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adventures from down south
kipmaddog's Travel Blog

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Homeland Security

Houston, United States

A United States custom worker in the Bush Houston International Airport points to a window where a middle-aged woman, appearing to be of Asian decent, sits patiently behind a counter.

One of the customs agents blurts out, "Sir, please step to window number 2."

"Righty-O, Captain", I whisper to myself.

I walk across the freshly buffed linoleum floor and arrive at window number 2, where the female custom official seemed to sit ready to pry her fangs into fresh meat.

I arrived at the counter in fresh South American attire: a scruffy, unmanageable beard, a native Bolivian Indian shirt with a green, yellow, and orange collar, with cross-stitchings going down the front collar, and my half shoe, half sandal zapatos called Sanuks (check em out!).

She gave me a look as if I was Tarzan"s son, who was back from the Amazon, smuggling an Anaconda and some Colombian Bannanas.

I handed her my passport and U.S. Immigration form and waited for a response. She looked them both over in a glance. She didn't seem too interested in the documents as to this man with a dusty backpack thrown over his back. The only interest that seemed apparent was her slightly-squinted, alert eyes reflecting a chance to practice her heckling techniques for solo traveler"s venturing through South America for a solid chunk of time.

"Ahhhhhhh, Colombia. Hmmmmm, I see," the agent mumbled to herself.

I hear her and ask if there if anything wrong.

She gives me another, "Ahhhhhh Peru. Interesting. Hmmmmm, I see," in the same wise crack mumbled rythmn as the previous time.

She then responds to my question by leaning back in her office hair, letting out a sigh, and a series of endless questions, directed towards myself.

"How much money did you earn a month while saving up for your trip?"

"You worked at a sushi restaraunt, you say. Well, why did you work at a sushi restaraunt?"

"What did you spend your money on while you were in South America?"

I answer all of these questions and many more without giving too much or too little information, but just enough to answer her questions with well-rounded responses. When it came to the question of whether I had worked for money in any of the countries, well, let"s just say I had to give a well-rounded response in the steamy form of B.S., entirely skipping the part about teaching English to local Colombians.

Her questions finally end and now I feel like the woman knows me better than my own brother.

I do also like boxer briefs over boxer"s, in case you wanted to know, lady.

She slaps my passport up on the counter, followed by my United States Customs immigration form. I am abot to snatch both of them up, off the counter, when she pulls out a massive sharpie marker and writes, "C-1", in thick black capitals in the upper portion of my form.

I don"t think of anything when I see the "C-1".

The label didn"t seem to spook me. It just seeemd like a label the customs offical writes on every person" customs form if they are arriving from an international flight.

My whole initial conception of the "C-1" soon turned into dense, cloudy skies. The woman signaled me to the left and immediately i notice the lack of participants from my flight. Looking over my shoulder, it struck me that I was on a solo mission to Secondary Customs. Now, this is the part where the hairs on your neck start reaching for the sky.

After winding through five swtich-backs of black, airport line dividers and around an opaque white wall, I swiftly arrived at Secondary Customs.

In this seperate serach unit of the airport stood 3 uniformed secuirty officers, all with freshly shaven flat-tops and greasily shined balck boots.

Well, If I was honest enough not to get me in trouble and aswered all of their questions like a coherent, law-abbiding citizen, this would all be a walk in a very small park.

Now the time has come: I stroll up to a counter dragging my feet on the linoleum floor as 3 pairs of eyes follow me like I've got something they want.

A middle-aged gentleman looks up from his counter. He looked quite bored as I walked over to his counter, but once I arrived, his eyebrows perked up and his sagging cheeks tightened up,

"Heya there son", he blurts out in his best Houston-accent.

"Hello", I retort back

I initially want to give this guy a whole bunch of attitude for hasteling me. I mean, I was clean as a whistle. Clean as a 6 year old going to school with a sack lunch and L.A. Gears. They weren't going to pin anything on me, only poke me with never-ending questions a higher-up government official had created in hopes of catching bearded scoundrels who looked like they had been living the good life for far too long. Well, sheeit, I was guilty: the good life was still pumping through my veins. This man had probably spent the last 5 months, sitting behind a booth, cleaning his fingernails with his new Swiss Army knife, sucking on some Dip in his side cheek, and reading the latest addition of "Guns and Ammo", while his wife nursed 4 kids at home in a small, weathered one bedroom trailer. What the heck, I'll throw him a way out of his bordom and let him test his skills.

He puts on a pair of rubber gloves and gives them the ole" snaparew by pulling on the ends, quite similar to the style of a doctor telling you to spread em' and cough.

"Hmmmm", he says.

"Says here son that you were in Colombia."

"Yeah, it does say that," I say.

"What business did you have in Colombia."

"Well, first of all I don't do buisness. Colombia was nothing but what Epirurus would call pleasure".

This thought dosent actually leave my mouth, but hovers in the back o my head like a hot cannon waiting to explode onto the target.

"Oh, just traveling", I tell him.

"Traveling. Well, what do you mean by traveling? What did your travels entail?"

Now I begin to heat up. I start giving him the most simple and at times one word answers to satisfy his questions.

"Walking and taking pictures in beautiful landscapes," I tell him.

"Yeah but how much walking did you do and was the camera in your possession at all times?"

He seemed under the impression that I would tell him my life story and since I was not motivated to do so, he seemed to think I was toying with him. I knew this from the sight of the flesh on his face, going from pink to ripe tomato red.

He"s already asked me twice in ten minutes if I brought back any tobacco or food products into the country. I tell him "no", both times. Hmm.. maybe he thought I"d switch my answer, so he asked me the same question twice. But then again he could have been a rookie, stumbling over his own interrogation questions.

He pulls out a book on Peru, turns it so that the spine is sticking up to the ceiling and flutters through all of the pages in hopes of some sort of contra band falling out.

"How was this book?"

I retort back,

"Well, I was in Peru and this book is a book on Peru, so it was quite informative."

"Really", he says.

"Yeah, really", I say.

Through the small spikes of his flat-top I could now see small beads of sweat forming on his scalp. Each time he leaned back down to pull something out of my bag, a small bead would slide through the symmetrical spikes and slip down through the cracks in his lined forehead.

After rummaging through colorful, knitted Bolivian socks that hadn't been washed since I last needed them for a towel in a rest-stop shower, a metal Mate straw used by Argentinians to drink their tea (Herba Mate), a rusted metal compass, and my daisey-duke, cut-off jean shorts, still starched by the salty Carribean sea, he looks at me and says,

"Son what are you going to do with your life in the next couple of years?"

