This is an attempt at chronicling our wayward adventures through South America. We have been somewhat lazy up to this point, so this will be an (un)chronological account of these travels as we catch up to the present.

Monday, July 18, 2011

*Newsflash* - Special Reports From Guatemala Beginning Next Week

As is, I suppose, clear by this point, Trotamundos has become a nagging hangnail. While I can't say whether the whole story of Miriam's and my adventure will ever be recorded or collected in the way that I had intended for this blog, I have decided to use this space to record a new series of entries regarding a new trip that I'll be making to Guatemala. Anyway, intrepid readers, new gonzo travel reporting awaits.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dayarrhea, With a Spectacular Finish

An old lady picks up a brimming crockpot and totters back and forth as she tries to walk across the room. Liquids, equidistant from poles of homogeneity and emulsification and littered with hunks and flecks of matter varying in color, size and structural-rigidity, slosh perilously in a single wave that breaks constantly and barely seeps out from under the clear glass lid before dribbling over the sides and onto the floor. The old lady remains oblivious to the slosh and the drips of multi-colored steaming slush she transports, and carries out her practical task of moving with no regard for the way in which age has tightened some of her bolts and loosened others and generally distorted a once-graceful glide into a frenetic, animatronic lurch....


I woke up in the Stop and Drop bed, iPod alarm sounding insistently, and found that the old lady from my dream had my guts. Yesterday’s lunch was now preeminently influencing my consciousness. This was awful. Miriam was also quite unwell, though not so fiercely as I. She made the trek upstairs and retrieved our morning rations on a tray, and I decided that I’d better give dry bread half a chance, and so slowly dissected my crusty roll. We debated simply taking the day off, a reluctant first up to that point in an otherwise busy journey. We didn’t take the day off, but we waited until the afternoon to return by bus to the old city and check out the official black market. There are exactly zero photos from this day, because we were warned (by Footprints and Lonely Planet and, I think, our hostel proprietors) that carrying too many goodies might be a bad idea in this part of town. However, all of the discomfort that we felt during this outing was digestive, and I wouldn’t give Polvos Azules the distinction of a particularly dangerous part of Lima, unless you’re in charge of copyright enforcement.

This time, we exited our bus toward the end of the great big park that signals the approach to the old city. From here we walked to the edge of that park and back along another massive road to one of the largest intersections that I had ever seen, where police officers were stationed in the road to direct the traffic and also in elevated boxes on the street corners wrapped in yellow vinyl
Inca Cola signs. We crossed two streets and began to see vendors selling metal implements, vicious looking knives and knuckles and a handgun or two generally with smaller items and jewelry sprinkled around. It seemed like we must be getting close, and in two more blocks we found ourselves in the shadow of the vibrant blue concrete structure we sought.

Entering Polvos Azules is just like going to a run-down mall only, unlike the case of run-down malls that I’ve encountered in this hemisphere, this mall is disproportionately alive compared with spots in the U.S.A. that feature its crumbling facades, permanently fused escalators and unkempt stalls. This place and the shoppers and vendors therein showcased a wonderful divide between the desire to have these properly prestigious artifacts of current media and fashion (at least insofar as they were reasonable facsimiles) and the indignation that most main-stream urban consumers in the U.S.A. would feel at having to procure them in a space that has no interest in sharing in this sparkling, consumptive aesthetic. We moved from overcast afternoon sun into the dim fluorescence of the great, blue box-cave, which smelled like frying oil and dusty cardboard rolled in sugar. The whole thing had the feel of something between a warehouse and a parking garage.

Aside from simply wanting to see the market, we had the idea that we should pay special attention to the offerings from the knock-off clothing vendors for especially witty instances of Engrish. We’d seen a few good shirts up to that point on our journey, though I don’t recall specifically what they said. The first stalls on our end of the first floor we visited in Polvos were skater/surfer/generally-male themed, then there were the girlie dress shops, the video-game shops with a couple of young guys each playing futbol or shooting zombies, the movie shops, the tool shops, the camera shops, the cellphone vendors, the poster shops, and some shops whose theme was anyone’s guess and that seemed to carry a little bit of everything. We made one pass down the length of one floor before we realized just how gigantic this box actually was.

Miriam decided, or more precisely was selected, to undertake the job of reviewing the facilities, and we followed signs to a weird shanty on the roof guarded by a wizened man at a card table rolling two sheets of toilet paper into little bundles and also selling some assortment of unmarked productos higenicos para damas. I fished out fifty soles and some extra napkin wadding from one of my pragmatically overstuffed pockets, Miriam paid the old man and I waited, gazing out off the roof into the sea of buildings. I was beginning to feel unwell again, and pulled a cracked pink bismuth tablet from my pocket before slowly chewing it and working pieces of it loose from my molars. I had no lust to fully confront my errant plumbing on this rooftop, and kept it to myself for the time being.

Miriam came back out, not too impressed, but at least somewhat relieved. And we went back in to take another look at potentially hilarious shirts. Miriam may dispute this claim, but I don’t remember coming across too many really exceptional examples, and the Engrish generally lacked the spontaneity of stereotypical Japanese examples where the object is to arrange spatio-aesthetically acceptable combinations of English words. The shirts we found in Polvos often seemed to be constructed by making screen-prints based on actual designs of shirts sold by major labels transposed from some kind of degenerate source material like a low-res online preview image or an out of focus snapshot. Images came through this process perceptibly unscathed, but text was rendered retarded through the use of what seemed like attempts at applying OCR to the fuzzy source text.

This was the kind of stuff that they’d counterfeited. The large, messily aligned letters of “Abercrombie and Fitch” or “American Eagle” or “Rip Curl” or “Billabong” were clear enough, and then all the half-faded gibberish writing that is (was?) frat-boy fashion catnip du jour made little to no sense and often contained obvious algorithmic garbage characters. It’s difficult to understand all that effort undertaken to loosely copy something so cheesy, but once you’d stuck your head into this locus of fashion, it was impossible not to notice the fact that nearly everyone who had any business trying to look hip on a budget in Lima was sporting this swag. I was beginning to come unglued, something that I will admit is regularly a part of extended encounters with retail that I undertake without a clear enough goal. Miriam took her time, and I progressed from the slumped shuffle of the overshopped to the tighter, more erratic, gait of someone who feels as though they might void their bowels arbitrarily.

