Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rainy Evening and I am sad...

Hey All,
I wanted to write a message today just talking about some of the little things and cultural curiosities that we have observed since it is those experiences that provide flavor to the trip and to the readers of this blog.  However, I have a few things bothering me and making me moderately depressed so I don't feel like writing that message now.
I was in a better mood yesterday even though some of the things that are bothering me now were bothering me then also.  Our mood was lifted yesterday when we were finally able to secure a way out of Peru and to some other parts of South America.  We bought a plane ticket to La Paz, Bolivia for this coming Sunday.  We also got tickets for flights from La Paz to Santiago, Chile and then from Santiago to Cordoba, Argentina with the great help from Nicole our travel agent back in the States.  Thanks, Nicole.  :)
It wasn't my original intent to spend the extra cash on airline tickets once we arrived in South America.  I figured we would do overland travel via bus or rail which I prefer so I can see the countryside in between stops.  However, with the frustrating experiences with both bus and train here in Peru, we wanted to make up lost time by flying.  The other big reason is that going from La Paz to Santiago and then from Santiago to Cordoba means crossing the Andes two more times.  After doing that once on a bus from Lima to here in Cusco, it was not an experience I was looking forward to again.  Once we get to Cordoba, we will most likely go back to traveling overland.  These flights will mean that we won't see some parts of South America I thought we would just a few days ago.  It is about 1100 miles from La Paz to Santiago, and northern Chile is suppose to be a beautiful landscape.  But 1100 miles on a bus crossing the Andes is probably at least a 3-4 day bus ride.  And that means 95% of the time stuck on the bus since they do not typically stop in a town for the night- just a couple pit stops throughout the day.  For the sake of my mental sanity, it was worth the price of the airline tickets just for that.
I'll try to write some more tomorrow.  We are just killing time here in Cusco and don't have a busy schedule.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Machu Picchu, Peru: A long but rewarding day...

Good Morning Everyone,
Yesterday, October 27th, Ozell and I made our way to the famed site of the Inca cloud city, Machu Picchu.  As you may have already read from Ozell's post, the day did have its travails.  However, like I mentioned in one of the first blog posts, it is going to be interesting to see how each of us differently perceives the same shared experiences.  And like Ozell's blog post after mine discussing how I was pick pocketed, I want to let you all that there was plenty of good to go with the bad- at least for me.  I considered the trip to Machu Picchu very rewarding and a success even though it could have gone more smoothly.
If Ozell wants to write about the negative things that happened (and there were truly some negative things that happened; I am not trying to suggest there were not any drawbacks), then I will let him do that.  I'll just mentioned here that we had an early and long day.  We started at 5:15 AM and didn't return to Cusco and our hostel until nearly 10 PM at night.  We had logistical difficulties with the Peru Rail (the train company) both on the way up and back.  We had minor difficulties with park entrance tickets and the bus ride from the last train station to Machu Picchu.  It was an very expensive day which cost about $180 each to go see Machu Picchu which is itself over three days budget.   And probably the thing that I suspect is bothering Ozell the most is the realization that it appears every Peruvian is out to extract every dollar they can get out of you and often implementing dubious and disingenuous means to do it.  It makes it hard to see any of the locals as anything but potential scam artists or downright thieves which is a very disappointing perspective to have forced upon you while visiting a country, but one that is difficult to discount after multiple daily events appear to lend credence to this viewpoint.
It didn't help that we had a very early day, and Ozell is not a morning person.  As he mentioned in his post, his mood was dim very the beginning which can only help shape how you will perceive the rest of the days experiences.  We had 4-5 hour train rides both ways on less than comfortable trains.  Peru Rail seems to be operating at the minimum competence level required to actually function as a train company.