I puff my chest out, give him a mad-dog stare and say,

"I"m going to Harvard Law School next year."


"What field of law?"

And I tell him well, since I've been young, my motivation has been vehemently driven in the direction of stopping police corruption, corruption within the ranks of all government officials, from congressmen to government anti-terrorist teams (such as the one you are on buddy!), and the defense of minorities of the world!

He quickly shoves all of my dirt-covered belongings and tells me I can go.

"Thats it. You don"t need anything more? No more questions."

He stares the other way.

"No, you"re fine. Please go", he quickly mutters under his breath.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on November 15, 2009 from Houston, United States
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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The beginning of the end: Argentina

Salta, Argentina

IT was 2 more chaotic nights in the city of La Paz followed by a night bus ride. We rode through the night on a road made of dirt, with an old man snoring next to me and the sound of the tires hopping over rocks in the road. Noise and vibration made the night into a sleepless busride. Soon only to arrive at Sucre, in the south of Boivia.

After 2 days of walking through street markets, basking in the sun like a Lizard, and chatting it up with some Aussies, I was ready for Argentina.

Another overnight bus, a chilly border crossing of walking through a wild-west like town with border stamps and glaring stares from the Argentinan police and I was across. After a couple more searches and dover-min pincher run-ins, our bus arrived in Salta during the late afternoon.

Salta was a hot town of parks, pick-pocketers and salami in 31 flavors. People switched from Coca Tea to Mate Tea. The accent of the Argentinan was softer and loftier than the Bolivian"s.

After Salta followed a 2 day expedition into the high deserts of Argentina, near the Chilean border, for some wine work at a town called Fiambala. After changing buses 16 and a half times and a couple wait by the side of the road experiences I was ready to get to this damn town. Most buses only went to this town on certain days and at particular times.

After a view of the town of less than 1,000 people, a talk the owner who informed me of my grandiose payment of 5 dollars a day, I was ready to scamper outta there and hit the next town. I figuered the effort was worth the sights. This town just wasnt my place and travel time was precious time. I wouldnt put it to waste. Not now, not ever.

Finally I arrived in Cordoba after 14 more hours of buses. Cordoba was a shining, materialistic city of shopping malls, buffed-up, plastic looking monuments, and 15 year old girls wearing 2,000 dollars worth of designer clothing that their daddy had bought them.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on October 22, 2009 from Salta, Argentina
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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Events that make life what it is....

La Paz, Bolivia

We soon approached a steep icy slope. This slope had much less snow on it and now it was a true test of the strength of our crampons. We needed durability in these babies, they could save us from a fall down the icy slope. This section was steeper, with less snow, so now it was a situation in which the crampons would beee fully keeping us mountained to the ground.

To confess, I am quite frightened of heights. This mountain I told was a gradual, "rolling" (which could have many interpretations, especially from the standpoint of a rugged Bolivian mountaineerer. We got to a point on the slope, where the guide instructed us to be super cautious and pay strick attention to the the techniquality of the slope. Soon we got to parts where the path was a literally 1/2 meter wide. Looking over the edge of the path was a vertical drop of 30 meters. Then the ground below was covered in crevices, or tiny slits in the glacier, just wide enough for a person to fit through, if they fell.

If I had to use the bathroom I probably would have gone. I"m in the middle, the guide is breaking the trail try to find the safest way up the slope. He" tugging on my rope, telling me to go. I"m walking like a baby who just learned how to walk. The Isreali"s breathe is carried towards us in the night wind. He"s 3 meters behind me.

I soon get to a point where my crampons are"t sticking in the ice. The ice is too loose. Next, I literally have to make a strong swoop with my ice axe, chisleing it a meter above my head. Next I pull myself up with the the planted ice axe. All the while I"m askuing myself "kip, what in the heck have you gotten yourself into?"

The Isreali was scared too, I could tell. He was playing it off quite well. SO was I. At least I was trying....I"m sure the guide was looking at us with a big grin....ha, newbies...

We made it over the slope finally looking down, at the Chinsese guys who were next up the slope. I could just tell, these guys weren"t going to make it. I purely made it up by luck or chance. The forces of the mountain were with me.

We kept on treking threw the night and next appeared to be a crevice/glacier field. Looming in the distance was vertical rock, maybe 500 meters high. Scattered across the rock were small patches of ice and long, teeth-pointing icecles. Somehow we were going to make it up the back side of that thing? I didn"t even want to ask the guide how we were going to make it up that. I honestly didnt want the answer. I would see it when I got there. Now I could start mentally preparing myself for the summit attempt.

The wind began to howl. Voices nor the sound of our oof our cruncing steps on the ice could be heard. All that could was one"s breath echoing throughout the body. We kept climbing all the while I"m grinning to myself thinking this is totally nuts: sky-divers had better odds than this.

Next I see a the technical part approaching at the base of the summit. I look at the guide, already knowin gthe answer and ask him if this next part is difficult. I thoght the last part was kamikazee and he looks at me and says yeah its a hearder than the last part. And its the beginning of the hardness of the next part. So in other words look down at your feet, shut-up, take a deep breath and hold on for craziness squared.

We started on a path with a couple more crevices to hop over. At first the guide was hoppin gover these like a well-springed cat on way too much cat nip. Now he was stopping at the edge of one, planting his ice axe in the ice, looking for weak spots and/or hidden holes. We would arrive at a crevice, he"d search for possible disaster-leading pieces of ice, finish his search quickly, and pounce like a damn olympian long jumper. He"d give me an encouraging jump. Flying through the air was an uncomtrollable ball of kinetic momentum, with no breaks and whose biggest enemy was gravity. I"d make it across, opening the eyes at the other side. Then the Isreali would go. He didnt seem like a thinking man, using reason as his guide at every step. He seemed to act off on instinct and jump without testing the snow. This was a way to abolish some of the fear of the moment.

We finally started rapping around the back siode of the mountain. It appeared as though we could see some sort of trail, splitting the rock slab in two and winding around the backside of the summit. This was the way we would take. We now approached a steep slope of half rock and half ice. The trail wound its way through this field. Soon we realized that the tricky part if using crampons around ice was that the crampons had no traction in the rock. I would try to plant my feet in what look like ice and I"d hit rock an inch down. However, I wouldnt figure this out until I put all of my weight on the foot and it would slip right out of the rock.