Eventually, we just gave up, not sufficiently enchanted with any one piece of Polvos Azules, but reticent to leave such a grand oddity without some official talisman. Back on the street, the air was still hot and oily, but the breeze felt good, and I bought some kind of coolish fizzy liquid from a woman with a cart. Early field reports from the pink molecules I’d sent in to civilize and organize my sub-esophageal riffraff suggested that perhaps my intrepid chemical strike force (this is a bad metaphor, I assume they’re really more like a specialized hugging brigade) was making headway in its campaign. We crossed back along the great intersection and entered the park alongside a museum surrounded by temporary fences, apologetic signage, and construction flotsam. The evening was coming, though how fast exactly was hard to say. I sipped soda and Miriam and I tried to decide what was to be done next. We’d been told that it was essential that we go see the lighted fountains display (, a major spectacle that happened a couple nights a week, and we determined that we wouldn’t have enough time to return to Miraflores and grab cameras before the show. Instead, we went straight to the park and got in line.

The sun set shortly after we paid our five dollars each and walked toward a towering, multi-colored, triangular grid formed by wide, high-pressure jets of water. The magic water circuit sprawls within a fenced park, and passes under a road by way of a tunnel lined with a giant (highly political) photographic essay on the impact of the construction of this park on the surrounding community. The park was an amazing place to watch people of all ages, and by the time we emerged from tunnel they were beginning to pack-in tightly. Without really trying, we found ourselves in a throng waiting for the exposition of the fantasía fuente. The fantasy turned out to be a pretty amazing combination of laser and digital image projection onto screens of flowing water, set to a number of generic classical masterpieces (when isn’t Beethoven an appropriate selection? no, really, I’m asking) and numerous repetitions of El Condor Pasa. Luckily, the crowd was mostly armpit tall, so it was very easy for me to see what was really an incredible visual feast. I had a good view of the lasers blasting through the plumes of water and right into the windows of an adjacent apartment building, whoops!

After the fantasía finally burned itself out, we wandered the rest of the circuit in the increasingly brisk darkness. It was fun, and the air in the park was weird and highly variable: sea breeze meeting city heat meeting cool mist meeting dense crowds. Any sadness we felt at not having brought our cameras along for the day’s outings, was allayed seeing nearly everyone snapping copious photos and videos on all manner of devices (google it, see every fountain in detail). We made sure that we’d checked all the fountains, and then circuited fully, out to the street. We hopped a bus and squeezed together for the loud, windy, bumpy ride.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

First Entry: Friends

That night after we got back from watching the dancing in the park we went up to the common room to see what was happening and do some writing. The room was busy, full of people drinking máte and sitting around on every flat surface. Miriam and I sat on the roof for a few minutes and wrote in the low glow of the Lima night before we were joined by one of the guys from the front desk, with whom we spoke at length concerning the United States and English and surfing and Lima and soccer and a great variety of other topics. If you've been following this day through the last several posts, you'll believe that we were spent following this latest exercise in trivia and Spanish conversation. Overall the day had been very fine, hell even incredible, albeit with a couple of outstandingly low points, this is what I wrote about before we turned in that night:

February 28, 2010
Stop & Drop Backpacker Hostel
Miraflores, Lima

Today's most ridiculous cultural discovery has got to be the international appeal of the program "Friends".

Right now, I'm sitting in a room with a bunch of Argentinians who could easily be providing a laugh track just a raucous as the one dubbed down by NBC. I suppose I should note a few things with respect to my feelings about this revelation.

First, I have remained, remarkably - I'm told - and perhaps woefully ignorant of the "Friends" phenomenon since hearing its theme song on the radio back in '93. Even ten years later, (eleven?) when the show was winding down, my freshmen companions were in disbelief about my inability to identify the primary cast members, each of whom was pulling a cool million per episode.

It was around this time that I was corralled into watching bits and pieces of the show, with which I was, admittedly and perhaps with too much attitude, not at all impressed. Even then the show seemed like an awful relic in a number of ways. Schlocky jokes, unrelateable characters who seemed to be artificially stagnant in that they were dealing with the same group of people for an interminably long time in a world that had changed a great deal over the course of the show's run, and a laugh track so consistent as to remind one of every single sitcom, lame or not-so-lame, that had ever existed. I can no longer watch Seinfeld either, and having its Thursday timeslot buddy around seems somewhere between very premature nostalgia and outright televistic necrophilia.

Third, and perhaps the oddest aspect of this alien-enthusiasm for the amigo show, has to be the fact that the humor comes across via subtitles that are astonishingly un-nuanced in a show that is already heavy-handed in its comedy.

Nevertheless, here we are chortling confusedly, and my well-tanned companions guffawing unabashedly as they pass their máte around the room. Its hard to tell who is the crazy asshole in this equation. Is it those amused by this poorly translated, limply-acted look into a banal, cushy, TV-New York, or is it me who cannot seem to appreciate this sort of tranquil pleasure of an easy day-to-day where social relations of the lightest variety can come to the funny forefront of what people do, rather than all the baggage that seems to be a part of our real lives?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Sunset Hunting

After exiting the bus, we walked along the sidewalk across from the park and turned right to re-enter our hostel. The Stop and Drop staff, consisting usually of two guys with similar hair, dress and height and of a similar build, didn't seem to have any problem with us retracting our checkout and sticking around for a few more days, and we took the opportunity to look into transport to the airport for our flight to Buenos Aires, and also arranged to spend our short hop between plane from Chile and bus to Ecuador at the hostel.

Flopping onto a bed was a notably comforting activity throughout the trip, and today was no exception, but we left again before dark to see the shore as the sun inched into the pacific. The trail that led down toward the beach was something we'd noticed the day before, walking the park paths along the cliffs. We followed sidewalks beside streets that eventually broke from parallel and split, revealing a great gorge that opened to the water through a crack in the smooth green hillsides. The gorge contained, among other things, a large fitness club with pools and tennis clubs that passersby could easily observe from above. This was, I supposed, especially true and probably appealing for all the hip folks living in the tall, modern apartment towers that filled this part of Miraflores.
Passage between the paved sidewalks of the city streets and the dusty trails that snaked toward the water could be made at any of a series of little breaks in the old stone retaining wall. At these points, wood plank stairways lead down through otherwise unbroken swaths of clinging green hillside flora.