I was really proud of Ozell for traversing parts of Machu Picchu and the switch back bus ride up the narrowest and windiest of mountain roads because he does have a moderate fear of heights.  At one point in the park, you climb up to a high and small stone platform which was their astronomical observatory.  Since it is one of the highlights of the park it is a very crowded area with multiple tour groups vying for the same area and views simultaneously.  Off the sides of this platform are vertical drops with no railings and very rough and narrow stone steps.  The more mild side was a sheer drop to the main plaza of about 80' or so.  The other side was one of the steepest mountain sides I have personally seen which was probably a couple thousand feet down to the river below.  My first attempt at supporting Ozell through this area was to suggest he rush past these tour groups so he wouldn't have to deal with them and their slow pace (many in the tour groups were middle-aged or seniors so they moved at their predicted pace.  yes, older people were taking all of the same paths so the paths themselves were not very strenuous.  It is the views from the paths and their narrowness that makes them much more harrowing than your staircase at home.)  I thought it would be best to get through this area as quickly as possible.  As is often the case with my judgment, this was not the correct advice.  Ozell wanted to stay put and wait for the groups to go past.  I was thinking to myself, "There is not going to be a time when this area is not crowded so you should just come now."  But Ozell found a time comfortable for him and made the traverse down the narrow stairs.  I wanted to take some pics of him and did.  You can find them in the Machu Picchu photo album.  This was also the first time I recall actually viewing Ozell in a height situation like this.  I had only known about his dislike of heights through conversation, and I guess I did not fully appreciate it.  I've known people of varying degrees of vertigo or fear of heights so their is a wide range.  I, myself, am not immune, but I appear to have a much higher threshold than many people I know.  I can usually get within a foot or two of a shear ledge and look over (for a short while; the longer the viewing time, the greater my discomfort).  I also like climbing out on precipices and cliffs for the views and pictures.  And as long as a trail is at least 3' wide, than it does not overly spook me if on either side of that trail is a sheer drop-off.  I had one of those in Switzerland before.
Oh, and lastly.  I want to make sure that you realize that Ozell traversed this area as normally as anyone else and probably much better than some people.  I do not mean to imply that he crawled along or froze up or anything like that.  No one who didn't know him would have known that he may have been uncomfortable during this stretch.  He handled it exactly as he should have handled it by waiting until it was a little less crowded and he was comfortable.  He also did it all on his own since I went ahead a little bit.  (I think he was a little cross with me when I suggested he rush pass the tour groups so I went ahead and got out of his way.)  It was his singular achievement.  I was just proud of him.
I'll let the pictures in the photo album speak for the park's beauty.  The one thing that impressed me the most was the shear size of this town/city.  Most of the iconic pictures that many of you have seen only show half of site at any particular time because of the angles of the cliffs and buildings.  Please take a look through the picture album and take a look from some of the perspectives you may not have seen before.  The one thing that disappointed me the most was that only of portion of the site (and a relatively small portion) exhibited the high quality stone work that I had heard was a trademark of the Incas.  I had heard they built their cities with stones fitted so precisely that you could not even get a piece of paper to fit between the joints, and this was true for some of their structures- the more important ones.  They also did not use any mortar.  And the fact that their ruins are still in pretty good shape (and actually serve as the foundations for many of the present buildings in Cusco) after centuries in a highly active earthquake zone is a testament to their masonry skills.  But many of their walls are not as precisely constructed as I was led to believe.  Many were made with natural and unshaped rocks fitted together.  Impressive enough, but not unlike stone walls I have seen in Ireland and other places which include spacious joints between the rocks/stones themselves.
Lastly,  I wanted to mention that Ozell and I had a very pleasant dinner a couple of nights ago at a restaurant called "Fallen Angel" in Cusco.  We originally went there our first night in town because it was listed as gay friendly, and we thought we could pump the staff for information on the local gay scene.  Unfortunately, it was closed when we got there.  We went back for dinner the other night, and it was a very stylish, funky place with excellent food.  You pay for it, and it is not something we could afford every night, but the desserts were unlike anything we have had.  Ozell had a seasoned pears with a sauce and lemongrass ice-cream.  A flavor combination neither of us has ever had.  I had a tropical crepe with caramelized pineapple and strawberries with a mango cream sauce.  The presentation of the food and the atmosphere of the restaurant along with their hot staff (lol) was great.  We also saw more than a few of our fellow hostel mates there as this place was recommended in all of the typical guidebooks.  And even though it was expensive for our budget, it really wasn't that expensive compared to back home.  We got two dinners, glasses of wine, and desserts for both of us for about $50.
I hope you are all well.  We will be heading to Puno, Peru and Lake Titicaca before making our way to La Paz, Bolivia.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Well, I saw Machu Picchu...