You"d stumble and fall. The guide would luckily have the rope nice and tight and catch you with a giant tug. You"d regain your balance and try for another section of ice that would hold you. This not only happened with the crampons but with the ice axe as well. I would find a sturdy place to plant the crampon and then next I"d hack at the ice to find a spot for the ice axe to stick into the ice. Sometime I"d do a pull-up on the ice axe and it would break out of the ice, sending me stumbling backward and the guide and the Isreali would catch me with the rope. Definitely an unrepeatable, one time life event.

Now was the time for untestable madness. YOur reason was out of the window long, long ago. ITwas 445 am and we had 45 minutes left until the top. Up ahead lay a trail of a meter wide with an unrelenting steepness. I was moreso of a crawl. Actually, it could have more acurately resembled climbing a tree. On my right was a drop of 500 vertical meters of strictly ice. To my left was about a 300 meter drop of pure rock and ice. The trail stuck out mayve 8 inches on each side of my feet, beyond that was gravity took one right off the edge.

The last part took us 45 minutes to go maybe 400 meters. The wind was howling at the top. All I wanted was to get the hell off of this piece of ice. At the very top there was no rock, just pure ice. When we arrived at the top, the victory and joy didnt hit me wuite right. It wasnt until later that I most appreciated such a feat. I was naseous, with a constant state of uncomfortability throbbing throughout my body. Flashing red lights in the body saying "kip, get the hell down, now, I mean it!"

The top area was so small there wasnt even really aplace to sit. It was all uneven jagged, chisled ice. there was room for maybe 7 people max. The guide planted 2 ice axes. He then wrapped the rope around both, then around his boady, then around my torso, and then the Isreali"s. Right.....so we cant even be at the top of this peak without being ropped in. I timidly hinched down for some quick pictures and cheery grins amongst our "team".

The sun rose 5 minutes later in a smiling ball of fireness reminding us we made it. this is what we had waited for. The sun rose slow and steady, lighting up the city of La Paz down below, in the distamce. Next came the lighting up of Lake Titticaca some 200 km in the distance.

Life had ammounted to this moment. I was standing on a peak of nearly 20,00 feet. the icy wind was in my hair. My lungs were flat. I had icy toes and fingers and boy did I feel like shit. None of that mattered for the next coupl eof minutes at the summit. This was my life and I was living it. Consciously choosing to be nowhere in the world in any time or place. I wanted to be here, on this mountain with the howling wind blowing against my eardrums. I had a perspective I had never experienced before. It was a birds eye view on all of the problems of civilizations.

Tragidies and jouyous triumphs of all walks of life now came into perspective as something that couldnt frighten or suprise me at that moment. I had risen above, taken it all in and seen the earth from a perspective of an old wise Socratic-like man, sitting in his throne, knowing truly how meaningless axieties, frustrations, and negative thoughts had no place in the world. There were some things in life beyond our control. Being on that mountain in that icy time and slapped me in the face with a realization that humans were fragile beings, we had to take every day one at a time and continuously be tickled with a giggle that we were quite lucky to be alive.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on October 20, 2009 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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And the summit attempt.....

La Paz, Bolivia

I"m awoken, well not really awoken, since sleep never came. The only thing that truly did was the howling of the wind and the iciness in my toes as I lay in my thin sleeping-bag, trying at every moment to sleep and get comfortable. Well, yeah...that didnt exactly happen.

The two Chinsee guys alarms go off. It"s midnight, we"re at almost 5200 meters and the sound of the alarm meant that today was do or die! It was the dinner bell for the summit attempt. We would lace up our boots, strap on our crampons, zip our jackets up tighly against the nipping wind and attempt to summit Huayana Potosi at just shy of 6,100 meters.

So, the 2 Chinese guys head down the wooden ladder to the floor below. Along with them comes the girl from Holland, the Isreali, and me, the tall gangly gringo.

We pretty much woke the guides up. As soon as they heard us preparing our gear, sipping tea, and eating bread, they came stumbling out of their rooms: groggied-eyed, yet with cheery grins. "Are you ready?", they question. YEah I"m ready man. I could tell they slept past their alarms and they we"re trying to play off like they had been waiting up for us to get up.

We all put our gear on. And on me/with me I had 4 pairs of socks, a pair of crampon boots, 3 pairs of long-underwear pants, and then a layer of snow pants. On top of that I had on my lucky Che Guevara t-shirt, my other lucky blue t-shirtthatI had previously nicked off of a good buddies x-girlfirend, one long-sleeved t-shirt, 2 wool sweaters, a water-proof snow jacket, 2 beanies, 2 pairs of gloves, a head-lamp, a backpack full of sugary drinks bread, 2 liters of water, 3 snickers bars, and of course that camera of mine. I mean I sorta did need proof to show whoever I would tell in the furture: that I summited a 6100 meter peak in Bolivia. Now what, biatches! Bring it! Well, to me at least, that was a feat, if completed, would need some much need bragging leverage.

WE walked out into the night. All that could be heard was the gust of wind rushing over the top of freshly powdered snow. The moon was full and the air had a crispness never experienced before. We took in some extra gulps of air and walked through pilings of rocks to the beginning of the snow. With our crampons in hand, and after 3 minutes of walking we reached the snow and trapped our spiky crampns on. For the sake of my future self, as well as others, a crampon is a flat metal plate of spikes, which one straps to the bottom of their snow boots. The crampon is used to scale ice, and snow, a pretty much a vertical angle. They we"re like ice picks under your feet. One felt like one was walking on the moon. An experience one had never felt, over-came one. Along with the altitude and that fact it was 1230 at night, it all made for quite an interesting experience.

The guide handed us harnesses. We put them on with our icy fingers, and then looped a rope through a metal clamp which was attatched to the harness, looped the rope through the Isreali guy, and then the guide raped the rope a couple times around his small frame. And if we fell, this little man would be catching me from a fallen death? We turned on our head-lamps and set off determined as ever to conquer the peak.

The dutch girl set off with her guide just ahead of our 3 man team. The Chinese guys were behind us with their guide. And so it began...

THe first part was a steep bank of snow. We hiking straight up it. If you could imagine: stand a sea-level with a blind blond on, a sock in your mouth, and walk just fast enough to put one foot in front of the other touching each heel to each toe, on each step. Thi is the pace and feeling we were going at.

I had my head down, staying calm, trying to focus on my breathing. The guide led quite a slow pace. We would thank him later that day for saving our asses from crashing and burning before we reached the summit.

We continued up the snowy bank. The only horizon we had was simply more of snowy peak. We could see no peak or summit, only more, much more, of almost vertical snow bank.

After an hour of walking we finally reached the top of the snow bank. Then a fzoen chilliness tickled our spines as the beast loomed in the distance: there it was, the peak, just waiting for us with open arms and an all invite agenda.

