Convents, Condors and Canyons...

Trip Start Apr 05, 2008
Trip End Jul 19, 2008

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Flag of Peru  ,
Saturday, May 24, 2008

Whilst perched precariously on the edge of the sheer drop of the world´s deepest canyon, I begin wondering whether my mule had taken ints depression medication.  Being perched precariously on the edge of a 3km sheer drop on a mule does that.  Especially when your mule is constantly displaying its suicidal tendancies.  My curiously as to my mule's pharmaceutical practices morphed into hallucination - my mule, reclining on the psychologists couch with a cigarette, recounting stories about its early childhood, its parentage and the teasing received due to the fact that its father was a horse, its mother a donkey.  These hallucinations, combined with the whipping and occasional rock throwing of its owner, did not exactly fill me with confidence.  The mule was, no doubt, potentially suicidla.  And so, exceptionally paranoid by the prospect of 'death by riding suicidal mule', sentences such as the following would echo across the wondrous colca canyon each time my mulewould teeter closer and closer to the edge of the narrow winding path:

'Turn you fucking donkey, left, left... fuck!' 

'Fuck' would reverberate across Colca Canyon - across its tiny, dusty towns clinging to the canyon's face; skimming the tranquil trickle of the annually mighty Rio Colca; interrupting the gentle breeze on which the regal condor soars.  In the moment immediately following each outbursts of expletives, a vague feeling of guilt for interrupting the peace flows through me.  It is, however, gone by the next corner.  'Fucking donkey...!'

I am happy to admit that the world's deepest canyon deserves better.  It is yet another extraordinary natural wonder that Peru has to offer.  From the icy flow of the Colca River, its face rises dramatically, imposingly, this incredible wound in the earth's surface more than twice the depth of the Grand Canyon.  Out of the ashes of the previous millenias' earthquakes and eruptions, the canyon has come, its solid yet crumbling walls an impossibility to conquer.  At least for us.  And hence, the mule.  'Fucking mule.  Turn.  Fucking turn...'

Just hours from the colca calley lies the splendid white city of arequipa.  In all directions, volcanoes surround Arequipa, two dormant and one intimidatingly active, their past eruptions literally laying tyhe foundations of this elegant city.  The historic centre is a scene of pristine white, each colonial building made from incredible white volcanic rock.  The Plaza de Armas, in particular, is elegant, its hypnotic arches building from the south towards the grand cathedral like a crescendo to its climax.  Of course, the mandatory elements of any main square are here:  shoe-shiners, snack-vendors, the fountain, the pigeons, the children, the children in the pigeons, the pigeons in the fountain, the children in the fountain.  And then from the plaza, the white stone runs, a continuous single and double storey, north, south, east, west.  To the north, perhaps the highlight of Arequipa hides, concealed by high walls of white.  It is the Convent of Santa Catalina.  Shrouded in mystery for centuries and centuries, the convent has recently become accessible to the public, revealing a wondrous, beautiful maze of rooms, streets and courtyard - a miniature city hiddens; the residing nuns sealed from the outside world, without contact, with nothing to entertain themselves except for God and, presumably, scrabble.  And the beauty of the convent.  The convent?  A highlight indeed.  Brilliant...

Apparently, there are more than 5000 types of potatoes in Peru.  What I want to know, though, is what the fuck one of them is doing in my noodles.  Exactly.  Noodles.  Chinese noodles.  You see, there's a heap of little chinese restaurants in Peru, called 'Chifas' largely thanks tyo the long history of chinese emigration to Peru.  And chinese food seems to have become quite a part of Peruvians cuisine - chaufa or fried rice (chao fun in chinese) in particular, a favourite.  But it seems, somewhere along the line, things got just a little bit fucked up.  Yep - somewhere along the line, some little genius thought - 'fried noodles?  Brilliant.  Fried noodles with chips?  Better'.  As my stay in peru has continued, the more the bizarre bastardisations to chinese cuisine have become evident.  And the quesitons have started to pile up.

- why is there no meat in my wanton?  It's just a fried triangle of nothingness.

- why is my noodle soup served with bread?

- why am I still looked at as a novelty in a chinese restaurant?  A chinese guy in a chinese restaurant?  Hilarious.

