malanee Posted October 7 Report Share Posted October 7 I'm sure he won't remind him reposting this. It's long - but worth reading. It is nice to see a former local DJ doing so well!Whew...OK... So I'm sitting in the airport in Lima, and since I know all of you arewondering how my trip to Peru went, I figure... :-DThis is fairly long, so for those of you looking for the video version, trythis: Go to http://home.earthlink.net/~alexwhalen/data/Click on Peru.movThe file is close to 10MB, so don't try this unless you're on a fastconnection. And yes, I know - I need to get around to setting up Alexwhalen.com. Iknow, I know...So I'll begin at the beginning...Arrived Friday morning in Lima just a few minutes after midnight. Theflight was long but fairly non-eventful. Not sure when and why AmericanAirlines stopped showing movies, but on this flight it was 6 hours of"Everbody Loves Raymond". I don't know about you, but I for one do NOT loveRaymond, so I think they need to change the name of the show. Thank god Ibought that extra battery for my laptop - "Almost Famous" and "Notting Hill"are two movies I never leave home without.Landed, got thru immigration without any hassle, and found a car and driverwaiting for me outside, complete with itinerary and a cold beverage. Toobad every trip doesn't begin like that! When I arrived at the hotel, Jon Bishop, one of the other DJs on the night,was checking in just ahead of me. Seems he was on the same flight, but hehad gotten thru immigration about 10 minutes ahead of me, so they hired aseparate car for him and sent him on his way. Our room included a freewelcome drink - Peru's famous (by the end of the trip, infamous) Pisco Sour,and since the bar in the hotel was 24 hours, well, why wait? Spent the next day resting up for the night ahead. Around 8pm, I was takenfrom the hotel to the venue about an hour outside the city. The headlinerson the night were myself, Lisa Germane (former Home resident with Oakey andLawler), Francesco Farfa (Italian DJ/producer), and Jon Bishop (San DiegoHard House guru). What else can I say but that it was off the hook. Up forit? These people were nutters - all 1000 of them. From the time I went onat 9pm until the time it ended almost 10 hours later, the dancefloor wasrammed and they were going crazy. Didn't matter what you threw at them,they took it all in and loved it.You can't tell so much from the pictures, but the venue was sick. It was ina park sitting on a beach next to the ocean. The beach is off in thedistance past the palm trees behind the crowd. Behind the stage was a gianthill, and atop the hill were some ancient Inca ruins. They had spotlightson them, and every time I turned around to look through my box for the nexttune that was the view I got. Unreal.I played, then Lisa came on and rocked it. If you've heard Tom Stephan,that's what she sounds like. If not, think chunky, banging tribal housewith just a touch of prog. Most of the pictures I took on the night were ofher DJing, because by the time she was done I wasn't exactly in a picturetaking frame of mind - if you know what I mean.After her was Francesco, and he played a wicked set of hard progressive.Last but not least was Jon, and he kept 'em going until around 6:30, wellafter the sun rose over the ruins. The night was perfect musically, witheach DJ playing harder than the last, building the vibe from start tofinish. Gotta give a hand to Arturo, the promoter - he definitely knows whathe's doing.Along the way, as I alluded to before, I managed to get totally mangled. Thebackstage bar was fully stocked and we all took advantage of it. At somepoint - I'm guessing somewhere around 3am, someone came in and asked me if Iwanted to take a turn playing in the VIP tent, and well, how could I say no?Spent the next 3 hours playing in a much smaller room, and from reports thefollowing day I played well. The next day was filled with getting caught up on sleep and chilling in thehotel cafe with everyone. We had planned on going out to eat together, butwe were all so tired we ended up staying there and taking it easy. Since Iwas headed out of Lima the next day, that worked just fine for me.And so Monday was the beginning of my trip to Machupicchu. At this point Iwas going totally solo, and given that I speak almost no Spanish and thatI'd never been south of the equator, I was expecting to have quite anadventure. Only it got started on the wrong note. See, the promoter got myflight time wrong (at least I think that's what happened), and he showed uplate to pay me the balance on the gig. So late, in fact, I had to leavewithout the money. And it was my cash for the rest of the trip. But I hadto go or I was going to miss my flight, so off I went into rural Peru...With just $17 in my pocket. Now Peru is cheap, but the airport tax is cashonly, and its $4 each way domestic and $25 outbound international. Do themath - unless I got some money together I was going to have a hard timegetting home.But hey, I was in Peru, and I had 3 days to solve the problem, so did Icare? I think not!I made it to the airport 2 hours early only to find they had moved the timeof my flight up 1 1/2 hours - and I had the last flight of the day. Seemsthat with Lan Peru the schedule is just a suggestion, and they feel free tocancel and change it at will. Cusco is quite high (12,500 feet above sealevel - at that height, even walking up stairs is a bit rough at first), andthe approach to the airport is quite windy. As a result, they rarely stickto