Delightfully Bad Blogging

31 Jan

No, we are not throwing my beloved blog to the dogs. It’s been challenging keeping the blog alive while on the road, mostly because when you’re on the road, well, you’re On The Road. You’re spending 12 hours on a night bus freezing and worrying because the bus is rocking to and fro like a boat on the high seas and you know that on either side of this narrow dirt road is a 1000 meter drop down the legendary Andes. Or you’re trying to get on a boat to see the islands of Lake Titicaca but the boat engine goes up in smoke five minutes after boarding.

Or you ate fish after midday and nursed the worst stomach ache of your life for two weeks, during which everything else (even the blog) can go straight to hell. You’re trying to find a ladder so that you can break into your hostel room at 7 in the morning after New Year’s Eve, because the hostel staff lost your key, have no spare or master key (“What’s that?”), and are calling you a liar in Quechua. You’re standing on the side of the road at 11 at night, sadly watching a stranger drive off with everything you own because you put your rucksack in the boot of his car, and the switch to open it broke. So you tried to dismantle the car with friendly, but drunk strangers (one of which keeps serenading the event and demanding payment for his singing afterwards), and you now know how to remove the backseat of a car. You also know about the gallon of gas right behind that backseat, which will blow if you – or any of your new drunk friends – keep rattling at it so hard.

Or you’re not sleeping well because a drunk man broke down your hostel door at midnight, locked himself in your toilet, and shouted that he was never coming out again. You’re running across the Panamericana in the middle of the night, dodging fast whining cars and double-decker transcontinental buses, only to jump on a motorbike pulling a carriage with several planks missing, so you have to stand with your feet wide apart and hold on tight, and you laugh and shout at the stars because the night is so warm and with this, you have taken a ride on just about everything.

And inbetween all this madness, you’re laughing with your heart in your mouth because all your troubles are so unnecessary, they can only be called banal and laughed over heartily. “Fog has never been an issue in my life before,” Rose commented. “Neither have car boots,” I replied. And let’s face it: this madness is too absurd to take seriously and everything else is seriously The Most Fantastic you’ve ever had. Because while you’re learning to pray on a dodgy bus, you realize that you’re intensely happy with your life and if this is the way to go, then hell, why not.

You’re meeting people you have the most intense conversations with, because you know you’ll be gone in the morning and NOW is the only time to meet. What they have in common? They all keep blogs and they all have the film “Into the Wild” on their netbooks. I told my dreams to a young man I met in Arequipa, Alex, who replied: “I call all my travels a leap of faith and I think it’s important to understand when that is what they are. It sounds like you also have to take that leap of faith.” And I carry those words still. It was the quickest and deepest conversation I have ever had, in which we both explained the essence of our Selves in 10 minutes. Thank you Alex! Follow his beautifully nurtured blog: www.asianbackpacker.com  It’s worth it, because he’ll be on the road for another year: he’s off to see all of  Asia once he is done with all of South America. His blog shows a beautifully designed plan to all the madness.

But I digress. You watch all your belongings depart in the stranger’s car and discover in the days that follow, how little you actually need in life. How lucky you are to have found new friends who will give you toothpaste/underwear/rum/shirts. Thank you to our angels, Hanna and Harold! And when the belongings are finally returned, you look at the huge rucksack and wonder what the hell to do with so much stuff.

And on every bus: the most breathtaking landscape. At every hostel: a home and new friends. With every stomach ache, a new lesson: beware the ice cubes! Beware salad washed with tap water! Beware fancy restaurants! Sometimes the cheaper roadside places are safer. And above all: the Peruvian cuisine is undoubtedly among the finest in the world, but not every stomach can digest easily at 4000 meters above sea level so always drink coca tea after a meal! I can never stress that enough: COCA TEA IS THE WAY FORWARD. Put away your fancy pills and drink coca tea!

And while you can find internet cafes in most places, you rarely have the time to actually sit in them. Nor is their connection fast and the computers usually won’t accept your USB stick with the photographs you so meticulously selected and resized into blog-friendly size. Plus the salsa music playing at top volume is more than slightly distracting. As are the little children who like to slap bloggers with fly swatters and eat your dreadlocks.

So in the spirit of Delightfully Bad Blogging, this is how I have decided to tell my story. . . Here are the pictures.

Because at the end of the day, few words could never describe the intense, beautiful, absurd, unnecessary, astonishing and breathtaking experiences of the past month in Peru. I’d need to write a novel on the month of January. And I’m already writing a novel – one whose progress I really wish to communicate with you, world, and therefore, only this once, I will say this: Pictures Speak Louder than Words. Only this once. Enjoy.

After Cusco, Rose Patton and I left for Puno with our storyteller friend Najeeb Khan. Here is Najeeb’s well-groomed blog with his travels around South America: http://www.najeebkhan.com/

at Lake Titicaca with Rose Patton and one trusty rucksack for two adventurous ladies

as the engine of the boat erupts into smoke and almost catches fire, most passengers escape to the roof of the boat to see if they need to swim back to shore. Najeeb, Rose and I sit on the front of the boat and laugh at "Lake Titicaca SEEMED like a good idea at the time...!"

eventually we are moved onto another boat with a tourist group, of whom we shamelessly pretend to be a part of, and set off to see the Floating Islands!

first view of Uros, the Floating Islands

the Floating Islands. No photoshop, I swear, the colours are REAL.