Today, I went to Machu Picchu, the "Lost City of the Incas" and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.  Unfortunately, today was also a spectacularly fucked up day.  My shitty mood, which started at the train station at 6:00 this morning, climaxed while touring the ruins, and was aggravated even more on the way back to the hostel, all due to countless ridiculous circumstances and unfortunate events.  I wish I could blog in detail about the experience, but I'm too tired and disappointed right now and I'm not even sure I would want to write about it if I did have the energy.  The bottom line is, I can now say I saw Machu Picchu with my own eyes.  The city was amazing and I'll always be able to say I toured the site, but considering everything else I went through today, it's hard to say it was worth it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cusco, Peru: Start of Day Two

Hello All,
Well, we are just getting started on our second day here in Cusco, Peru.  The good news is that I feel much better acclimated to the altitude now so the adjustment took less than 24 hours.   (CORRECTION:  Ozell looked up the elevation of Cusco, and it is about 10,800 feet.  I guess I was having a moment of mental confusion when I was multiplying the elevation in meters by 4 instead of 3.  That's what happens when the brain needs more oxygen than it is getting, I guess.  Lol)   We have a business day ahead of us.  We need to book a ticket to the Machu Picchu park, book tickets for the train from Cusco to Machu Picchu, and book a South American airplane pass for some of the other cities we want to see.  It looks like we can get a plane ticket for 4-5 stops for the same price it would cost us to take overland means of travel.  Plus, it turns out we were very fortunate with our 20 hour bus ride yesterday.  I have now heard other hostellers say they were stuck on 40-50 hour bus rides because there is a labor strike going on.  They ran into multiple blockades put up by locals in the small towns along the routes.  They had their buses defaced and vandalized, and some of them experienced bottles and rocks being hurled at the buses while they were inside.  Ozell and I decided to try to book some plane flights before we heard this news, but now it seems like an even more prudent idea.  Unfortunately, this may mean that I don't get to see some of the places that I was hoping to see.  I think Patagonia is out as of now.
This hostel is definitely more of a "party" hostel in the sense it has lots of 20 year olds who smoke, drink, snort coke, and talk really loud.  Last night, Ozell and I attempted to find a couple of the gay friendly places we read about on the web.  We picked the spots which were closest to the main square for the safety factor, but we were unable to locate them.  We did find one, but it was already closed since it is mainly a restaurant with a small bar.  I liked the name of it though... "Fallen Angel".  Lol
When we returned to the hostel at 11:30pm the "Playboy Party" was in full swing with a DJ who again played better music than what I typically hear at the bars in the US.  The hostel bar is a small place so it is not a full size club.  And I am not sure what qualified this party to be a "Playboy Party" since there was really nothing going on which would have had the venerable Heff's seal of approval- except maybe the coke snorting in the bathroom.  Lol.  I was hoping to at least see some drunk and coked up 20 year old titties bouncing up and down, but since it seems that everyone in the hostel at the moment is either Irish, English, or Scottish, I guess they all have retained their Puritan shame like we Americans.  The guys weren't much to look at either.  Maybe I would do two of them out of the 20 that are here.  The most concise way to describe the hostel last night is "Frat Party".   At least one of the girls was nice enough to let one of the guys draw an ejaculating penis and balls on the back of her neck and shoulders.  I am sure that was classy when they all went out to a Cusco club at 1 AM.  Ozell and I went to bed.  We did have an overpriced late dinner with our Belgian friend, Freek (rhymes with wreck not freak) along the main square of town.  Ozell and I walked around the square earlier in the day for our afternoon meal, but quickly realized that none of the plentiful restaurants were to our liking since they had menus in English and were charging double what we suspected we should be paying.  We found a local eatery a few blocks off the main square and achieved our goal of being the only gringos there.  But the dinner with Freek was nice because of the company and the view.  There is a pic of us that I will upload as soon as I can.
We are having internet issues at this hostel (along with everybody else) so uploading the pics may not happen for a few days.
I started this blog post earlier in the morning before Ozell and I had left to try to book some of our travel logistics.  We have now returned so I can tell you a little about today.  Unfortunately, we really haven't accomplished our logistical goals.  We confirmed that we can buy an entrance ticket to Machu Picchu right at the gate of the park and that there is no limit on the amount of visitors to the park.  However, there is a 400 person limit on taking the trail that climbs above Machu Picchu to the spot where all of the famous pictures are taken.  :(  And we will most likely not be able to do that because the 400 person limit is almost always reached by the people who stay in the last small town near the site and who arrive at Machu Picchu by dawn.  We will not get there until 10-11 am I think.  We were also not able to buy a South American air pass even though we went to the local LAN Airline office here in Cusco.  There was a language barrier and other hurdles.  Ozell is going to try to work through the travel agency we used for our around the world ticket and see what he comes up with.  We did some research online, and it seems we should be able to get tickets from La Paz, Bolivia to Santiago, Chile to Cordoba, Argentina and then again from Montevideo, Uruguay to Rio de Jeniero for about $500.  This would be ideal, but we shall see if it is possible or not.  We also weren't able to book our train tickets to Machu Picchu and then from Cusco to Puno, Peru (Lake Titicaca) because the Peru Rail offices were closed by the time we reached them at 12:30pm today.  We will probably book those tickets online.