The changeover to the bottom of the ravine was first noticeable due to the diminution of ambient light and the color moving from from lighter pinks and oranges cast over gray to deeper reds striking green. Before my eyes had adjusted to this difference my ears were filled with the realization that here were lots of birds down here, trees full, singing and chirping at one another. Aside from these avian companions, there were a few other people walking. After spending all day on hard streets, it felt good to be gently padding on the springy, light-colored earth of the path.

The trail lead eventually to the a bit of what I thought of as classically beachy infrastructure, a pedestrian bridge over busy highway that was all two-by-fours and plywood with awkwardly scaled stairs, lots of carved tags and the first hints at the sand that lay on the other side. We made our way through this installation and watched the waves at the beach for a while. The water was cooooold, and every so often a large wave would outdo its companions by tens of meters. The surfers were excited, the fishermen were terrified (we were later informed), and though we had no real basis for comparison, the prevailing sentiment seemed to be that this would be the most noticeable signifier of our proximity to the great shake that had occurred that morning in Chile. I think it's hard for the casual observer from U-S-and-A to get past his or her respective memories of countless images of death-defying surfer feats and really feel the impact of these somewhat weirder than average waves the way that surfer-locals do. If I hadn't known about the earthquake, it's unlikely that I would have noticed.
We tarried a while, examining the sand and rocks, watching brave souls charge in to body-surf and then return with a look that confessed wordlessly the extent to which their testicles had fled up into their torsos, and then we decided that the ravine was no place for gringos in the immanent proper-darkness. The dusty trails were more congested now as people left the beach, but we made our way back up quickly.
I don't remember what time it was, but when we reached street-level the sky was dark, the wind was cool and damp and we were surrounded by headlights moving at speeds that were difficult to estimate. We talked about what we should do next and, being rather non-committal as to whether either of us needed or wanted food we went toward the park, which seemed to be full of people. By the time we got to the edge of the park, Miriam had decided that she was interested in food, and I had decided that I certainly was not. My stomach was behaving in ways that I was forced to ignore in the hope that these increasingly noticeable signs were red herrings and not true foreshadowing. We went back to the cafe across from the park where we'd eaten the the night before and then returned to explore.
The park was an amazing flurry of people of all ages running around, eating things, and trying to sell things to one another. Tables full of trinkets, tools, and general ephemera structured space into rows, and contained a range of antique instruments that were often as unrecognizable to me as hypothetical artifacts from an alien spacecraft; I wished we were traveling by steamship. Beyond the tables, we found rows of art. We got bored with that pretty quickly, and then we started to hear music and we found perhaps the coolest thing that we'd seen up to that point:

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Video Feature - Lima Driving

This is the view from the guts of a collectivo: the lumbering, honking, metal beasts of Lima's flowing petro-chemical circulatory system. I'm not sure how well these videos express the absurdity of this kind of driving, but I hope they at least provide a few empirical nuances to my attempts at description.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Lunch in the Old City

I caught my breath on the bus long enough to notice as it stuck again in my throat in a jarring, bumping, no-margins what-so-ever glide into older, grander, dingier parts of Lima. The five or so rough lanes of traffic on the wide boulevard were swimming with the old metal busses, starting, stopping, lurching and careening so close to one another that it seemed there must be some kind of mad magic guiding the hands of the drivers and cushioning the hulking rigid bubbles that seemed destined to crumple one another without warning. I had a nervous grin plastered on my face, and my hands polished well-worn holds as I craned my neck to watch close call after close call whoosh by. The boulevard, for all its grandiose scale, was inconsistently covered, with large sections dropping several inches at a time and jostling over archaeological bricks and pavers. Our course led through a landscape which changed from big box retailers and KFC's (both literal, and some other chicken joints which included casinos), to huge parks full of public works and fantastic old buildings, to a dense crumbly center of shored-up, throbbing, antique city.

We stepped out of the bus onto the hot street and were met with a face-full of smells that were initially hard to place. As we walked, it became apparent that the odor was the product of an entire district of printing businesses, all churning out brightly colored posters and pirate media covers. Beyond this area we found the district that we'd been looking for, blocks full of rooms open to the street each with a placard announcing its menu. After this much time spent in transit, we were at a loss to choose a place and we picked our restaurant slowly and poorly.

From the outside most of the places looked the same, and the difference in price was something that only people truly out of whack in terms of budget and exchange rate delirium would have quibbled over, and so, as I recall, we made the unfortunate decision to low-ball it. We ended up with a truly scary spread: glistening lettuce, a goblet of clearish liqud that appeared to have something grainy like the end of a glass of juice, strange fish, sinister-looking seaweed, gristle, bone, repeated helpings of rice-bean slurry and an off-yellow jello.

Our discomfort was further complicated by a conversation with a man who was trying to hard-sell us a lunchtime serenade via the improbable technique of telling us that we lacked the capacity for the true, deep musical expression like that of indigenous people like himself. The man was unpleasant, the food more-so, and yet things were so busy in the hot dark room that we remained at the mercy of this musical extortionist and his pitch, unable to pay our bill. We left abruptly, feeling bad about wasting awful food and worse about being picked on while doing so.

The vibe was not so good, and the crowds in the streets that day were packed-in tightly and eager for sols. We walked in circles briefly before finding the first hostel (closed) and then the second hostel we hoped to investigate. We were ushered into a very old waiting room full of deteriorating antiques and a pleasant funk, then through a pair of locked doors into what all senses was unmistakably a hospital. At three beds to a room, a rate hike, and the promise of a horrible schlep to get our stuff there, we were not impressed and waited to be let out again.

We needed to redeem the old city, at least for the purposes of this first visit, so we kept walking. The square was beautiful, sunny, filled with weird stuff to look at, Saints' identities to debate and little old ladies to talk to.

This square felt like it was on the surface of the sun.



The buildings in this part of Lima, as should now be apparent, are extremely ornate and colorful, and on the other side of the square we turned right and came to a pink building with a glass ceiling full of women trading in collectible objects: coins, bills, photos, all kinds of bits and pieces wrapped in cellophane. I went in to be cool.


After this, we almost turned back, but half a block further we ran into a whole lot of stalls out in the sun. Posters, books, prints, textiles, toy guns, guns on the backs of soldiers strolling pairs of soldiers. Dear reader, if you'll recall them from our video shot in Parque Central, we were once more surrounded by familiar geometric solids protruding from the paved thoroughfare. Off toward what I think was the North, a hillside peppered with colorful boxes was set behind a frothy brown river under a suspension bridge.