Despite the bastardisatyions, its clear that I'll be back.  Of course.  For I can't resist chinese food, bastardised or otherwise.  It's the smell, y'know?  The way it lifts from the wok and out onto the street, filling the air with a familiar, stir fried delight and my mind with, more than anything, that comfort that a traveller so often needs.  Yes - I will be back.  Ordering noodles.  Sin papas, por favor.

I think I just got spat on.  I swear it.  Yep, there it is on my arm.  Mother fucker.  A big, juicy one.  Keep walking.  Just keep going.  I think I'm going to vomit.  Mother fucker.  It's one of those unfortunate things about travelling in South America or anywhere really.  The good old tourist scam.  This one's well-known - one of the more disgusting - sure.  But it goes like this.  Someone spits on you.  Then someone comes up to you and cleans it off.  And, in the meantime, they attempt to take your wallet or whatever.  Motherfuckers.  I think I just got spat on.  I swear it.  Yep - there it is on my arm.  Keep walking.  Just keep walking...

So, to the top 5.  Part of the magic of travelling is meeting people from all over the world.  So it was with much delight that we de-facto adopted a mid-50s crazy japanese hippy for a few days.  Ha.  Funny shit.  Inspired by the movie 'The Motorcycle Diaries', he said to his wife and two teenage kids, 'I'm off of South America for 4 months.  See ya suckers.'  Armed with little english and no spanish, this crazy Japanese dude provided much random amusement for a few days.  Here are the top 5 moments of randomness and misunderstanding:

5.  We were thinking about going for coffee.  We weren't sure whether he wanted to come as well.  We knew he had already been earlier that morning.  The following conversation ensued:

Us:  We are going to go for coffee.  Do you want to come?
Him:  Yes - coffee.  I have before.
Us:  Ok.  But we are going now.  Do you want to come for coffee now?
Him:  Yes - this morning.  Very good.
Us:  (ok.  one more try).  Ha.  Yes.  But - do you want coffee now?
Him:  Ahhh - yes.  I have in morning.  Yes.  Very good.

4.  He does yoga.  A very spiritual man.  He was telling us about this.  The conversation goes like this:

Him:  In the morning, I wake up early and do yoga. 
Me:  And then you go back to bed?
Him:  Ha!  Back to bed?  Ha.  (starts rolling around like it is the funniest thing in the world).  Ha.  Back to bed?  Ha.  (Continuously intense laughter for about 3 or 4 minutes.  Seriously).  Back to bed?


3.  On our last day in Arequipa, we thought we tell him that we were going to Cuzco.  This conversation:

Us:  Hey - tomorrow, we are going to Cuzco.
Him:   No.  I have already.
Us:  No.  Us.  Tomorrow, we go to Cuzco.  To see Machu Picchu.
Him:  No no.  I have seen before.  No tomorrow.
Us:  We are going.  Us.  Tomorrow.
Him:  I have a flute!


2.  In a bar one night and he becomes the centre of attention.  Why?  Because he practices some random Japanese healing pressure point thing.  A line forms.  He assesses some random Chilean guy, perhaps a little rounded.  His assessment, which he tells squarely to the chilean guy?  'You need practice weight control'.  Ha.  He effectively called him a fat bastard.  Ha.

1.  Friday night.  Quiet bar.  Not big.  Probably the size of an average living room, a bit bigger.  People sitting at tables at the periphery.  We are having a quiet conversation.  He finishes a sentence.  Then he's up.  What's he doing?  Where's he going?  He's dancing?  He was up.  No indication that he was going to go anywhere.  But in a second, he jumped up into the middle of room, dancing a strange mix of Indian and tai-chi, entertaining the crowd with his randomness.  Ha.  Brilliant.  Then he just down, like nothing had happened.  Continued the conversation like nothing had happened.

Ha.  Ha.

So good.

To Cuzco.  Machu Picchu.  And the trek of the devil of the death...
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thisisthera on

i am so in love with your photos!!!
how did make it to travel to so many countries?
don't you have to work? or that is your work?

thisisthera on

oh and i think you need a wide-angle lens!
wide-angle lens makes better angle of view~~~!

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