As we began the next part I began to realize I was getting myself into a mess of treacherous mountaineering. We arrived at a couple crevices: large icy hoes rangin from 20 meters deep to 50. Some of thm even looked bottom-less. The guide would jump over a crevice, say about 2-3 meters wide. He would be on the other side of the hole, giving the Isreali guy and I an encouraging tug on the rope. "Jump", he"d say in his broken English.

You gotta be out of your F%$&-ing mind man!!!!!!! Jump? Yeah, and I"m Jesus. He"d continue looking at us seriously and say, no really jump. The first one had one praying if one wasnt religious, sweating out of nervousness, and loosing all laws of logic, reason, and thought. One just had to act off of instinct and do the thing!

Soon we were hopping over crevices every 10 minutes and the slope took on a steepness that one felt like one was crawling on one"s hands and knees. The guide instructed us to have our ixe-axe in one hand and dig it into the slope at every step. The other hand held the rope we were all connected to. We always held the rope on the down-side of our slope and the ice axe in the upper-end of the slope, in the other icy hand.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on October 17, 2009 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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Internet Cafes in La Paz

La Paz, Bolivia

You walk into an internet cafe. By the way, you"re in La, Paz Bolivia. The sign out front says "internet". You go in and ask to guy in your most broken Spanish if he has fast internet connection. No problem my friend he says. Alright, buddy I"ll try your "internet" cafe, but have already been to like 5 and the computers functioned like the first Mac"s from the 1980"s. You sit down. There are keys on the keyboard, but there are no actual letters on them. In fact in appears as though the dude who owns the cafe, cut out magazine clippings of all letters of the alphabet and used scotch-tape to tape the letters down. YOu sit down, the screen stays blank for a good 5 minutes if your lucky. You usually always have to go back to the counter and say in your broken Spanish, hey dude, my computer is not on and if Im being charged by the hour, you better get thiis thing going and stop talking to yourone of many senoritas on the phone. He says tranquillomy friend. Sit down and Ill have it on. YOu sit back down. Now when the computer turns on, it sounds like a damn lawn-mower engine getting started. YOu sit for another 5 mintes. Finally a screen pops upwith icons. You then go to your yahoo mail account for example. Then the screen starts glitching and flickering. It then takes another 5 minutes to upload your email. Frustration starts to build. But, then again, you tell yourself that you are in BOlivia. Alright, I"ll have some patience. Then you get to your email and you start to type, replying to say an email from your dear old mother who"s been worried sick about you. And, if you"re not an Einstien at typing, you usually have to look at the keys and not the screen when you"re typing. Then after 5 minutes of typing you realize that the "n" key didnt work during the 5 mintes you were typing, nor did the "comma"key, nor did the "o" key. Ahhhhhhhhhh. You then give up on the email since most of the keyson this key board dont work. You then think, alright, have some patience, I"ll try uploading photos. YOu plug in your connection device, set your camera on its aother connection device. Now the screen starts flickering. The whole F-ing computer shuts down. YOu look at your camera and for some reason 50 photos have mysteriously dissapeared. You"re sweating bullets and steaming at the ears from frustration. You stomp your way to the counter. Listen buddy.your keys dont work, the connection is slower than the first computer invented, and mine just shut down. Where is a faster internet cafe you ask him. He replies, "AMIGO, THIS IS THE FASTEST INTERNET CAFE IN ALL OF LA PAZ (and this is the capitalcity of Bolivia?)..........YOu pay him his money for his crap computer and realize internet is quite hopless in Bolivia. This time, I had to bribe the Bolivian Bill Gates tolet me use is laptop to even post this..........Well, thats Bolivia for ya.....

permalink written by  kipmaddog on October 7, 2009 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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The beginning of the climb

La Paz, Bolivia

So I walk out of the hotel at 850 sharp. I briskly walk to the agency to meet the manager at 9 am sharp, so he told me yesterday. I stand out front of the agency, its closed. So closed that iron gates are still holding tight to the ground in front on the door. 905 hits. Where the hell is this guy Im thinkin. I skan the streets. They"re lined with crushed beer cans and peanut shells from the night before. Apparently, the night I needed the most sleep there happen to be a Bolivian fiesta. The kind where they closed down the streets, chaos and music all involved. So much for sleep that night. Now, 915 hits. The agency"s rot-iron gates are still closed. There is nobody there to meet me. Is this a skam Im thinkin. I gave the guy the money yesterday and he told me to meet him at 9 am sharp and there is nobody here, in fact the damn agency is not even open yet. Im pacing around, frantic. I might have been ripped off I might have not, but in all actuality there is nobody here and Im here hydrated equipped qith sugary drinks, snikers bars, and crackers for the summit attempt of Huyana Potosi, at 6088 meteres, by far the largest moutain this here body would ever attempt.

5 minutes go by and out of the corner of by eye I see a frantic, over-weight man in a sweater that fit him when he was a bit lighter. Now his belly just buldges out from under-neath the red wool. He comes up to me short of breath and gives me a golden smile, with all of his gold fake teeth glistening in the morning sunlight. He"s got a bag in one had with some sort of vegetable sticking out of the top of it. Im assuming this is the food that was included in my package deal. Damn, talk about organization buddy. Wait I think, this is bolivia, everything is always 30 minutes behind schedule.

The man greets me with a hand-shake, a proper good morning salute, and a are you "listo" question? Yeah Im thinking, lets get this show on the road. He frantically runs to the back room, grabs my gear, hands it to me, and I try to stuff it all down my bag along with snacks, camera, and 8 liters of water. Damn, I better drink this water Im thinking as I sling the bag onto my back cuz this bag going on my back, up that mountain, is going to be more than tiresome.

We walk out to the street. There"s a gray toyota car parked out front. He says this is the vehicle that will be taking me to base camp. I nod my head, say o.k. and he hops into the cab with me. Im in the back seat and we"re flying through traffic. Supposedly my guide is waiting for me along with an Isreali guy. It would me the Isreali guy, me and the guide in our group. Apparently the Isreali guy booked a 3 day summit attempt, hoping to spend the first day at base camp, aclimatizing and practicing with his crampons and ice axe on a glacier near base camp. I just booked a 2 day trek to be more economical and with the thought in my head that it couldnt me to hard to hammer an ice axe in the snow. I had read plenty about Everest and this gear didnt seem too hard to master.

We start driving uphill out of La Paz. Immediately we are stopped in gridlock traffic. Apparently today was also some kind of Bolivian festival. the streets were packed and our taxi wasnt going anywhere. 15 minutes go by and we finally start to move. The streets are packed with cheerful, roudy BOlivians, some are even drinkin brew, yet its 945 am.