A man with a microphone strung from a small amplifier preached an uncomfortably earnest gospel to no one in particular, and we started to head for shade and cold drinks, when we spotted the food. There, piled in the sun, were heaps of wonderful everything, ceviche, cuy, choclo, a perverse Peruvian smorgasbord! I was still not hungry, in fact still quite unappetized by our unfortunate lunch, Miriam is blessed with the powers of temporary amnesia and instantaneous hunger in situations of obvious deliciousness, and was quickly served up a heaping plate of exquisite.


To complement this munching, we were offered the stylings of the saddest mime ever, a young man who's boxed entrapment and briefcase pantomime drew yawns and muffled golf claps from even those in the crowd who seemed to be obvious stooges (relatives). Poof! the ceviche vanished into the mid-afternoon heat, and we resumed our wandering. We adopted a brisk pace back in the general direction of the street that we had come by, stopping to look at gnarled church carvings and full-service dentist/doctor/surgeon/obgyn boutiques for the do-it-yourself type. We were slowed only briefly by a strange, mustachioed fellow wearing a Hawaiian shirt who took up about two minutes chit chatting and only pulled out the ol' "Taxi?" "Weed?" bit after I'd summoned all of my linguistic powers to tell him that we were late and needed to get a move on.

The afternoon was nearly played-out by this point, and we had to make the hostel in time to ask politely if we could re-check-in and avoid having to move in the dark. We caught the bus back and hopped out at the corner of Parque Central...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Later That Day

We got out three maps before leaving the Stop and Drop to explore the old city and wrote down the names of some other hostels to investigate. If you've ever looked at a guidebook on Peru or South America more generally you might already be aware that Lima defies what I had considered widely held cartographic assumptions and expectations. There is no such thing as a map of Lima, rather the reference materials consisted of maps of vague seemingly inconsistent sections, districts, and regions of greater Lima (this should give you some idea what I'm talking about) as it splashes back from the coast and up into the hills.

So we looked at our maps, holding them up next to one another, or flipping pages back and forth to try to construct a cohesive vision of the route, thought about it for a while, stashed our bags in some lockers and headed off on foot. This seemed like something that people could do, even given that we were getting hungry and it was probably 95 degrees.

We walked and talked our way up through a long shady park set between the lanes of a wide divided road. Eventually, we ran out of Miraflores and its consistent and plentiful foliage found ourselves walking along mostly a lot of sunny residential streets interspersed with gigantic crossings, roundabouts and other traffic-shaping devices that seemed all seemed gigantic. We managed to figure out how to traverse a number of these traffic formations without becoming unfortunate road splatter before coming to this point:


We worked our way around this circus, and, as we did, got to watch a lot of traffic negotiating. We waited at a crosswalk, fantasizing aloud about finding lunch by this point, and watched as a man with a clipboard yelled to all the bus drivers who passed this corner and then received some amount of coin in a can borne by what I guessed was probably a nine year-old boy. Mostly, this system seemed to be tuned to a degree that was remarkable. Words flew back and forth, the kid stood in the gutter and held the can aloft, change was deposited smoothly, and then as we watched the pace of traffic started to pick up. The next bus that yielded at the corner had only a few seconds before the bus driver felt himself inextricably yanked into the flow of traffic. Words were being exchanged, but as the bus lurched past the corner the change was cast hastily into the street. The man with the clipboard quickly assigned blame and meted out punishment to the youth, though it seemed apparent to me that the backhand was redundant, the kid was already looking dejected about his poor performance in the face of this challenging can-handling scenario.

Miriam and I drank some of our warm, metallic water and resumed our walk. As we moved along we brought out our maps again and tried to get some sense for how far we had come. Two of the maps, the ones with tight views of Miraflores and the Old City were completely useless. We had come to a place of dubious importance to even the most intrepid of casual guidebook urban Lima hikers. Presently, I located the big St. Michael roundabout on the map, we estimated our movements to this point as having been approximately 1cm per hour. At this rate we would reach our destination in a matter of hours, not minutes. We started to look around for alternative modes of transportation.

In a city of seven million taxis, the ones that we saw in this part of Lima had that distinctive *Taxi for a Day* look that we now found unappealing both in terms of general threat to life and property and because we didn't want to have to try to feed directions to another taxi driver who knew about as much as we did about where we were and how to get where we wanted to go. We emerged again from neighborhoods onto a new, dry-grassy median-park and back within the network of the collectivos. In two or three blocks we had gotten our change together and found some people to ask for a proper vector toward a bus that would get us to the old city.

Eventually, in a way I would become familiar with as the way these rides always begin, a dingy white bus with stickers proclaiming a range of religious affiliations slid up to the curb, preceded by the voice of the man who hung from the door hocking rapidfire locations with names jumbled together like a practiced auctioneer. This man is almost always ferociously convinced (and convincing) that his bus is the one that you need to get you to where you need to go, and will only really clarify directions once the heat of the stop has given way to the brief and intermittent reprieve of collecting fares, doling out tickets and getting repositioned for the next corner sell. We sat in the bus, feeling the fake, oily, wind of vehicular acceleration. My legs ached a little, my shoulders relaxed and filled the grooves left by bags slung heavily and shifted unconsciously from arm to arm over the course of an accidental hike...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


We got up the next morning in time for breakfast, and tottered droopily between the room and bathroom and then upstairs to the communal area. This morning, we were on time to catch several other travelers on stools and couches around the upstairs room watching a series of televised news reports on a massive earthquake that had severely rattled the coast and central valley of Chile in the early morning hours that day.
Everyone was focused intently on dark shaky images of crumbling buildings and yelling people, and two girls from Chile were offered phones to try to contact loved-ones. The whole thing was a shock and, beyond the magnitude of the tectonic upheaval itself, threw our visit to Chile into question. We had our rolls, butter, jam and tea, and then we hit the pavement. Our plan was to check all the available airline offices for deals to Cusco. Surely, we would see more of Peru than Lima and the road.
When we arrived at the LAN office, the doors were chained and all the Friedas had been given the day off. LAN's servers, a guard told us, were located in Santiago and were down. We tried a few more offices, meeting with a variety of helpful and less helpful characters, and coming to understand that posted fares did not include the fees imposed on foreigners traveling by air in-country. Our Cusco trip was essentially foiled, and we stopped by an internet joint and headed back to the hostel.
At this point, we had to figure out how to best explore the monstrous nexus of Lima. Once back in the room, we examined the list of stuff I'd compiled from the guidebooks on the bus two nights before. We planned to stash our bags and go looking for a new (cheaper) place to crash in the old city, a journey north and inland from our digs in Miraflores. In the old city, we were told that we could get some thrifty lunch, see some excellent old buildings, and stop in at the official black market, a place called Polvos Azules. We were also advised to see a gigantic fountain-light spectacle after dark some night. As well, we decided to try our hands at getting out to a set of ruins 25k south of the city called Pachacamac, as they seemed to be the oldest, biggest thing we'd be able to reach before leaving Peru again.
Preview of next installment: We do all of this and more!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Before We Dropped

This footage was shot after our return from dinner that first night in Lima.