the posted flight schedule. Fortunately, I managed to make my flightregardless, so I knew my luck hadn't totally abandoned me.OK, so I land in Cusco, head to the baggage claim, pick up my stuff, andhead to the closest "tourist info" counter to find out how to get toMachupicchu. I knew there were two primary options - train and helicopter -and I figured they'd be able to point me in the right direction.At that point Carlos entered my life. For the next 3 days he would be myguide, my chauffer, my porter, and my delivery service. Seems he runs hisown "travel agency", and in Cusco, that means he takes care of everythingyou need from start to finish - for a small fee, of course.So off I went with Carlos. He took me around town, pointing out cathedrals,temples, restaurants, and bars that I should visit, then dropped me at myhotel. For the trip to Machupicchu I had two choice - in his words "nice"and "not so nice". Since the difference between the two was less than $20,I figured what's the point in going "not so nice"? Carlos took down my infoand promised to arrange everything for me.His business done for the day, he left, promising to pick me up thefollowing morning at 5:30am. Yeah, I know. Me and mornings don't usuallymix well. But look at it this way - it was BEFORE the sun came up, so... Since I wasn't tired yet, I headed out to city's main square. That's whereCarlos had said I should head first, and he seemed to know what he wastalking about, so why question it?I wandered around the square for a bit, taking pictures and getting hit upby all the local kids selling postcards, dolls, hats, scarves, carvings,pictures, paintings, and just about anything else that wasn't nailed down.For some reason postcards is the big thing in Cusco. There's apparently acompany there that hires the kids and pays them a 10% commission. It's 20soles for 6 cards, which translates into roughly $1/card. And damn do thesekids wear you down. Most speak fairly flawless English (imagine beingcalled a "cheeky monkey" by a 9 year old Peruvian girl when you tell her youdon't have any money!), and they all act as if they are terriblydisappointed in their new "friend" when you say you won't buy anything. "Ohmy friend, please, its not so much. Just for me, this one time. You are mygood friend. Please. Pleeeeeaaaaaasssssssseeeeeeeee. Why won't you helpme?"But seriously, the Peruvian people are absolutely beautiful. Kind, caring,friendly. At every turn I was greeted by someone new who was happy to bealive and happy to see me. Amazing - and its one of the main reasons Ican't wait to go back.Anyhow, I managed to make it out of the night without buying much ofanything, but I clearly left several broken hearts along the way. The"cheeky monkey" girl even tried to make me promise that I would take hertomorrow to buy new shoes - "Nike's - they have to be Nike's!"That night I couldn't sleep. I think it was a combination of the highaltitude and knowing I had to wake up at 4:30am. All total I managed to getabout 2 hours of sleep, but on a trip like this, it's enough. WMC anyone?Carlos showed up at 5:25. I didn't think it was possible to be early thatEARLY, but there he was. Took me to the train station, gave me all mytickets (Train round trip, bus round trip, park entrance, and lunchvoucher), escorted me to the train, introduced me to the staff, and saidgoodbye. The train was way beyond "nice". Brand new, comfortable seats,food service, and windows on all sides - including the roof!It was a 3.5 hour ride to Agues Calientes, the village at the bottom of themountain from Machupicchu. It was an incredible journey. First off, eventhough its at 12,500 feet, Cusco is at the BOTTOM of a valley, and the trainhad to go through a bunch of crazy switchbacks to get up and out of thevalley. Back and forth, back and forth for nearly an hour. And at thetop, the view into the valley was incredible. Unfortunately, none of thepictures came out so you'll have to take my word on it. From there, wespent 2 hours going over mountains and thru valleys, crossing rivers andstreams, going thru towns and rural farm areas. Peru is beyond beautiful,and no picture can capture what it felt like to be there.We arrived at Agues around 9:30am, and this place is VERY rural and VERYPeruvian. Of course, its the only way in to Peru's major touristattraction, so its filled with tons of hostels, hotels, and restaurants.But I was only there for the better part of a day, so I headed straight forthe next part of the journey - a bus ride to the summit. 30 minutes, up theside of a mountain on a dirt road running through dense rainforest, drivingat a MUCH higher speed than could possibly have been safe. But these guysdrive up and down that road 7 days a week, so I suppose it only seemed toofast.At this point I discovered I had purchased a ticket that entitled me to a"free" guided tour. I usually hate group tours, but since I had alreadypaid for it I decided to go along for the ride - for at least the first 5minutes. In broken English, our guide gave us a quick history lesson about the place,and then we headed in. The temple complex is actually just over the peak ofthe mountain, and you can't see it until you walk through the entrance gate.So we walked thru, and I sear to you, my jaw hit the ground. First off, itsHUGE. MASSIVE. I don't care what pictures you've seen, there isn't aphotograph anywhere that can do it justice. Second, its in amazingcondition. It wasn't "re-discovered" until the late 1800's, so the