Our taxi oulls off some side streets, goes through some blind intersections, and we make it out of the valley of La Paz finally! The agency manager gets out of the front seat and tells me hes done tagging along. The cab will take me the rest of the way to base camp. He hands the cabi the food, gets out, tells me the cabies name is Pedro, and briskly walks down the street. ALright Im thinking, kinda strange, but I"ll go with the flow. The cabi speed off to the outskirts of La Paz. We climb higher and higher out of the city. We then pull over. The cabbie informs me he"s got to get some bread for me and the Isreali guy. I sit and the cab and wait. Literally 20 minutes come by and he comes out of the store with 10 pieces of bread in a black bag. Damn, dude, did you buy the whole store? 20 minutes for 10 pieces of bread? We speed off. The neighborhoods begin to look, seedier, more run down. The peoples faces look darker and more bleached by the sun than the people in the interior of the city. We then hit dirt road. And the ride starts to get bumpy and dusty. Still the cab speeds over dtiches in the dirt and large rocks. The sun is out and its probably 75 degrees. I roll the window down, and start pounding fluids. I start pouring sweat from the heat. Just as I realize how damnhot it is, the cabbie looks over at me and tells me to roll all of the windows up. Why, Im thinkin? Before I can ask why he says he dosent want the interior of his car to get dirty. Im thinkin, dude, you striclkly drive mountaineerers to the base of this mountain over dusty roads, day in and day out, what the heck do you ecpect? I obey his orders and roll up the windows. There are less houses, less people on the side of the road. The dirt road streches to the horizon and just peaking over it, looming in the distance, is a snow-capped peak. That must be the mother of all mother of mountains that Im going to conquer. There it is, you"re mine sucker, Im thinkin.

I begin to pour sweat and really want my damn window rolled down, yet he says "no" when I ask. COme on budy at least some A.C. or something to cool me off, Im about to climb the highest mountain of my life for crying out loud. Im wearing a small t-shirt and pants sweating. He"s sweaing thick, black jeans, and a wool sweater. He"s dressed for the snow and its fricken hotter than heck out. Do you realize that all the dust is coming in your vents too buddy? I dont actually tell him, but wonder if he has a clue why even if his windows are up, his car is still dusty.

We now begin to pass small villages. Women and men are plowing the fields nearby. Llamas are roaming the road along side our cab. We sontinue to climb up this dirt road, make it over a hill, and then the beast comes into sight, looming snowing and glistening in the sun. We drive another 30 minutes or so on a dirt road and then hit a police patrol checkpoint. The cabbie waves casually to the cop at the check point and we stroll by slowly. The cab looks over at me and says since he drives the this road everyday, the cops know him and they never stop him. Great buddy, I dont really care, can we please get some air in this sweat-box!

We begin to talk after 45 minutes of silence. He tells he he has a family and he was born and raised in a village just outside of La Paz. I ask him about the mountain. He says its easy and hes done it several times. As we get closer to the mountain and the details of the mountain start to become more clear in sight, I realize that this mountain sure as heck dosent look easy. We drive for another 20 minutes out so and pass by yellow looking lakes on our left. He tells he the lakes are yellow from all of the mineral deposits coming off the mountain. O.K. good, I think its not just all of the urine from the people of La Paz accumulated into one giant "lake". We finally arrive at the base of the mountain. Well actually we arrive at the base of about 1000 meters of pure rock pilings. the real mountain was snowy and looming behind these rocks. The cabbie and I get out and walk up to this small, gray, stone-building. We walk inside. There is nobody in there but an old wrinkled face Bolivian women. There is no guide and no Isreali dude. We sit and wait in this small buidling for about 5 minutes. Then, in comes walking this purple-faced, blistered-lipped Bolivian equipped in mountain gear. Sweet, thiis is my guide, He looks rough and tumble. Just what I need to conquer this beasst. He"s out of breath though and after 60 seconds go by, in comes a blond-haired woman. She"s red-faced, looks exhausted, and definitely isnt an Isreali man.

My cabbie busts out some swift Spanish and from what I could understand, this wasnt my guide. This guy had just taken this women from Canada up to the summit earlier that morning. Then he says that my guide and the Isreali guy already had hiked up to the next camp. they saw them 3 hours ago, higher on the mountain. The guide says that apparently, the gold-teethed, beer-bellied tour agency manager had called my guide and told him I was sick, bed-ridden, and there would only be the guide and the Isreali dude.

I start to get pissed. Why on earth would this dude phone to base camp the morning I was supposed to meet the guide and tell them that I was sick, bed-ridden and couldnt make it? We go over some plans, We try calling to the second camp, where my guide and the Isreali guy where, "supposedely". The phone"s dont work. There is no reception. I look at the other guide and say look man I didnt come all this way to have my guide ditch me, my tour agency lie and say I was bed-ridden. I wasnt going to turn around, not now. I was ready: mentally, physically, and spiritually. I look at the other guide as my cabbie is standing at my side and say look man tell me the way to the second camp and I"ll go up the the second camp solo, carrying my food for myself and the Isreali guy, along with my dead-weight of a backpack. The guy look st me like Im craxy and basically says its about 2 hours of hiking up scattered shale and grantie rocks. I dont care I say, Im going up. Then in a flash of a moment, my cabbie suggets he will leadhe to the second camp. Well, thats a plan, lets do this!

The cabbie looks in no shape to be climbing a mountain, but he takes the large bag of food and we set off through thick, icy wind and fog. The visibility is about 10 meters and somehow, this billy-goat of a cabbie sets off at a gruelling pace, appearing as though he knew the mountain like his home neighborhood. There is no real trail, only rocks, slighly darkened by some substance that appeared as though it served as a marker for the trail. We"re at about 14,000 feet and already I"m gasping for breath. I feel like I have a sock in my mouth and Im trying breath throuhg it. The cabbie continues to climb the rocks, in freakin dress shoes! Im follwing behind, having no idea which direction we are going, the fog is that thick. After 1 hour and 15 minutes of exhausting climbing, my cabbie tries his phone to call my guide. Somehow, miraculously he gets through. He talks for a but, gets off the hone with my guide and repeats the same story that the other guide said at base camp. He had no clue he was suppose to meet me, he thought it was just him and the Isreali guy. At this point, things seem so out of wack and disorganized, that I"ll I can do is laugh. Thhe cabbie informs me that the guide ould climb down from the second camp and meet us.

