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After three days of cancelled flights I finally got my ass on a plane. To New Jersey. At 6:40am. So I´m up at 4am, get in a damn cab and deal with customs at an ungawdly hour. Then the customs guy doesn´t wanna let me through. He talks to his supervisor and she tells him he has to let me through, and he was visually pissed. No biggie, I got on the damn plane. Arrive in NJ at 8am or so looking forward to a 14 hour layover. Yes folks, you read that right, 14 hours in Jersey. At the airport. Which was great. I have a first class ticket and was thus entitled to spend the day in the Presidential Lounge at the airport. I don´t have to tell you that I got absolutely pissed and watched the football game. I was the only person that wasn´t rooting for the Jets, and my inebriation made it all the more fun. Finally I get on the plane and keep drinking. Made my selection from the menu and started a movie (man, I love 1st class). Eventually my eyes would stay open no longer and I slept until about five minutes before we landed. At the airport I met a guy who lived here for 22 years. He´s Belgian but was born in the Congo. Anyway, he and I were going to the same hostel so we decided to share a cab. By the time we got in the taxi there were five of us. Me and another Belgian guy ended up splitting a room and here we are. I gotta say, this is by far the nicest cheap hotel I´ve seen. It´s an old mansion right across the street from the San Francisco Cathedral, the foyer goes up three storeys of greenery to an open roof. There are spiral staircases and plants and animals everywhere (going to the bar upstairs is like climbing a dna strand, and when you get there you just might almost step on a big free-range turtle). I had a (hot!) shower and hit the bar for a quart. I kept it at one for now as it was only about 8am. I spied the menu - hey, they have hamburgers for 75 cents! That´s it, I´m in heaven. Turns out the beef producers have been on strike for three months. Oh well, I guess I´ll be on a strict pollo diet for the next little while.

I decided to hit the San Francisco cathedral for a tour. It´s a beautiful building that was built almost 400 years ago, and it´s full of cool paintings depicting the Passion of Christ and the life of San Francisco and stuff, but the real meat is in the basement. Did I say basement? I meant to say catacombs.

Get this: there was no cemetary in Lima until the mid-1800´s, so they bropught all their dead to the three storeys of catacombs beneath the church. They estimate the remains of 75,000 people are down there. Oh, and they ain´t buried. Somebody about 50 years ago had the unenviable task of sorting all the bones, so you see enormous bins of femurs, enormous bins of rib bones, etc. There´s a bin full of skulls which is a great photo op. ´Smile!´ Always the joker, huh? There is also a pit that has bones and skulls nicely arranged in a circle. Next it´s off to the Spanish Inquisition museum, which should be another barrel of laughs.

Speaking of barrels of laughs, I´ve already been approached twice on the street by suspiciously overfriendly people. One wanted to sell me chiquitas and cocaine and pot, the others motives were not made clear. Luckily I´m no longer a travelling moron, so I was expecting that, and will continue to expect it until I get a tan.

So I think I´m outta here tomorrow to get to Pisco and try to see me some penguins. Take care all, I´ll try to write more when more happens.

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Perulog, Stardate 011705

After the internet cafe yesterday I went back to my room and slept like the dead for about five hours. Then a very confusing meal and some inquiry into buses to Pisco and I was headed back up to my hotel cafeteria for some drinking. So I get up there and they´re outta beer! Funny, there was lots when I was there earlier in the day. I head out in search of beer to buy and bring back to the cafeteria (as I see others have done) and the first spot I hit, who´s there but Christian, the Congo/Belgian/Peruvian guy I met at the airport. He´s there with his best frind who arived the day before and they are loaded. Turns out they had drank all the beer at the cafeteria and then drank all the cold ones from where we were so we hunkered down to some cerveza calor. These guys have been to over 40 countries together, and Christian´s buddy Angel had smuggled some hash and mushies across the border. In his hand at an airport. Crazy. My eyes went wide, he went to the hotel for a minute and soon we were puffing right there in the hole in the wall that we were drinking at. They had obviously already eaten the mush and we got more and more hammered. Soon two chica´s walk by and Christian is outta his chair. Amazingly (given his state) he brought them back. Soon they were flagging down a cab to go to a disco. I took that as my cue to spent every remaining sole I had on beer and I made it back up to the cafeteria. Hung out with a couple from Gatineau and a guy from France (damn near everybody here is from France). The french guy (Bruno) was very interesting. He didn´t speak much english, though he outdistanced my french by kilometres, but we had a good time hanging out. One of the last things he said to me was ¨we can not speak the same language but we can have the same dreams.¨ My jaw dropped a bit at the poetics of this beautiful statement, and when he saw this he quickly added ¨I did not say that¨ and just as I was expecting him to tell me the author of such a fine quote he said ¨the Earth has told me this.¨ Wow.