I refer, in the video, to flight scheduling. Specifically, Miriam had, during our fine time with the ladies of LAN, noticed both an abundance of domestic airline offices and an advertisement for flights to Cuzco that seemed within the realm of financial possibility. Our plan for the following morning consisted of booking one of these flights and getting the hell out of Lima for three days of Ruins and mountains before returning to fly to Buenos Aires. Nothing to it...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Parque ??

Sorry again for the absence. Summer and whatnot. How about a short film?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Lima Part 2: Boston is not the only great bean town on a coast in the Americas

There's something incredible that happens when travel gives way to accommodation. There's a peaceful lull in the pace of action and a person gets to take a minute to shake themselves in their own flesh and see what time has wrought. For me, that morning in room four of the Stop and Drop hostel in Lima, the results of this assay were greasy, generally under-maintained, and deeply creased with the lines indicative of clothing worn for days as it gradually distorts. Everything I wore peeled-off with a perceptible grip reminiscent of the sensation that one feels in removing thin plastic from food that has been thoroughly packaged, and I recall doing a great deal of stretching, shuddering, yawning and rubbing.

In an attempt to push this reinvigoration regimen to its logical zenith, I gathered all of my necessary artifacts and made my way to the men's bath. The shower was, at first glance and with growing intensity as my investigation continued, an object of profound mystery, and strangeness from showers I had known previously. The bathroom itself was a somewhat dirty, wet-floored location with cubicles formed at odd angles inside a superstructure with ceilings unnecessarily high for its current purpose as communal bathroom.

Unlike the electric fixtures of Quito (which require, at once, both adept maneuvering to find a rate at which water is heated fast enough to provide warmth and wetness simultaneously and an iron will to remain below a stream of water emanating from a cheesy plastic device attached to outlets of both the water and the power systems of a given building by shoddy looking pipe and even shoddier looking wiring that is producing thin wisps smoke and a vague scent of burnt electrical tape) this was a return to water heated elsewhere, presumably by gas, and pumped to many locations on demand. The head of this shower was merely a rounded, metal cap with a single circular opening about half an inch in diameter, and so the shower unleashed what amounted to a warm pee, aimed in a fixed direction, at approximately eye-level. To describe it in words, and think back on it now, it seems nearly impossible to explain the refreshment that such an obviously flawed device, such a vague and degraded facsimile of an idealized form of the shower, provided me with that morning. It was amazing.

Having both bathed and broken fast, we went out into the city to take care of a few things (read: eat), to bask in the pure coastal-ness of everything, and to have some words with the good people at LAN about changing our return date to Lima and making our newly-gotten bus tickets usable. We began with LAN, which was only a few blocks away on a street filled with banks and gigantic gringo restaurants.

I have been having some difficulty reconciling the jokes we made about them at the time, and my overall memory of them as something generally helpful and innocuous into a fitting description of the ladies of LAN offices throughout the continent. By this point in the trip we had had roughly three contacts with computer-manning LAN employees (ladies) during the course of our airport check-ins and in Piura, and now in Lima it became humorously apparent that there was a sort of aesthetic division of labor in play throughout the airline. Women with a blonde dye-job, a particularly flashy style of dress or hair or adornment, and men were placed in positions of flight attendance, whereas, their other homelier comrades, were dressed in the trademark vests and ties of McDonald's management everywhere and made-up to look roughly like Frieda Kahlo with her hair pulled back really tightly.

We entered the office, smiled at the guard, took a number and were amused to find ourselves classed, for the purpose of this interaction, as disabled and our number called at the designated handicapped window. The Friedas also, seemed to chuckle nervously to one another when they noticed us noticing this and talking about it with one another in Spanish. Continuing in this vein we goofed our way through our requests, and managed to get the tickets changed by one day for a mere fifty bucks each. Galapagos was saved for now, we thought, and left the air conditioned office for the hot street again.

Once outside again, we decided that the focus for the rest of that day ought to be Lima, because despite our foiled Nazca hopes, we planned to leave it as soon as we could, and after that day we'd only really have about five days left before our scheduled flight to Buenos Aires.

We strolled in the sun, got some sidewalk fruit, had a conversation with an old man who had augmented his begging routine by adding a young retarded boy who made trinkets and passed them out to everyone in a great and weighty showcase of pathetic generosity, surveyed the nearby parks,

From 2010-02-26

ate some lunch,

From 2010-02-26

and then promptly fell asleep in our room. It was an involuntary but extraordinary six-hour siesta, and afterwards we somehow managed to get more food

From 2010-02-26

before going back to sleep.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lima - Not Like the Beans

Piura, as I believe I mentioned before, was somewhere around the temperature of melting flesh. The bus station was being vaguely fanned by an air conditioner that was exhausted into the very room that it sought to cool. For some diversion from the wait, we took turns watching the bags while one of us went to the bathroom and tried to cool off by bathing in the sink. To keep the level of stress in the waiting room high, the space was equipped with a television playing a strange talk show, a la the Today show but hosted in part by an Elvis impersonator and a few mischievous muppets, and in the corner several coolers full of refreshing foods and beverages with no one to sell them to the sweating masses.

When the time finally came to board our bus, the procedure was somewhat different from what had been the norm on our previous rides on the continent. After checking our larger bags we were asked to line up and proceed through a vaguely airport-like security line that involved having our bags and ourselves metal-detected and our identification checked against our tickets. Following this, we got settled on the top floor, and were treated to an airline-style video explication of the safety and convenience features to be found on bus. Most of this, as in the case of airline announcements, was really blase. The exception to this boring list of amenities and rules, was the repeated statement that the toilets onboard were for urine only. URINE ONLY. Just urine! Anyone in need of a more realistic bathroom experience was instructed to knock on the door to the drivers' cabin and request a stop, an action which seemed to me to be a clear violation of the "Don't talk to the driver!" policy which was both announced and also posted in a number of places around the bus.