So, as nice a guy as he was, the cabbie with food in hand says he will continue to climb with me and show me the way until we see the guide in sight coming down to meet us. We begin to climb up large, mossy rocks. Fog rolls in thick like in a harbor of San Francisco. The cabbie sets off at a booking pace. The only problem is I have a bag weighing about 45 pound son my back. My sweat soaks through my shirt and the cabbie stes off, light-weighted and adjusted to the altitude. I mean, come on, he"s Boivian, this altitude buisness is in his blood.

We keep climbing up rocks. There is no real identifiable path up the mountain, so out of constant anxiety that this man was leading me to the middle of nowhere, I kept askin ghim if he was sure we were headed to the base camp. He kept replying in such a relaxed manner that I was sure he was pulling my leg and he was leading me in the complete wrong direction.

After a few hott, hollars, and whistels, my cabbie some how comes into c otact with my guide. My guide had been climbing down from the camp to meet us halfway. Where we were at that point was most definitely not halfway. ÇBut my guide appproached us with a toothless grin, cheery-eyed and greeting me with incredible warmness for the altitude we were at, 4900 meters.

I thanked the cabbie ,the cabbie handed the guide my food and out of sincere genuity. the guide took my pack, slapped it over it 5 foot tall frame and set off, leading the path like a damn high-altudie billy-goat.

I followed the guide from behind. This time without the pack, things were a bit much easier. Finally the fog parted and there it was: "base camp" if you may call it that. It was a large wooden- like cabin, with a sign on the front saying 5100 meters. Next to the "cabin" ws a large blu, tarp, which resembled a large tent. Apparently this is where the guides did the cooking for the climbers. I got to the front door of the cabin. The fog had dissapated quite abit and now I had a clear voew of the path I climbed and the path I would soon climb later that evening, leaving at midnight. The cabin seemed to be the part, or seam between the large mossy rocks and the beginning of the snow. Above the cabin was bithing but pure snow and ice. At the top of this icy pile lay the summit of Huayana Potosi.

I walked into the cabin. It had an icy chilliness to it. The time was probabaly 3"clock and it was maybe 45 degrees. By the way the cab had no heaters, so the only differenece in the feelng of the temperature contratsed between the inside and the outside was simply the protection from the. wind. The guide took my pack, threw it on the cabin floor and invited me to sit in the room.The room only had a large 30 foot long picnic-like table and slogans written on the wall from fellow climbers such as "the worst thing that ha ever happened to me in my life was when my fiance of 6 years left me for her boss. Climbing this mountain was a close second". Seeing phrases ssimlar to this one broke up the seriousness and brevity of the situation which lie ahead. I joined the Isreali (the dude I"d be climbing with later that night, along with my guide), a dutch girl, and 2 Chinsese dudes for soem cups of Coca Tea, soup, and bread. Tis the diet of a mountaineerer in Bolivia!

We all said our hellos, ate and then weer told to take a nap in the attic room, which was built above the common room. The 2 Chinsese guys had theyr own guide and the Dutch girl had her own as well. The Isreali and I would with the last guide. I was glad he was ours. HE was whimisical and could not stop grinning. The guided instructed us to take a nap on the floor of this room. Keep, in mind the only sleepin gbag I had was one my friend Jon gave me. He used it in theheat of Nimibia in the southern part of Africa. Keep in mind, we weer at 5100 meters when the guides casually told us to take a nap. At that poin tI was at the highest I had ever been in my life. Along with the cold, I sat there on my back shivering, unable to sleep from the altitude. I kept looking over at my fellow climbers. evereyone elese was sound asleep in their Antarctic-like sleeping bags like bears in the middle of hibernation. Boy, was I envious.

2 hours went by. It was 5 o"clock. the guides made us more soup, a bit of pasta, bread, and of course plenty of tea. We ate and the food was crap. Altitude was casting its spell over me and I felt quite uncomfortable at all moments.

The plan would be to now crash out until 1145 pm. then we would put on all of our gear, hike to the edge of the snow, put on our crampons, our rope harnesses, turn on our head lamps and grad our ice axes like they were our life preservers. Well, they surely would be, if anyone of us ended up in a tricky situation.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on October 7, 2009 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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Conquering the Mountain

La Paz, Bolivia

I had shopped around town for a bit. The word on the street was that there existed this god-like mountain called Huyana Potosi. The mountain was 6088 meters and supposedly, one of the easiest 6000+ mountains in the world. Sonce Ive been a kid I have always gotten altitude sickness, but have had this strange fascination with mountains, bid and tall. It seemed like some sort of ironic desire I had with mountains. The more they made me sick and queesey, the more I wanted them. Maybe it was the pure fact that I could handle ànything on this earth involving endurance, but the altitude always got to me. I couldnt handle this reality. It had to be overcome, some way some how.

In a flash ofamoment I made upmy mind to try the mountain. I had been in La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, for almost 3 days. The altitude was at almost 12,000 feet. I knew the key to success on any big mountain, was for me, a matter of aclimatizing. I strolled the streets looking for mountaineering agencies that woould provide uides for the mountains. The first one I went into told me it would cost 1050 Bolivianos (7 Bolivianos per 1 U.S. Dollar). The guy behind the desk was Swiss. He talked to me like I was a 5 year old boy. Now, son, have you ever been on snow? Yes, doyou know who you"re talking to? Im a Madden, Sir, with alldo respect. Now, he says, its going to be cold. Yeah, and a bear shits in the woods, too, did you know that...Im thinkin.. He went on for a good 20minutes laying down all of the precautions. After awhile, I told him look, Ill be fine buddy, I can handle anything. I told him I would think about it and be back by 4 pm with a decision.