We did pas a local outdoor basketball court which appear to have an adult woman's league getting reading for their game.  Half of the arena seating was just grass and earth terraces.  I have a pic or two.  We didn't stay long since we were on a business journey, but I thought two things were interesting.  One being that we are talking about local Andean women playing basketball.  Andeans tend to be very short in stature- both the men and the women.  While these basketball players seemed taller than average, most still could not have been much more than 5' or so.  They other thing that struck me is how they appear to play their own style of game.  Most notable was the fact that they all shot and passed the ball overhead as if they were making a soccer throw-in.  It appeared to be as effective as any other way.  While I am going to guess this is due to their short stature, you should not make a mistake that these women are weak.  The Andean people, especially the women, seem to be some of the hardiest people I have seen.  The amount of weight they carry on their backs up and down these mountains to get their goods to market in return for just a pittance is very impressive.  And because of necessity, it appears the retirement age is far higher than the 65-67 years it is in America.
On our way back from the train station, Ozell and I decided to take some different back streets and came upon a locals market.  We have some pics from there also.  Again, we were the only gringos around which is always a good sign for us that we are seeing parts of the town that most travelers do not get to see.  The highlight was eating a nice (and cheap!) lunch made at one of the market counters.  There were dogs trotting their way through the aisles, butchered and skinned bull heads with the blood drippings still trickling down onto the floor, and plenty of other exotic fare that you would rarely if ever see back in America.  The food we had was delicious even if this mercado would probably not have received a "A" from the health departments back home.  In reality, it probably wasn't any more unhygienic than camping outdoors back home-  well maybe a little.  ;)  Our cook was a lovely lady who was nice, approachable, and courteous.  We even made her work really hard to make change because all we had was a 50 Sole bill when our entire lunch only cost 10 Soles ($3.33).  She had to dart around to a few different vendors before she could give us the correct change.  Ozell rewarded her with a 3 Sole tip (you do not typically tip here) which made her day.  There is a pic of her which will be posted too.  We had chicken and rice for lunch along with some Mate (or cocoa leaf) tea.  We both liked that the cooks just take rounded stones and beat the meat to tenderize it.  Why have a fancy wooden mallet tenderizer when a stone would do just as well?  This is why I like traveling. 
We also saw many more of the indigenous Andean people and their colorful dress around the mercado.  Think bright colors, wool scarves and ponchos, and something similar to a Bowler style hat and then you get the right picture. 
We also catch the beginning of a hard rain on our way back from the mercado to the hostel.  It's the hardest rain I have seen in a long time because San Diego and other places do get rain like this.  Ozell also pointed out to me that these showers appear to have left a dusting of snow around the local ridge tops which are only 500-700 feet higher than we are currently.  The temperatures are quite pleasant though, and when the sun is shining, we can get away with shorts and a t-shirt if we wanted.  It does get colder at night with lows in the lower to mid 40's.
I think that is enough to bore you with for now, and I might take a nap.  So until next time, I hope you and your loved ones are safe and happy.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Cusco, Peru: Oldest continuously inhabited city in South America

Hola Amigos!
I just wanted to drop a short note letting everyone know we have arrived safely in Cusco, Peru after the very long bus ride.  I threw up twice on the trip due to motion sickness and possible altitude sickness.  Obviously going from sea level to 12,000+ feet (the guide book said Cusco was at 3399 meters which is more like 13,000+ feet- I don't know what the correct elevation is) means that the bus has to take some pretty damn windy roads.  That is what gave me the motion sickness.  Dad, maybe you would have liked this road trip since you like the windy mountain roads, but probably not in a bus.
The elevation change does make a noticeable difference in how I feel.  I am light headed and a little dizzy at times.  We are just taking it easy tonight, and I am going to go for a nap now when I am done with this a-mail.  We have only walked around the main square since it was not far from our hostel.  We didn't have the energy to do much more than that, but I am sure that will change tomorrow.