Got drunk enough to call it a night and headed to my new room. I say new because while I was out with Angel and Christian the hotel staff decided they needed our room (which inexplicably had four beds) and moved all our stuff to another room! Well, almost all our stuff. Well, actually, none of my stuff. I knocked on my old rooms door and to the amazement of the German family staying there I walked up to the kids bed, reached underneath and pulled out my bag. Good to know my hiding place worked, but it was still weird anyway. I went up to the new room, which was wayyyyy nicer, on the roof with a crazy view of the San Francisco cathedral, to find my roommate, Pascal the Belgian. He had thought I moved all the stuff. He was weird and I´m glad I shook him. In the morning I went to the bank, which was also very confusing, changed some money and hit the Spanish Inquisition museum. I´m all about the cheery stuff huh? I had almost finished the tour in Spanish when I noticed a small English tour so I hopped on that. Very very creepy stuff. Strangely the Inquisitors had lots of rules about just how they could torture people, and kept a doctor on hand to make sure the people didn´t die until they were supposed to. Lots of wax dummies in horrible situations. What an ugly, ugly world this was. The english tour included a couple with a young girl, maybe four years old. Just before we hit the main torture room, I turned to the woman and said that the next room might freak out her little girl. She laughed and said it´s all right, she´s a weird kid. Two seconds later we go into the room and the first thing you see is a dummy with his hands tied behind his back being hoisted to the cieling by the binding around his hands. This of course puts him in a very uncomfortable position to say the least. ¨Ha-ha, mommy look at what that funny man is doing!¨ Weird kid. Anyway. Curiously, the building is now essentially their parlaiment building, complete with the rack in the basement.

Back to the hotel and visited with Angel and Christian again before taking off, maybe I´ll see them in Cuzco next week. Found the bus station just in time to run for my bus. Four hours (and $3) later, I´m in Pisco. Got me a $3 room and booked a tour of the Ballastes Islands for tomorrow morning. Now my only responsibilities are to find a good meal and see what Pisco (the city) and especially pisco (the drink) are all about. I´m virgins to both.

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Stardate 012005

I made it an early night in Pisco after all, bought a few beers to drink in the room and put off drinking the city´s nom de plume for another day. Early in the morning the alarm screamed me awake and I headed to the bus for my trip to the Bellastes Islands. We drove a half-hour to Paracas and hopped on a boat. The trip to the island would take about an hour but along the way I got my first taste of what I expect at Nasca. The boat cruised around the cormer of an island and there in the side of a mountain a huge design was etched. It´s called the Candleabria, and it´s obvious why. Very cool, photos were clicked, and off we went. As we neared the island you could make out all the sea lions sunning themselves on the beach, but what is more impressive is all the birds. There are approximately 1.3 gajillion birds hanging around this island, and a lot of them are penguins. Years ago I sat at a cottage in Ontario and drew up my own personal list of things to do in this life. There´s almost two hundred items on the list, and one is to see penguins in the wild. Let´s just say I was excited. Like a three-year-old at xmas. Or a bit like a screaming girl at a Beatles concert. Anyway, we went around the island a few times and saw all the wildlife, and really, it was quite fantastic. Sure, it was no Galapagos (so I´m told), but it cost $8 instead of $1,000, so I´ll settle for now. Back to Pisco and a beer and some lunch and you would think that would be quite a day. Not for this cowboy, dear friends. Let´s see what we can pack into a day.

