism reverse revisionism gone berko!
Back to the saddlery and off the horses, was cool tho’, then to the cab-from-hell for the dash to the train. The train leaves early but the first part of the trip is a series of switchbacks and we can get on halfway by taking a speeding taxi, cutting 4 hours from the trip and saving hundreds of dollars…but, and there’s always a ‘but’, we end up with a kid who has spent way too much time with the X box, he looks in the mirror and sees Michael Schumacher, gets in his beat-up corolla and it’s a Formula Uno, the country is breath takingly beautiful, I am in the front seat, shitting myself, trying to admire the view, finally have to tell him in faltering espanol that altho’ his life is worth nothing, I value mine and want to enjoy more…he slows slightly. As it turns out we get to the rail town with an hour and a half to spare! Could have cruised and enjoyed the whole deal! The farmland along the valley is a fantastic patchwork, each plot only about a quarter acre so the coloursand patterns are fantastic and the colours intense.
On to the train, dark now and just glimpses of big mountains on each side and a wild water river beside us in the crescent moonlight. One and a half hours to Aguas Calientes the jumping off point for the biggest drawcard of them all, Machu Picchu, incredibly efficient gang of security guards herds us all off the train and up to the square, sort of freaky, black uniformed hard men, truncheons and side arms, hey, they are here to help us aren’t they? In the square a group of anxious demi-touts with papers with oddly spelt names, we recognize ourselves, debate the merits of rooms not matching requirements, people running off and back, organised chaos, up the big hill…at least we’re back in oxygen enriched air again, crikey, after 4 weeks above 3,000 metres and up to 5,000, now at 2,300 or something, still, by the time we get a ways up the hill I’m starting to feel it, puff, pant, get to a hotel and find nice rooms and hang around while the cutish, nervous, apologetic chica works thru’ 140 keys to find the 4 needed for the 4 rooms! Whaa…
Short meal and into the fart sack for a 5am wake, early bus to Machu Picchu itself, terrifying trip, mostly up and up and up, switchbacks, hairypins, dirt, muddy, I’m in the very back seat which overhangs the back wheels by about 3 metres so I’m getting this bizarre experience, swinging out over the void, like some whacky circus ride, and even scarier.
To the magic place at last, anticipation rising, find our guide, everyone gets a guide for their group, funny seeing Inca descendants jibbering away in Japanese, Dutch, French, English even! I’m in luck, only 3 others with our guide, 2 chicas, one Pom, one Kiwi, nurses working in Bermuda, and the Pom’s boyfriend, a Bermudan guy. It was soo good to be talking English, naturally, after such a long time and the Kiwi and I shared vertiginous terror moments and discussed all the big issues of life, the universe and everything as we strolled these fantastic ruinas, how?, why?, what?. It was a misty, cloudy morning and the fog rolled up and over, around the mountains, different parts of the scene coming and going, whole new aspects suddenly opening up as clouds washed away, light levels brightening and dulling, all adding to the mysticism and magic of this place, lost and overgrown for hundreds of years and only re-discovered early last century…man, what a clean-up operation to get it looking like this!
And the whole lot was only built and used for a bit over 200 years, they must have gone like cut cats to get this place built, again without the wheel!, amazing, grace,,,
Now, I’ve seen a few ruinas over the years and the stand-out feature of these is the precision of the joints in the rock walls, it really is pretty astounding, and for me, the one feature that would give any credibility to suggestions of alien or divine intervention, it really defies belief that these little buggers were able to cut, split and polish these rocks to such a degree of accuracy, I just can’t see how they could have done it, huge stones, odd and even shapes, not even room for a cigarette paper between them, walls as straight and true, a lay-out that would be tricky even with modern equipment, OK, I believe, down on bended knees, promise all my money, my time and service, adulation, prostration, endless respect and devotion…but hang on, just who could it have been? Where is whoever? How? What th…. The missing link, and I hate to imagine how many little suckers slipped to their doom during construction, freaking scary, hence the vertigo attacks, luckily Jen was several degrees more cranked up on the terror scale so I could pretend cool on the narrow track around to the Inca bridge, a treacherously narrow trail, vertical drop, fabulous views, shudder, back against the rock face, visions of crumbling edges, once again this phenomenon of suddenly turning and being faced with a vista so huge, so dizzily massive, the brain just fails to cope and goes into spin-out, and at the end, well, as far as one can go, the bridge, a rock path across an over-vertical rock face, how the fcuk did they build that? And how many lost along the way, imagine trekking in with your huge sack of spuds, as they did!, one slip and its mashed potatoes all over the valley floor some several hundred metres below, aaahhh and its all soo cool, seriously, I did find myself just sitting and contemplating it all, not quite as seriously as some, but quite contemplatively, meditatively, llama-like, blissing out, actually the bloody llamas just went on keeping the grass down.
Nice to be here at low season, only a few hundred people all over several square kms of the site so very tranquilo and almost private, they say there are thousands of people at high season and especially at the solstices (solsti?) when you can see the working knowledge of this amazing civilisation, the shadows on the sundial, the 365.24 days per year, the sundial crop planting, breeding, compass, time and motion, fantastic,, the upper corner of the elaborately carved sundial, centre of knowledge and everything has been chipped off, apparently a crew filming a beer commercial some time ago accidentally smashed it!
Anyway, chocolate brownie, Gatorade, few smokes (remember to take your but out) back on the bus, back to town, walk up the hill to the banos thermals, hang in the hottest pool, there are half a dozen, only a few people, fantastic gravel bottom, some light rain, babble endlessly to Jen, it’s like getting to the beach after months in the desert, free to talk again, make jokes, not having to worry about finding simple words for complex ideas, not having to translate everything, it is soo nice, end up in the pool for 2 hours and come out with industrial wrinkles.
Sometimes a quick root with a total stranger is better than having some intellectual/spiritual connection that reveals personal details and feelings that you wouldn’t share easily with your therapist and that preclude anything short-term, physical, and worse, leaves you with the lingering, longing for more. aarrggghhhh....
Another 5am start for the train back to the halfway point, then Raf and Andressa and I walk up to the square of this little pueblo to find some brekky. Sitting in the sun outside a little café, what a fantastic view of the mountains opposite, fine blue haze, hang on, there’s a fcuking great bus belching blue exhaust fumes right next to us, we move inside.
Unlike the usual crap jam, this place has a berry jam, home made and fantastic, the chica is chuffed when I ask about it and she extols it’s virtues on me, she makes it herself....the eggs are good too, and the coffee.....come to think of it, one of the finest brekkies for a while.
The sides of the mountains, quite steep, are covered up to extraordinary heights with terraces and stone-fenced little walls, some Inca some more recent, and from time to time giant mown or rock-outlined, massive names or slogans like PERU ROCKS or the name of a local footy team, who? How? What th…
Oh and there was the grade 3 or 4 type brown water rafting river, the hydro system, the cafes the bars, the old women with the massive shawled loads again, small children running businesses, enough already!
Check out Raf’s photos at www.adventura2.com coz this machine doesn't want to take any of my pics today!?
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