Rose on the Floating Island, poking about

on to Island Amantani, where we will spend the night! And again, I swear no photoshopping has been done on this picture. As I took the picture, I knew no one would believe me...

... and it's beauty is enough to get the Pocahontas face out and say: "This land is OUR LAND."

On the boat, the sweetest lady from California, Kelly, tells us her story: she came to Peru several years ago on what was meant to be a short holiday, FELL IN LOVE, and has only returned home twice since then! She is now married to said lucky man and they run a tourist business together. Peru is packed with stories of people who came "only for a short time" and have been here ever since. Isn't it?!

Upon reaching Island Amantani, Najeeb, Rose and I climb to the Tataypacha Temple and this is the view around us…

Tourist offices will try to flog your bank account, so don't let them! We (actually Najeeb and Rose - I can't look anyone in the eye without breaking down and agreeing to whatever ridiculous price) haggled a boat price of 30 soles return, to visit 3 islands over two days. Locals on the islands offer their extra rooms as "Registered Accomodations" for the price of another 30 soles, including FANTASTIC beds, breakfast, lunch AND dinner. We had the best sleep ever here!

Najeeb has some fantastic pictures of the island which I couldn’t take because my camera batteries run down, forcing me to enjoy everything without a lens. If he hasn’t written about Lake Titicaca with us yet, bug him on his blog!

Najeeb and Ritti back on the boat

watching the lake

Najeeb had a great laugh when I said this, but I'll say it again: on Lake Titicaca, you really feel that you can TOUCH THE SKY

back at the docks, we find another way one can enjoy the outskirts of Lake Titicaca...

back on land, we prepare to say goodbye to Najeeb, who crossed the border to Bolivia shortly afterwards. I gave him a copy of my short stories collection "Overripe Fruits", to leave at a book exchange or hostel somewhere along the road. I left a message in the book to whoever should find it, saying I would to hear where the book is now, how s/he found it, and what happened afterwards. I'm doing this with several copies, and I wonder if I'll hear from anyone!

back on another bus to another city

...and the kind of view that will kill you...

This is the view on the road to Arequipa, where Rose and I met up with Kwinten again to continue travelling together

I love this photograph. I loved hearing Rose and Kwinten chatter away about this and that so much, that in Arequipa, I sat them down and filmed them just talking. This picture was taken during a talking/filming break and I love it because I can still feel the glow between them of having had a very beautiful conversation and preparing for the next beautiful talk

unfortunately the weather in Arequipa was AWFUL. I took this picture on the one day it didn't rain in torrents: its the interior patio of our beautiful hostel. Can you spot my two travelling mates?

so we decided to pack our bags and leave Arequipa for the beach of Mollendo

...where Kwinten's bag was stolen with many of our books in it - unfortunately including my diary and all the writing I had been doing on "Munay". It was back to the drawing board after that. But Mollendo gave us the sun we desperately needed because we'd been dragging a cold around since Cusco and had forgotten what DRY clothes on our skin feels like

We then took a ten hour bus to Paracas to visit our friends in Pisco, who work at the NGO Pisco Sin Fronteras. Here, we have just arrived in Paracas at 7 in the morning

dodgy old tourist pelican

We travel on to Pisco, where our rucksacks get locked into a stranger's car and we don't see all our belongings for three days. Luckily we have angels in Pisco: Hanna and Harold, who organise a cheap hostel and give us everything we need, including a hangover breakfast of smoothies and ceviche

Rose's spirit remains high and beautiful as she frolicks on every beach she can find

travelling is almost over and I keep finding my favourite plant: brugmansias

we make our way back to Lima and ride EVERY mode of transportation available on this side of the earth. We say no to nothing!

Rose’s last day in Peru and we return to where it all began: the Parque del Amor in Miraflores, Lima. After Rose’s departure my second cycle of Peru begins, for I am staying here another month. Thank you Rose for EVERYTHING.

I don’t know if the pictures do the adventure and beauty justice. I was sometimes busier filming because I have a plan to edit all my material into short literature-filmlogs about Peru… So if you want more, you’ll soon get more! I’ve been experimenting on more ways of combining filmmaking with writing, and if I ever make it back to Europe, that’s one of the things I hope to continue working on.

So now you know a part of what has been going on, and this is what happened since: after Rose returned to England, I jumped onto the next bus back to Cusco with Kwinten, who is on his way to Bolivia over Cusco. After a surprisingly easy 22 hour bus ride, we arrived in the heart of the Andes and within days found work with a non-government organisation called Helping Hands Cusco. Blogs are the way forward: www.helpinghandscusco.blogspot.com 

We are now both doing voluntary work in Cusco and loving every second of it. Yesterday I was in charge of the greenhouse and all the plants (everything I had dreamed of!). Today I joined the men team and helped them build a house. My life in Cusco is voluntary work in the mornings and writing in the evenings. Munay is coming along well, I think, if with her pubescent ups and downs. And now that we’re up to date, I can finally write about the progress of Munay next, without wondering what on earth to do with all the pictures I had taken for the blog! So next time, more on the voluntary work for Helping Hands Cusco and more on Munay. Finally! Thank you.

No, thank you. 

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