Now Im walking back to my Hotel, yes this time I was staying at a cheap hotel. Most of the hostels in La Paz, reminded me of surrogate frat-houses, allequipped qith bars and about 50 drunken Irish and English people, gone out of their mind. I needed some peace. Right before I get back to my hotel, I see a sign offering a guide to Huyana Potosi. I poke my head in and there is this fat bastard of a Bolivian with gold teeth sitting behind the desk. You want to climb the mountain he says. Yeah, as a matter of fact I do buddy. Ok 670 Bolivianos. I did the math and realized I couldnt score a better dealin town. I slapped the money in his hand instantly, signed the waiver, which basically says, if you fall intoa crevace or off a cliff, they are not held responsible. He then ledme to a back room where all of there gear was to get sized up. He basically kicked in this door because the handle was broken. Inside the room was an old man who reeked of booze and after-shave. He looked to be a 40 year old man inside an 80 year old body. Lots of sun, altitude, booze, and bad food his whole life added upto be a horrible combination. After I tried everything on I had: 2 crampons, 1 ice axe, 2 gators, a pair of snow boots, a face mask, jacket, helmet, and snow pants. The gear was all crap and I now realized was the price was so cheap. The gear was probably used by 1970"s mountaineerers. It was all torn and tattered. I left the gear, grabbed a heavy dinner of pasta and some ambiguous sort of red meat and hit the sack. Tomorrow would be the day.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on October 6, 2009 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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Lake Titticaca and then the Craziness of La Paz

La Paz, Bolivia

I arrived at Lake Titticaca after an exhausting border crossing. I had to get about 6 different papers and stamps, a couple of pat downs by Bolivian Officers, and of course the 134 dollar enterance fee for U.S. citizens. but hey I"m not involved: the U.S. charges these poor Bolivians to enter the U.S. so for a bit of revenge, Evan Morales, the first indigenious president to be "democratically" elected, charges our asses the same. It would be worth it though. Bolivia was dirt cheap and in fact the poorest country in South America. Now if you want to get all academic there are many confounding factors, this "poor" quality could be measured by health, intelligence, values...but instead I think the elite would much rather use "material goods" as a proper measure.

I took a bus from Puno to Copacabana. Two 6 foot 6 Austrains sat behind me. they could have been the govinators"s twins.

I stayed at a small, family owned hospedeje for 3 bucks. My own room, hot shower, bed with wool blankets, and a balcony over the lake. What now. Although the hospedeje included hot water, when you wanted to take a shower you had to tell the old, gold-teethed, black-braided haired women to hit the secret valve in her bedroom. then her husband would come out and say all machismo like " mas rapido, mas rapido!" Meaning take the damn shower fast, you gringo. Im thinking hey, man, the sign says "hot water", it doesent say "hot water for only 2 minutes".

I walked the shores of the lake during the day. The temperature cooled to I@d say about 50 degrees by 330 p.m.

I met some local indians. Literally indians. but, they were Peruvian, hanging out in Lake Titticaca selling jewlry. I wrapped it up with them a bit in Spanish, talking history, th emeaning of their culture, and how similar they were to the Native American indians. These dudes took a liking to me and gave me a sacred stone from their tribe for protection against the evil spirits. I couldnt refuse the offer. The younger brother of the 2 strapped it around my neck and now I was protected!

Lake titticaca was truly magnificent. It emmited cold winds, desolate shores, and old wooden boats that the ancients once road in. These boats were wooden with each end (the front and back) curled up like the tip of freshly waxed mustache.

The night was unbearble cold. I had on 3 pairs of socks 3 pairs of pants, an under-shirt, t-shirt, long-sleeve shirt, 2 woolen sweaters, a beanie, and was wrapped in a sleeping bag. But, damn the cold kept coming. I awoke early at 630, eager to get some hot tea. I had a bit of breakfest, and took a local bus full of old women, toothless old men, and me, the gringo. We passed through snowy-peaks, and llamas, scattered across the road. We then had to take a ferry with our mini bus, across Lake Titticaca. I met some Argentinians selling jewelry. We chatted Spanish and then finally entered what looked like the craiest city in the world- La Paz. I drove in a cab with the Argentnians. there were no lanes on the roads. A wheel flew off a bus next to me while it was moving. Once again, a kid puked on my shoe. The city was the highest capital city in the world. There were bullet holes the size of quaters outside my hostel. the president was staying 4 blocks away. This city has no rules, no morals....police uniforms are actually sold in clothing stores. But hey, Im here for the cultural relativism.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on October 1, 2009 from La Paz, Bolivia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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Arrequippa for some peace and quiet

Copacabana, Bolivia

Well, after some long-haired, large-mouthed Austraians recomended me to stay in this hostel in Arrequippa, I made it. Arrequippa is known as canyon country. Everyone in the United States thinks that the Grand Canyon is the largest in the world. Well, it is the widest, but not the deepest. Arrequippa, located in the southwest corner of Peru has the deepest canyon in the world.

I made it to Arrequippa at 7 am after taking an overnight bus. Once again these things are a bit hellish: bumpy, a kid puked on my shoe (not the first time) and the bus driver assumes he is Jeff Gordon on the Indie 500.

A kid of about 8 years old appeared to be the manager of the hostel. He let me in and gave me the most bitchin room in the hostel for about 5 bucks. Queen size bed, a hot shower, and a view from my window of snowy peaks looming in the distance. Ha, and people thought the Rockie Mountains were spectacular. Backtracking a bit: my whole plan was to go from Qusco to Arrequippa. Outside my window loomed the snow-capped peak called misty. The peak is about 18,000 feet. I came to Arrequippa to do this peak, nothing more. After all of my adventures with my father and mother through the Rockie Mountains of COlorado I felt as though I had to carry on the tradition of scaling massive peaks of the world. As a kid I was prone to altitude sickness. Now Im 24 and in the works of becoming a bona-fide stud. Seriously, you only live once.

Anyway, they wanted 65 bucks for a 2 day trek including a guide. I was planning on heading to BOlivia after Peru. Soafter a bit of contemplation and figurering out my finances, I decided to skip this mountain called "Misty" and head to BOlivia to attempt a 6200 meter peak. I know I wont die, so dont worry mom. If I get altitude sickness, I will simply turn around. If you do the math though this peak is about 20,000 feet and it is right outside the capital city of La Paz, Bolivia. I crashed out early in Arrequippa after striking up some conversation with some Europeans

The whole educational system in the United States, at least for universities, is totally out of wack. After talking to them they py 1/8 the amount of money I pay for university and many of their universities actually pay them about 600 Euros a month just to attend university to earn a Bachelors degree. They also only need one year to earn a masters degree. It could depend on the country, but I met this dude who was no brain-wave by any means and the dude got a bachelors degree in 2 and a half years and a masters in a year and a half.

I am in Bolivia right now staying at Lake Titticaca. The lake has a mystical, surreal feel to it. Old wooden boats row through various inlets and coves, as oldl men decked out in tradtional Charlie Chaplin Hats, row the boats along.

Since I am from the United States I had to pay 135 dollars just to enter Bolivia. The great thing is though is that Bolivia is the poorest country in South America. In 2 weeks time that 135 dollars will definitely even itself out.

The nights are freakin cold, like around 45 degrees, with no heater in the room. Lets just say Im wearing every article of clothing on my bad, including my grandpas underwear.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on September 30, 2009 from Copacabana, Bolivia
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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Bout Time I Made it to Machu Pichu!

