Wednesday, November 30, 2011

One month, two continents, three countries...status update

Sitting here in rainy Cartagena, just wanted to post on the trip so far. I am not sure if it is the rainy weather, but I am feeling a bit of a lull in the enthusiasm for the trip. We have already accomplished so much, so I guess it is to be always feel a bit of a let down after doing something. On a long trip like this it is hard to keep motivated/excited/stimulated day after day. I can see why artists burn out or start repeating past accomplishments...maybe it's to avoid the fall. We need the mundane and unexceptional to be able to see the extraordinary. At least maybe I do.

However... that being said, I do keep getting a charge in each new place I go to...damn weather!

I have a few more posts to write about Colombia... and Friday off to Europe.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The scary truth about mannequins

Following up on my earlier post, I went back and checked on some of the mannequins I had visited and discovered a horrible truth. Someone indeed had been abusing them. Take for example this little girl mannequin. When I saw last, hair was blocking her eyes. I saw why...

Mannequin abuse must stop. This is the reason they come alive and attack.

Welcome to the Jungle, Part 2

Writing this from Bogota, Colombia I am pretty happy. Why you may ask? Because no more damn jungle... at least for awhile.

Leaving the jungle and going down the Amazon was well...boring. I was treated to an amazing sunrise...but the fast boat we took was basically like an airplane ride for ten hours...except instead of stewardess there were these fat old guys and instead of comforts of temperature control and inflight entertainment, there was jungle heat , stifling and oppressive and for entertainment the boat occasionally ran over a giant log that caused the boat to shudder. Not sure if the slow cargo boat would have been better...probably just best to get out of the jungle as soon as we could.

After the boat ride and checked through immigration in Peru and Colombia, we found ourselves in Leticia, Colombia. I will write more about Colombia later, but initial impression is this place is great. I hear of dangers and armed robberies, so need to be careful, but compared with Peru seems to be a more developed country. Not saying this as a slight to Peru, but seems Peru is heavy on tourism, whereas Colombia has a more diversified economy... But hell what do I know.

(I wanted to throw in a Rick James quote "Cocaine is a hell of a drug"...but this is not the Colombia I have seen so far and I sense the people here don't want to be associated with this. Probably it brought in money in the past, maybe still bringing in today, but there is no way what I am seeing is built on drug money. I have read stories about what cocaine has done to these countries...especially in the rural towns and it is society ruiner, not a source of prosperity.)

I feel bad this is such a bad sequel post. I will try and get into some more shenanigans soon.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Welcome to the Jungle, Part 1

We arrived last Monday into Iquitos, Peru, explored a couple of days around here then went on a four day jungle trip into Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. This entry is 'part 1' because from tonight we will be on a fast boat ride down the Amazon to Colombia...

I have figured out one environment I am not suited for and that is the jungle. There is something here that is hard to describe... it is not the unbearable heat and moisture, the massive and numerous insects of flying, crawling and biting varieties ... combined with an over abundance of life making the air heavy, everything feeding off each other parasitic and symbiotic, all decaying and being reborn. There are indigenous peoples who have lived simple lives for thousands of years, but now there has been some misplaced attempt to impose a society that was born out of a temperate Europe in this place and just doesn't seen to work... Well works enough to mine the resources, but leaves quickly disintegrating ugly ruins in its path.

Iquitos is the product of the rubber boom of last century... The only city for miles and the only way in or out is by boat or plane. To exemplify what it had been Gustaf Eiffel (guy who designed the Eiffel tower) designed a house here. If you wonder if rubber is good...think of two other places where they got rubber...Congo and Indochina. It's a hard product to get, grown in the jungle and requires lots of manual was slavery but worse. Fast forward to Iquitos today: streets choked with mototaxis (three wheeled combi motor bike and carriage for passengers), touts trying to get you go here and there, sell you things, and lots of old men (some are missionaries, some are here for fishing, but there also seems to be a big sex tourism element here as well of both adult and less than adult variety). Due to extreme poverty, this seems to be one of the results...and is quite out in the open. I am not writing this to judge, or call to action, but as an account of what there is. To de-anthropomorhize actually reminds me of the jungle...the young trees feeding off the old trees, slowly killing them, this bouquet of rot and decay and new life all in one.

I wanted to name this blog post Welcome to the Jungle after the GnR song. I vaguely remembered the lyrics, etc. I just read through them again and damn how they fit. It's even off the album Appetite for Destruction. Go now and read it.

I haven't written much about seeing the jungle or the animals. River dolphins are of my life long goals, accomplished. Fed baby manatees some papaya. Eventually after trekking in the jungle I felt some calm, almost getting used to it, but it was more that I got the point of maximum irritation and just had to accept the uncomfortableness.