The bus ride was a funny combination of the intense professionalism and robotic ineffectuality of plane flights everywhere and the down-home, personalized style of service that had come to characterize most of our bus trips up to that point. We played a goofy version of bingo that was, apparent to everyone else in the bus (I couldn't resist calling bingo upon actually getting five in a row), blackout only. We were fed a meal of chicken, yellow rice and a lot of other odd crap that was somewhere roughly on par with airline food. We watched a promotional film that contained a ringing bimbo endorsement of the Nazca area of Peru, and was accompanied by a portion of a catholic sermon taken from 60's era Spanish cinema. After this, we watched an overdubbed version of a moody Jonathan Demme film. Hearing the bellowingly overdubbed Spanish words attempt to carry this film with its subtle themes of familial angst, drug abuse, race relations in the United States and the institution of marriage was fascinatingly confusing, and the only time during the trip that a bus line would elect to pit its passengers against such weighty material :-P.

Outside the bus, was an ongoing parade of landscapes reaching from the arid to the verdant and domiciles made of concrete and rebar, ambiguous in their positions on the continuum of new construction to disrepair.

Before the sun went down, Miriam and I spent a good long time poring over our guides and trying to figure out what to do in Peru in the four or five days that we'd be spending there. Because of the state of the sacred valley, and the apparent lack of things curious, ancient and/or beautiful in the Lima area, we decided on a mosey down toward Nazca in hopes of seeing some lines and perhaps some other coastal archaeological sites as well.

As usual, we arrived very early in the morning, overdressed and partially mummified in cool dry bus air. We had found out from one of our maps that our first task of finding the Grupo Ormeno bus terminal and getting tickets back to Quito ought to be an easy one, due to its location of less than one centimeter away from our present location on the map. We got our bags, adjusted ourselves to the heat and weight, and pushed through a throng of taxi drivers to walk along a major highway. After a couple of circles, we got headed in the right direction and arrived at another bus terminal. We bought the tickets and felt a slight monetary sting, and also much relief. As it turned out, we would still have to change our plane flight from Santiago to Lima to make the schedule fit properly.

Miriam went to the bathroom and I sat in the terminal, feeling as tired and dirty as I had up to that point in the trip. My gaze bounced around the room, out of the windows and into the bustle of the roadways surrounding the terminal, and finally up to the large flat television above the counter. We were watching news and, as I looked, the story took on a more urgent tone, a redder color, and more of the screen. A series of images flashed: small planes, desert shots, ambulances, stretchers and finally petroglyphs. The news from Nazca, our latest destination of choice, was "Plane Crash". Our Peru plans had hit another snag, and we were in need of a fresh Lima alternative.

Miriam returned, and I pointed to the screen and let her watch our plans unravel for herself. We got briefly mad, but we were still just way too filthy to be overly caught up in our misfortune. For now, we needed lodging and hot, running water.

Back outside, on the edge of the great thoroughfare of eighteen or twenty lanes, we started the process of taxi haggling, aided by the price quote we'd received from the woman selling bus tickets. The first driver we asked looked back at us, puzzling over this question himself for a good long time. After a few seconds, he agreed and we tossed our stuff into the back of his taxi station wagon, house-painted yellow with boom box speakers wired up in the back. As we entered the cab, I looked around the vehicle to compare it to those we'd seen before and those we were likely to see in the coming weeks. This was the cab in which it dawned on me that none of the cars we'd ridden in were ever holding even a full half-tank of gas. Also, after we re-entered the cab, our driver asked again what our destination was, and then, seeing that we had a map, asked to borrow our map. This man, with his car full of everyday stuff, was playing cabbie for a day. After watching him drive past our street, in what should have been a well-known tourist district, twice, we finally had him pull over to the corner, and walked the final block.

We'd pre-chosen our hostel, on the corner of Berlin & Bellavista,

From 2010-02-26

using the quadruple vector of cheapness, proximity to the bus station at which we'd arrived, its presence in our guidebook and the advertised opportunity to pay with plastic. Aside from those critical features, the Stop and Drop didn't sound like too bad a place. There was, as the ad in our Footprints guide specified, network access, free breakfast, and hot water. We buzzed their door at around 7:30 AM and received a mumble in return as the door opened. The bleary but friendly staff guys, dressed perpetually in pirate, engrish, surfwear, mumbled us through the check-in procedures and we had time to shower before breakfast service began.

From 2010-02-26

After furiously consuming two white rolls, butter, jam and two cups of tea, and making polite conversation with the extremely skinny, middle-aged lady who seemed to be in charge of breakfast every day, sweeping and feeding the roof cat, we left the hostel and, with what must have been by official count our twentieth "second wind" of the bus travel period, went to survey the town, to reschedule our plane tickets, to come up with an alternative to our Nazca outing, to eat food, to check our respective emails and to enjoy life outside a bus.

COMING UP on TrotamundosSA:
1. Video from Lima
2. Our Heroes Match Wits with the Powerful Ladies of LAN
3. God Thwarts More Spectacles
4. Lima is Squeezed for All its Delicious Entertainment Value
5. Miriam and Peter Realize that Since Creating Blog in Cuenca, They Have Neglected to Feed or Clothe it Properly, and Thus They Must Begin to Write In Earnest
6. Indigestion
7. Fuentes Like You Wouldn't Believe!
8. A Blue, Blue Market

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Real-time Homecoming and A Hot Day in Piura

Jiggity Jig - April 25, 2010

I'm back in Iowa (likewise, Miriam is back in Pennsylvania). This actually happened about four days ago, but I still haven't quite gotten used to the feeling. The adventure is still warm in my senses and on my limbs. The way to describe this place and its familiar features seems to take the form of only one word, thus far: opulence.
My stomach too seems to be experiencing difficulty understanding what has happened in the last few days. Suddenly the milk is fresh again, not that stuff that will stand forever at room temperature in a box. The cupboards are brimming full with a well-stocked collection of the rare elements that drive tastebuds mad the world over. My guts aren't prepared for this access, and they're letting me know that I must take things slowly.
Anyway, among the opulent features of the life I find myself rejoining is a constant access to the internet, which should be a real boon insofar as the updating of this blog is concerned. So, without dwelling any longer on understanding and telling the concluding portions of this tale, let me continue with our trudge into the depths of Peru.