Spanishconquistadors never found it, and as a result, never destroyed it. It'samazing - houses, temples, farm terraces, fields - it was an entire citybuilt out of stone at the top of a very, VERY steep mountain. Pulling thatoff now would be difficult, so imagine what the Incans must have gonethrough to build it. It sits between two taller peaks, both consideredsacred, and that's how the site was chosen. The view, the vibe - the placeis honestly beyond words. Believe me, if going here isn't on your list ofthings to do before you die, it needs to be.So I had about 5 hours at the complex. The first two were sunny. And yeah,at that altitude that close to the equator, I quickly discovered you burnfast. Then, the clouds rolled in. Then the rain came. And it came HARD.I had a coat, but it didn't matter much. And since the city is intactexcept for the rooftops on the buildings, there really isn't anywhere tohide. So you just go with it, realizing once again how amazing the peoplewho built the place must truly have been.The rain broke, and after about 20 minutes the fog rolled in from the valleybelow. Watching it rise 1000ft from the jungle floor to take over the peakwas absolutely beautiful. For those of you from SF, imagine the fog rollingover the top of Twin Peaks, and then scale it by a factor of about 1000. Ijust sat and watched it climb the mountain and overtake the site.Incredible. The the sun broke thru, the fog lifted, and the cycle startedall over again. At that point, I decided to head back out. I only had about 1 hour leftanyhow, and the bus ride back down was 30 minutes so it was time to go.Managed to grab a bit to eat first (why are hot dogs and french fries theuniversal snack bar staple?), then climbed aboard the next available bus.Trip down was interesting. Somehow I ended up in a bus rammed full ofJapanese tourists. I don't remember seeing them up at the summit, but theplace was huge, so who knows. Anyhow, they were all quite excited, and thebus was fairly loud. A bit surreal careening down a jungle covered mountainwith people screaming in Japanese all around you.Like Cusco, the kids are part of the system of commerce there, and in thiscase that meant they race the bus down the mountain. See, the road is aseries of switchbacks, but it has a trail that runs up thru it for use byhikers. Rather than walk the road, they've built a series of steps andtrails, and they cut across the road to the top in a fairly straight line.As we rounded each bend, there was this kid, dressed in traditional Incaclothing, waiving and yelling as we drove by. Bend after bend he emergedjust in time. And at the bottom, the driver opened the door so that hecould climb on and ask for "donations". I kid you not, he made at least $10off that one bus. Kid must clear AT LEAST $40 a day if our bus was evenremotely average. Not bad considering that your average adult in Cusco makesless than $5 per day.Got back to the bottom, did some shopping in the village (a hat for $1 isn'tbad) and climbed back on the train. And yes, OF COURSE the trip back waseventful. Seems that out of 40 seats in my car, 30 were taken up by a groupof American "backpackers". In Macchupichu, that basically means anyonewilling to pay $100 to hike for 3 days on the "Inca Trail" from AguesCallientes to Macchupicchu. It's an easy hike, with porters hired to carryall your camping gear, so it appeals mostly to yuppie hippie wannabes. Andin this case, yuppie hippie wannabes who'd had WAY too much alcohol and Cocaleaves for their own good.I guess it should just be expected - no trip to a foreign country iscomplete without running into a group of people who make you embarrassed tobe from the US. This was mine. They spent three hours running up and downthe car, singing 80s songs and show tunes. Yelling, screaming, sinning,clapping, jumping up and down, completely oblivious to the fact that theother 1/4 of the train was NOT amused. It got so bad I almost stood up toyell at them, but I was exhausted, so I just put on my headphones and let itgo.We arrived back in Cusco, my sanity barely in tact, and at that point Carloshad his wife waiting for me to drive me home. Seems he had to work late andcouldn't make it, so she had been called into duty. She drove me straightback to the hotel, where I showered and changed to get ready for theevening.Now, in case you've forgotten, all of this was happening with less than $20in my wallet. Peru is cheap, but it's not THAT cheap, and I had to getmoney from somewhere or I was going to have a hard time getting home. Thatmorning, I had sent out an urgent "HELP ME!" email to Christian and mybuddies at AM ONLY to try and find a way to get me some cash. I had come upwith this elaborate scheme that involved overnighting my check for the gigdeposit to Christian, then having him deposit it in my account so I couldwithdraw it in Peru. Christian, being the amazing friend that he is, didone better. He went to the bank with a personal check from his account,convinced the bank to credit it to my account immediately, and deposited it.He says "no biggie, I'd have done it for him", and while that's true, itmisses the point. Thank you, Christian, for saving my ass. I owe you one -big time. With the money thing straightened out, I decided to head back into the mainplaza to get something to eat. At this point, my luck had completely turned,and I found a pizza place right next to an Irish pub, complete with Guinesson tap. And it was less than $1.50 per pint, even with the tip!The