Aguas Calientes, Peru

After another entire day of traveling by bus through mountain passes, along steep turns with no guard railing I made it to a place called Santa Teresa. From Santa Teresa I hoped in a small mini bus with some Argentinian girls and some nieve, confused Lithiuanian women. For an hur straight we hugged a jagged cliff. Before we left to ride up the side of this cliff I had exmanined the quality of the tires. The were about as bald as the tires on a road bike. And this thign was goin to transport us safely? I doubted it. After an hour of a high heart rate, sweaty palms, and thanking whatever god was up there, we made it to a place called the hydro electric plant.

From the Hydro Electric plant I had to either walk 6 miles along train tracks to get to the town at the nase of Aguas Calientes. A town that goes by the name Aguas Calientes. However, if you had some extra coin in your back-pocket and you were feeling a bit sluggish, then the train would be the best bet. When I started walking th etrain tracks with the Lithiuanian women, we had about an hour before nightfall, yet the walk was supposed the take 2 hours. We started walking along the tracks, which meandered through dense, humid jungle. The mosquitos started to some out and our skin was a fat steak for these little insects. Eaten alive by these suckers would be an understatement. We were devoured. Darkness came. I had no flashlight. The indiglo light on my watch had to do.

After tripping and falling a couple of times on the old, loose tracks, passing through 4 pitch black tunnels, and listening to the gushing river down below us, we made it to Aguas Calientes.

The Lithiuanians were shy, had a very strange sense of humor, which meant to them I had an even stranger sense of humor. We checked into a hostel that night. I had planned on getting my own room. Yet, since the girls were sisters, and they were quite docile, I accepted their offer to just room with them for the night.

I made all of my last minute preperations that night: buying water, packign the right clothes, and reviewing my map of MAchu Pichu. In the morning I would plan on hiking 8km up a mountain of switch-backs to get to the base of Machu Pichu. For the less fit and maybe even less adventerous folks, they could take a bus to the top of the mountain, at the base of Machu Pichu. I wanted to walk it for pure pleasure. And to save the 8 bucks for the bus ride to the top.

The next morning we awoke at 3:45 am. This may sound crazy. But, if you were one of the first ones up get to MAhcu Pichu you could first of all see an emmaculate sunrise and beat the herds of day tarvelers, coming into Machu Pichu from Cusco via train. The whole point to stay at Aguas Calientes was to beat the herds of toursist-tool day travlers that couldnt tell up from down.

The girls were laggin gin the morning and not to be un-gentlemanly like, but I didnt have time for a bunch of time wasting, using the bathroom for 30 minutes in the morning, I feel sick kind of mates to hike with. I ditched them in the most gentleman-like fashion possible, wished them luck and set out to hike at 4am. I didnt have a flashlight and it was pitchblack. I was able to use the indigo on my watch but even this didnt prevent me from stumbling and falling on my face a couple of times.

I felt like my dad, in one of his 100 miles races in COloroado. I was passing heaps of people up the switch-backs in hopes of being one of the frist people to the top. If I got the a real shady, cliff*-like area, I would wait fro someone to catch up to me with a flashlight. Then I would follow them and their light until I could find my way out of the more sketchy areas of the hike.

We were hiking up a mountain through high-elevation, dense cloudforest. There were about 50 other people hiking up who had the same idea as me: they wante to be one of the first up to enjoy the sunrise at Machu Pichu and enjoy Machu Pichu in solitude. By 9 am there would be everyone and thei mom coming up to Machu Pichu and the entire experience of being in a sacred, historical place would be ruined.

A couple other travlers and I made into MAchu Pichu just before sunrise. WAlking into MAchu Pichu felt as though we were walking on clouds. In the ealry morning the entire area of MAchu Pichu was covered in dense, moist clouds. One could barely see the ground in front of them. And then, like a wizard cast a magic spell over the area, the clouds began the disspear. The sun soon rose, firey and yellow, cresting over a near by mountain. Then before my eyes, lay history some 500 years B.C.. Machu Pichu truly looked like a secret societ at the top of this massive, jungle mountain. CLimbing up the mountain and back down, one could not see anything if they looked up. It was as though their was just enough flatness atop this mountain to consctruct Machu Pichu.

Now, Machu Pichu isnt one particluar monument or stone building, it is an entire seceret city atop this jungle-infested mountain. Id say it was worth the trek yup there and the 20 dollars I spent to enter MAchu Pichu. The first couple hours I was there, I had whole, mini plateus to myself. Take life in , think about meaning the meanign of being here in such a well-preserved historical place...all of these thoughts Im telling myself as I walked around the grounds. By 845 though the buses started to arrive. Along with the buses came, 500 tousists, noeses covered in zink, floppy hats on, cameras slung over their neck, expensize titanium walking sticks in their hand. Viewing this was all humerous to me. I mean Machu Pichu was quite spectatcular, but people had the look on their faces liek they were devout Catholics about the meet the Pope. On a basic level all Machu Pichu is is a bunch of well-organized rocks, piled on top of some lush terrain.

At the time the heaps (Ive been hanging around too many AUstralians) arrived, I was ready to leave. I ended up hiking the whole way down solo, until an Australian dude caught up with me on th trail. He was one cool cat. HE was traveling around the world. He had just surfed all of Indonesia, and now he was motorcycling through all of South America. Gave some much needed advice on other areas of the world to explore.

I made it back to Aguas Calinetes by 11am. I got some food and chilled out a bit, resting my legs after the grueling hike. On the way back, I decided to take the train. It was a bit more expensive than taking the bus. But, it was first of all, faster, more comfortable, and more time efficeint. If I decided to take all of the rounds of buses back to Cusco, god knows when Id make it!

I was sitting, waiting for my tain to arrive, peeling a tangerine, when I noticed the frantic stout-looking dude. He came up to me panting. I recognized him from a hostel I had stayed at in Cusco. He gave me the low down and apparently he ahd lost his tour group and he was starnded with no money, bank cards, or passport. I felt bad for the dude, so I loaned him 200 solas which is about 50 bucks so he could make it bask to Cusco. He seemed like a decent guy and he was staying at the same hostel as me so I want too worried.

I made it back to Cusco that night and the big German fellow arrived a bit later with my money I loaned him. The legs feel liek they¨ve been hit with sledge hammers and I could sleep for days. What a damn jouney. Dusty, under-arms smelling like onions, and an appetite of a hungry lion, I made it to Cusco that night.

permalink written by  kipmaddog on September 24, 2009 from Aguas Calientes, Peru
from the travel blog: adventures from down south
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