To be continued...

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mannequins are scary

I distinctly remember when I was a child being at my great uncle's house in Toms River, NJ and sneaking out of bed and watching a couple minutes of a movie where mannequins came to life and killed people in this old deserted house in the woods. Then when I was caught out of bed, I was put back to bed... in a room that contained mannequins heads. My cousin at the time was training to be a hairdresser and the room that I was sleeping in coincidentally contained her practice heads.

Needless to say, I am not a huge fan of mannequins ... with there soulless eyes, impossible curves, lack of genitalia and torpedo tits, but Peru... You have some damn crazy mannequins. Someone should make a movie about them coming alive and running rampant down here.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Ruins and cities: Peru so far...

Writing this from Lima, Peru...on the eve before I fly to Iquitos, which is in the heart of the rain forest and close to the Amazon river. Ending one stage (Incan ruins and Spanish conquest) and going into the wild.

So I will give a brief account of the visited places, impressions had and lessons learned and a couple of pics.

First a brief run down. From Mexico City, flew to Cuzco, Peru...major city of the Incas...and Spanish conquest of them. From there, travelled through the Sacred Valley...Pisac, Urumbamba, Ollantaytambo and Aqua Caliente before heading to Machu Picchu...seeing many ruins in between. Back to Cuzco and then flew to the capital Lima where we have been the past couple days.

Cuzco is a beautiful place, touristy/backpacker vibe which gives it a bit of the Disney shine, but good times. Going into the Sacred Valley, you either get more of the same on a smaller scale (Ollantaytambo and Pisac), worse (Agua Caliente) or not touristy at all (Urubamba). Ruins are spectacular...see the magnificence of the empire that was relative recent history, so can still imagine people living there, working the terraces, etc. I enjoy walking around ruins, but they also tend to put me in my place...the people who created them are gone, we have no idea who they are...just what they made. Identity is lost and it's place is taken by the memory in my head I place on it.

On to Lima...foggy and cloudy all the time it seems, but like Cuzco...there seems to be some parade every twenty minutes. Great plazas and Moorish balconies...great food.

The more I travel, the feeling I get is not so much how different this place is from that one or my home... but how similar it all is, how similar people are. I don't know if this is comforting or depressing...or both.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Lesson learned:

If you choose a hostel based on the fact they have a cute little monkey, expect the monkey will poop on your bag. Luckily, my sister decided on this point and Ricardo the monkey obliged her with the obligatory welcome poop.

Side note: The hostel should have been good since it's name was The Number One Hostel. I suppose they meant number one dump... which thinking back number two hostel would have been more appropriate.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I was thinking I needed me some karaoke in the town of Urubamba, Peru ...

Friday, November 4, 2011

Teotihuacan and the Day of Death

Writing this from Cuzco, Peru...adjusting to the altitude...

After arriving in Mexico City, decided to visit the ancient city of Teotihuacan, an ancient ruins that preceded the Aztecs. An UNESCO site, it had been abandoned for thousands of years, until being restored/cleaned up starting after the Mexican revolution.

Main highlights are the Avenue of the Dead,and the pyramids of the moon and sun. We heard a lot of explanations about this...surely the temples were sites of human sacrifice, but no one really knows exactly what was happening...just guesses based on other cultures in the region. The thing I got from this is the balance they tried to create and how similar this is to most other cultures...except maybe my own. They had matching sides of the avenue, temples for sun and moon, light and dark, man and woman, death and life. They viewed existence in a circular pattern, like the earth turnings from day to night and back to day again.

Contrasting this with earlier in the day when we visited an Catholic church they was built from and directly behind an ancient Aztec temple. The conquerors used the culture, the labor, the stones of the indigenous peoples to exploit them. The church was built from the stones of the city that it was built upon, by the people that had lived there and then inside, bloody images of Christ (invoking the human sacrifice), native animals such as puma and quetzal birds, etc. There is no balance here, no cycle...just a straight line. You are born and you achieve salvation in heaven. There is some balance...but the it's positive and negative...not a neutral balance like light and dark.

Which brings me to the Day of Death. We spent it during the night in the canals of Xochimilco (an Aztec construction and UNESCO) and a graveyard in this area. This is a day where Mexicans celebrate death, celebrate the balance between life and death. You can't have one without the other, so there is nothing to fear...just celebrate. Death is as much a gift as life. That is why we honor death with graves and tombs...not for mourning or grief, but respect and remembrance of a life lived.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Mexico city

After a bumpy flight we arrived...staying in the historic center, I am already getting the feeling this is a pretty crazy place.

Halloween and Day of the Dead, tons of skulls and little kids in werewolf costumes. The big central square has all these paper mâché monsters for a public art exhibit.