Caught the bus to Ica, and then hired a three-wheeler taxi to Huacachina. So far the entire geography of Peru that I´ve seen has been desert, sand dunes, the occasional city or town, and mountains in the distance. My taxi takes me up a road carved into the side of a mountainous sand dune, around a corner and I see it: Huacachina is a real life, honest-to-goodness oasis. A lagoon ringed with palm trees and nice hotels and restaurants, and the whole thing is in a valley overshadowed by sand dunes that are hundreds and hundreds of metres high. It was absolutely breathtaking. I immediately find a great hotel with a pool and a thatched bar, the whole nine yards, for $3 a night. Twenty minutes later I´m in a dune buggy with a snowboard (curiously they call them sandboards here) strapped to the back.

Imagine the fun.

Nope, you didn´t quite get it. Let me help:

We bombed through an endless desert for about three hours, careening over the sand catching 100% air, going straight down dunes that make the scariest rollercoasters look like a slide at the park. The fun level was through the roof. Occasionally we would stop for sandboarding. The guy greases up the bottom of my board and assures me first time is best to go on your stomach. I oblige and go flying down the dune screaming with laughter the whole way. That´s it, I´m definitely trying this standing up. Unfortunately, the sand is so soft you can´t get any real speed going on your feet, regardless of whether you fall down or not. They took us to four dunes, I did two standing and two on my belly. I begged for one more dune. ¨You want a big one?¨ Oh yeah, of course!

Well friends, he drove us to a dune that was easily 800 feet, likely more, and sloped down at about a 75 degree angle. I stood at the top and I don´t mind telling you I was having second thoughts. However, the theme of the year is Coming Alive in 2005 after all, so I laid myself flat on the board and shoved off. I know I hit 80 kilometres an hour going down that fu©ker, I just know it. On guy came down and hurt himself pretty bad. I´ve never in my life seen a bump on someones head that large before. I quite expected the kids head to explode. Anyway, the whole afternoon in the desert stands as one of the most fun experiences of my life.

That night the hotel hosted a BBQ, all you can eat and drink for $5. Either the beef strike isn´t effecting this area or I ate five doggyburgers, either way they were delicious, and the rum and cokes were a great start to the night. Muchas cervesas entered my belly and a few joints were passed around and I don´t remember sleeping, though I did. The surroundings being as pleasant as they were and my body and soul being as damaged as they were I decided in the morning to kick back here for another day. I felt like I was at club med, I just sat in a hammock and hung out and did absolutely nothing. That night I went to a bar that had two-for-one happy hours so I spent many hours pumping pisco sours and pina colatas into me at ninety cents apiece.

An aside: It was the one-year anniversary of the house burning down, and of course The Sloth and Howler were in my mind. Couple that with the fact that The Sloth recommended I visit Peru (he lived here for three years) and that he was the first person to tell me about pisco, I turned to the girl beside me and drunkenly told her the whole deal so she could bear witness as I cheersed my friends back home with my first sip of pisco. Then I told her I was a midwife. Whatever.

Did I mention this bar was 100% girls except for me and my new Canadian friend Steve? Anyway, great fun night that ended with the bar guys putting something in Steve´s beer and trying to serve it to him. Luckily he saw what was going down and called it a night. There´s always pitfalls!

So now I am back in Ica waiting for my bus to Nasca. If all goes as planned I fly over the lines tomorrow and then...who knows?

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Stardate 012005

Just returned from flying over the Nasca lines. It was like spending the morning in a National Geographic magazine. The most interesting thing about Nasca so far is Jesus and his Dodge Coronet. We´ve been having a great time together. I´m gonna go with him to a cemetary this afternoon. I´ll have a few hours to kill before hopping the night-bus to Cuzco tonight, so I´ll write up a proper log then.

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Not for this cowboy, dear friends.

I knew i wasn't the only cowboy on this board!

You be careful in Cuzco man...just ask moose about good ole Cuzco!

I would have freaked at seeing those penguins too, and dune boarding sounds as fun as crazy carpeting :)

I'm really diggin' these reads Todd. Thanks, and keep up the good times.

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