We sat, sweating and thumbing through our respective guidebooks (Peru was the only country for which we had afforded this kind of redundancy, hauling both the Footprints 2010 and the Lonely Planet 2008). We had already bought our tickets from Piura to Lima, and were now on an endurance race to kill the many hours that lay between us and our departure time, something like 1800 hrs, in the least unpleasant way. I don't remember exactly what we were looking for in our books, and in fact the search was probably more of a general survey of Peru-bound possibilities, but I do remember at least one thing that we found.

Somewhere in Lonely Planet 2008, I think near the front of the book and perhaps in a section giving some cultural overview of the country to be toured, I ran across a passage warning travelers about a known hazardous time of year for the South America sojourner: Semana Santa. Holy week, the book informed, was a time when all forms of transportation and lodging clogged with use, and also a time when fares were jacked up from sixty to one hundred percent. Unfortunately, for erstwhile Lutherans like myself, holy week is not something that falls on a hard and fast date year after year. Rather, one can find it lurking vaguely in the range of March-April. This, as many of you know, was nearly the entire range of our trip, and a very scary unknown indeed.

We left the bus terminal, each of us carrying all of our possessions once again, and hobbled off through the streets of Piura. We had goals now, and because the sun had not yet reached its zenith we were still confident in our ability to enjoy accomplishing them.

The first problem to be addressed was a lack of food. Our maps of Piura were terrible, and we ended up at a bank first, so Miriam withdrew some Nuevo Soles. As we once again entered the flow of Piura foot traffic, we began to notice that we were still too early in the morning to hope to find food on the street that was not sold in a package. We sat down on some benches in front of a huge church and waited in the shade for half an hour. Now things were beginning to wake up, this must have been around 1000hrs. We located a little place that appeared to do some food and while I ate a jamon y queso, Miriam tried out the first ceviche of Peru, one so memorable for its quality that she would reference it throughout the remainder of our trip. It was a refreshing, albeit not (relatively) cheap desayuno: the ceviche probably cost between three and four dollars.

From 2010-02-25

From there we walked back out to the main plaza and had a look around. Miriam had noticed a tourist information office that had been closed before, adjacent the bank. That office was now open, air conditioned, and likely to know all about Peru's potential diversions and probably the precise dates of Semana Santa this year. We went in and were given what I found to be a completely hypnotic and exhaustive explication of every archaeological site in Peru by a pleasant young woman with a very methodical, rhythmic and soft tone. At one point, during something like the fifth of seven or so maps of different regions of Peru, my head slipped off of my left hand and lurched quite close to the table. After learning about more than a lifetime's worth of Peruvian attractions, we finally had the good sense to ask about the dates of holy week. Which, as it turned out, was scheduled for precisely the time when we would hurriedly revisit this expansive, international road trip on the way to a date with the Galapagos. We left, freaked out about our newfound scheduling debacle, though now equipped with an extensive collection of maps and pamphlets and two fine complimentary ballpoints.

Our next stop: LAN. We crossed the plaza again to investigate the true malleability of the terms and conditions of our South America Airpass. As I recall, we entertained a few ideas about how best to overcome the problems then coming to light in our itinerary. If we were lucky we could just rearrange things to suit this obstacle: shift each flight outright, cut out one leg, add another. If we were less lucky, we supposed, we might have to do something more drastic altogether, such as lose our second stint in Peru altogether and fly directly from Santiago back to Quito. As it turned out, neither of these options was within the range luck afforded. The details of our itinerary had become final once we made our initial flight, and any additions to the trip would fall under the insane pricing schedule that usually applies to foreigners flying under LAN. The best we could hope for was to shift the dates of one flight for a less insane fee, and hope for available buses when the time came.

As we left LAN, worried and somewhat underwhelmed by the apparent inflexibility of our trip, we soon forgot thoughts of our grandiose logistical problems in favor of thoughts such as "Why are we carrying all of our stuff right now?" or "Are we on the surface of the sun?" and, of course, "I know I'll regret saying this but, I wish we were on the damn bus already!" We dragged our under-rested bodies through the streets, almost as though we were pulling dying pack animals (ourselves) through some hellish desert, while onlookers smiled and chuckled, and made me wonder about just how stupid we looked and whether we weren't really that stupid. At that moment, we seemed to me extremely stupid, though a very nice person could probably get away with simply describing us as ridiculously unfortunate or perhaps retarded.

Not wanting to melt, and seeing few options aside from pushing on, we bought water, checked our email, and then headed for an ice cream shop. One great thing about traveling with Miriam is that ice cream has an almost cinematic ability to save the day.

From 2010-02-25

This ice cream experience was, thankfully, no exception to the physics of Miriam, and the good vibe carried us back to the stifling bus station, and all through the end of the wait and the process of boarding. And that's where the next chapter begins: on the road to Lima.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Addendum: Participant Observers in Ecuadorian Border Controls

While we got off quite easily in our dealings with the on-board customs police, the family behind us had a rather stickier encounter. Peter's previous post analyzed the behavioral gestures of those involved, but the details of what was going on add some dimension to the politics of the situation.

The first hint of trouble came when the family produced their Colombian passports.

The exchange between the police and the family, represented by the father, went, more or less, as follows:

Policeman 1 to Policeman 2 (aside): They're Colombian.
Policeman 2 to Policeman 1: Yes.
P. 1 to P. 2: They're Colombians in Ecuador traveling to Peru!
P. 2 to P. 1: Yes they are.
P. 1 to Father: We need you to get out of the bus, get all your suitcases, and be inspected.
Father to Police: No.
P. 2: What do you mean, no? We have the authority here, and you should respect our authority.
Father: No, we're not getting up. It's the middle of the night.
P. 1 (getting very angry): I am telling you, you have to be inspected!
Father: Listen, we live in Ecuador. We have friends here.
P.1: That doesn't matter right now.
Father: Well, we're not getting up.

This went on even longer, until the police simply gave up and got off the bus, and everyone tried to go back to sleep.