next day was my last day, and I had a few hours to kill before Carloscame to drop me at the airport. Since I hadn't had any money until then, Ihadn't really managed to do any shopping in Cusco, so I decided to try andfind the market and see what I could dig up. On the way, I passed throughthe plaza, but for the first time I was doing it mid-morning. It waspacked. School doesn't start until Noon, and even so, most kids don't goevery day, so they were all out in force. Kids selling postcards, adultsselling tours, and enough taxis driving around to transport an entire armydivision. Since I'm fairly obviously NOT Peruvian, I was descended uponimmediately.This is when I met Marcos and his friend. Instead of trying the hard sell,these two decided to sit down and get to know me first. And like I saidbefore, the Peruvian people are so friendly its almost startling. Sure, youcould be cynical and say its because they're trying to get money from you,but I'm telling you, that has absolutely nothing to do with it. I spent thenext 3 hours with these two, talking about what its like to live where welive, sharing stories about our families, friends, and loved ones.Their English was almost perfect, and their knowledge of America was betterthan most Americans, so I was curious about what their schools were like.Turns out you have to pay for school in Peru, and its quite expensive.Marcos' father ears 8 soles per day doing construction - that's just over $2for those keeping track. And school runs 150 soles/month to go full time.As a result, most kids (including him) only go 1 day a week, spending therest of the time on the street selling postcards to help support theirfamily. In Marocs' case, he wakes up every morning at 5, grabs his stuff,and walks 2 1/2 hours over the mountain to get to the city. Depending onhow much he made the day before, he might get some coffee and a biscuit forbreakfast, otherwise he waits till lunch to eat. He'll work until 9pm, thenclimb back up the hill, getting home in time to sleep around midnight. Andthe entire time, he's got a smile on his face. Puts your life inperspective some, doesn't it?Anyhow, as it turns out, most of what he knows he's learned from tourists,since he enjoys talking to people more than selling postcards. I'd sayCalifornia, he'd tell me Sacramento was the capital. I'd say Washington DC,he'd rattle of a list of all of the US presidents since FDR. Of course afterspending some time with him, you can't help but want to buy some cards, soI'm sure he does better than most of the others in the square.We talked for close to an hour and a half, but with time running out I toldthem I wanted to go shopping. They immediately offered their help, aiming totake me to the "real" market away from the tourists and overpriced shops."Good prices my friend, we will make sure for you. Good prices, goodclothings", and off we went. With these two on my side I knew I was golden,and by the time we were done I'd bought 4 hats, a scarf, a bag, and a fewother odds and ends for just under $12.On the way back to the store, we took a different route, one that took uspast "their favorite store." At this point, I saw where this was going butI was more than happy to play along. Once inside, they each had foundsomething they liked - two pairs of sweatpants for one, a soccer jacket forthe other. (David Beckham and Michael Owen are their heroes - go figure.)Grand total? $15. So yeah, OF COURSE I bought them each a gift. "You are avery, very good friend. I will remember you forever. My father willremember you. My mother will remember you. My family will remember you. Welove you. We will write you postcards every day and email them to you.Thank you, friend." Wish I'd thought enough to get a picture with them. Ahwell....It was almost two, so we said goodbye and I headed back to the hotel for mylast trip with Carlos. He arrives early (of course) to tell me thatunfortunately, all of the flights to Lima have been cancelled. There isone, however, that will get me there if I make a connection, but it leavesat 3 so we must hurry. 2:30 I'm at the airport and checked in, and before Iknow it I'm saying goodbye to Cusco.We made a quick stop in another small town, and then lifted off towardsLima. As it turns out, we crossed over the area with the Nazca lines, but noone bothered to mention it to me until we landed in Lima. Guess it justgives me another reason to go back...Which brings me to now. At this point, I'm sitting in the Miami airport, 16hours in and waiting for my last 6 hour leg of the journey how. Without adoubt this has been one of the best weeks of my entire life. A DJ set inLima, a solo trip to Cusco and Machupicchu, Carlos, Marcos, and everyoneelse I met along the way. It's been amazing, but I'm ready to be home. Atrip like this is incredible, and its made that much better knowing theplaces and people I'm coming home to.If you ever get a chance to go to Peru, go. Find a way to make it happensomehow. Believe me, its an experience you will remember for the rest ofyour life. And if you do go, hit me up for Carlos' info - I'm sure he'lltake good care of you the entire time.Flights about to leave for home, so I guess that about does it. For thoseof you looking for pictures, check the attached file. It's a completerecord of my trip, with music provided (of course) courtesy of Ralph andWhalen.SF, I'll see you in a few... Alex Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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