Unfortunately, Colombians in Ecuador are often stigmatized. There are many Colombian refugees who come across the northern border into Ecuador, to escape the violence between the government, FARC and the ELN, and the U.S. government and/or in search of the [relatively] more stable economy and work available in Ecuador (check out Ecuador en Cifras for the official census data). According to the Colombian Organizacion Internacional para las Migraciones, in 2005 there were about 80,000 legal Colombian emigrants to Ecuador. Numbers can only have gone up since then. Of course, for every one Colombian who goes through government channels to legally immigrate, there are a few coming in under the radar. Just like any other country facing an influx of immigrants, Ecuadorian citizens are unhappy about the possibility that Colombians might take their jobs, and, to make matters worse, Colombians have gained (if not necessarily earned) a reputation for being particularly violent. The family behind us got lucky--it's easy enough to imagine a situation in which such bravado in the face of a customs official would not go over so well.
And in Peru, you're guilty until proven innocent...will our heroes escape?

Further Along The Road to Piura

After getting stamped and having brief conversations at two border crossing stations on opposite sides of Peru and Ecuador in the middle of the night we sat back down and expected a calm ride to Piura, a place I estimated to be between three and four hours down the road. It was around 2:30 AM, I thought, and finally consciousness slipped away, taking all my discomfort and cares with it.

I have had, since arriving on this new continent, a seemingly unending stream of extremely vivid, cinematic, adventurous and random dreams, replete with numerous cameo appearances from grade school classmates, camp friends, family members, pets and pretty much anyone from any group with which I've ever associated, especially my closest friends. Many have been lucid, but just as many have been so convincing, intense and engaging as to remind me of the handful of landmark dreams whose memory lingers from my youth. For example, I've had no less than five flying dreams in the space of less than two months. It's been fantastic, and I hope that this trend doesn't end immediately upon my return to the states. I don't remember exactly what I was dreaming as a drifted liminally on the bus, but I do remember that as I broke through the surface of real-time light and sound of the bus ride, I was deeply engaged with some otherworldly task and extremely reticent to use my tired eyes to see, my dry throat to speak, and my wrecked neck to focus my senses.

Harsh light and the prosody of assholes, something that is suprisingly transcendent of particular languages - at least within the spectrum of latin and germanic tongues - penetrated my sleep. Miriam was the one awake this time: "We need passports again, I think" she said, and prodded me back to life. I grabbed my documents and handed them to the two uniformed "Aduanas" (customs) men now making trouble on our bus. We had stopped again, this time for a seemingly random inspection, and after explaining that we were on the way to Lima, our interrogation terminated. The two men, each with baton and gun protruding garishly from heavy nylon belts and each wearing a thick vest with neon lettering that increased their chest sizes to the proportions of crazed roosters, now moved on to the family behind us.

As regular readers of this blog will recall, this was the family with two babes in arms who had taken to the feel of my hair, and had created something dreadlock-like on the back of my head as I fought to avoid water and create conditions that would support sleep. And now, I looked back at them, and despite the unfettered curiosity of the infants, they were a really cute family, and trying their best to make a good trip out of the worst bus seats available. Something, however, seemed to be not quite up to snuff about this little group of four, as far as the border enforcers were concerned, and as the father handed them his passport, things began to get tense. Miriam, I'm sure, had a better idea of what was actually being said, and will hopefully make her own account of these events known, but from my perspective, the police quickly took a situation in which the man spoke too casually toward them and escalated it into one in which they would instruct the man, and thus everyone else in this confined space on the importance of "respect". Things got testy, necks were strained, poses struck, voices raised, baton-handles grasped, and just when it seemed like it might get ugly, the police decided that all that these precursive gestures and hints of violence were sufficient for the time being, and the encounter wrapped up with an uneasy conviviality. It was truly Cartmanesque, and they overdid it, as if to say "What? You didn't really think we were mad did you? You didn't really think we'd use all these handy implements of destruction?"

The officers sauntered out of the bus and we got on our way. Welcome to Peru.

My dream did not return so easily after this, and the air conditioner had again begun to empty its constantly condensing bowels on we window-seated travelers. I looked out into the dark at the occasional ramshackle assemblages and sometimes more expansive structures of steel and concrete, unfinished modernist projects from bygone eras and derelict initiatives for housing development. The contrast from Quito and Cuenca was stark, and, thus far, I'd still felt little resonance with the memories I carried from my time in Southern-California-like Santiago or the multi-colored hillsides of Valparaiso. In time I drifted away again into the still-dark and dusty countryside.

The fourth or fifth awakening of the day came in Piura, some two or three hours later. This time we found our bus backing through a horde of people into a strange building unlike any bus terminal I had ever experienced before. The bottom floor of an old building had been converted into a very high-ceilinged garage-like enclosure, with a weird network of cages to help keep newly-arrived passengers free from a horde of taxi and moto-taxi (the three-wheeled conversion vehicle, like a rickshaw driven by some kind of engine between a chainsaw and a moped) eager to help with transportation, money changing and probably many other useful services. It was a skillion degrees(centigrade), as we retrieved our bags from under the bus, and we were immediately latched onto by a slender man pressing hard for a chance to be our taxi driver. Multiple attempts to get a moment to think and converse about what our next move ought to be by saying, "Perhaps," "Give us a minute," and a host of other brush-offs could not shake this tenacious fellow, and eventually, after seeing that he seemed quite clean, was asking for a fair but appropriately inflated gringo price, we gave in and followed him through the mass out into the street.

We got into the cab, somewhat nervously, and I watched as our host fastened his seatbelt and made the sign of the cross, both of which seemed terribly prudent and somehow reassured me. He then drove us, maniacally through a series of back streets in which we could have been gutted and robbed twenty times over, to a weird intersection where a man he described as his friend changed 10 dollars into roughly twenty-eight nuevo soles. This was good, our driver noted, don't change too much money, don't flash a big wad around here. We soon arrived at the Cruz del Sur bus terminal, from which we hoped to catch a bus that day onward to Lima, and paid our driver about a little over two dollars with our new soles. We had made it, and he thanked us for our patronage and gave us each a folded piece of paper full of verses about Jesus. Apparently we'd lucked into a real sweetheart of a cabbie, and he wanted us to know it for sure.

Miriam and I sat down in the waiting room of Cruz del Sur. It was all of 7 AM, and our bus would not be leaving until the late afternoon. We each carried two large bags, and were not looking forward to passing this day in the heat with this sort of luggage. For a few minutes, at least, we sat and talked about what was ahead.

Until next time, all the best from Portoviejo.
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