The pic attached to this posting is of the Plaza de Armas which they also have in Lima.  This square is nicer and has some colonial architecture framing the square.  Since Cusco was one of the major Inca cities, it happens to be the oldest continually used city in all of South America.  This would be the St. Augustine of North America.
Well, that is all for now.  We hope to book our trek to Machu Picchu tomorrow (we won't go tomorrow, just to book a reservation).  We also may be completely screwed. We know for sure the famous 4 day hike along the Inca Trail is fully booked through November 21st, but we will try another way to get down there.  Yes, I said "down there".  Lol  Machu Picchu is about 2500m or 7600 feet elevation.
Ciao for now,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is this a gay hostel?

We've been in Lima a little over five days now and we're taking off in a couple hours for the long bus ride to Cuzco.  The hostel here has been pretty cool and there seems to be a high percentage of queer people here, which I'm sure is purely coincidental, but definitely nice.  We went out to Vale Todo again last night along with a couple of our fellow backpackers, "R" and "N", and a local guy, "E", who seems to have a thing for gringos.  E is friends with some of the people who work at the hostel and we're seen him here a couple of nights, but it wasn't until last night that we met him and learned he isn't actually staying here at the hostel.  Anyway, the five of us squeezed into a taxi and headed over to Miraflores a little after midnight.  The club was obviously not as crowded as Saturday night and they only had one dance floor open.  There was a decent crowd when we arrived, but it cleared out much earlier than on the weekend.  We ran into some familiar faces, including one of the guys we went home with Saturday night.  Damn, he is such a cutie and it sucked that I couldn't hook up with him again given the circumstances.  We all danced a bit and had a few beers but left around 3am and came back to the hostel. 
[SEXUALLY EXPLICIT] The five of us had a couple more beers here at the hostel, where one of the English guys who works here joined us since he was still up in the bar.  He joined us for a bit but I think he sensed where the night/morning was heading so he eventually disappeared.  We tried playing a game of pool, but we were all too drunk (and horny) to focus on the game.  Eventually, the sun was starting to come up, so E and I went to the room and started fooling around.  After a while, Sean and N came in and started fooling around on the other bed.  It was completely dark so I couldn't see what they were doing, but considering the beds are only about 4-5 feet apart, I could definitely hear them and it was hot listening.  Eventually, Sean took a break to go pee at which point N joined E and me on the bed.  When Sean returned, the four of us fooled around a bit before Sean and N went back to the other bed.  Long story short, we all had fun, although with all the beer, the sex was a little less than quality.  We eventually passed out and slept, me with E and Sean with N. 
We woke up around noon and had to pack everything up to check out.  The funniest thing, as we were settling our bill, the girl at reception asked if we had breakfast so she could add it to our bill if necessary.  When I said no, she replied, "Ah, just waking up?", to which I of course replied yes.  Then, not even a few minutes later, she asked, "So you know E".  Obviously, she knew what we were up to last night and I'm sure she saw E leaving this morning.  I told her that we just met him last night and we both just smiled knowingly. 
In total, we know of one other gay guy, one bi guy and a lesbian staying here at the hostel at the same time as us, not to mention E who isn't staying at the hostel, but seems to hang out here; maybe he's had good luck picking up guys here before.  There have also been at least two other guys we think might be gay, but none of us have been able to confirm.  Whatever the case, I'm surprised this place wasn't listed on the website of gay-friendly hostels because, at least during our stay, to call it gay-friendly would be a bit of an understatement.
Cheers for now!

Leaving Lima! Heading to Cuzco!

Good afternoon!
Ozell and I are waiting to depart to the bus station for our 20 hour bus ride to Cuzco/Cusco, Peru.  We had another good time in the hostel here in Lima yesterday, and met a few other gay guys in the hostel.  We took them out with us last night.  We had the intention of checking out a different club we hadn't already been to, but one of the locals, who appears to just hang around the hostel waiting for gay guys to come through,  convinced us to go to Vale Todos which is the same club Ozell and I went to this past Saturday.  It obviously was not as busy since it was a Wednesday, but it still had a good crowd, and we had fun there.  I was able to see Samuel again which was a very nice surprise.  Samuel is the young, local man I met on Saturday and then visited on Sunday.  He was there with a couple of his friends.  I like Sam and hope to stay in touch with him.  He is going to the States starting in December.  :)
I think we are both excited to move on with our trip.  Lima may have had the best night life that we will see for a while, but that is not what we came to South America for.  lol  Plus, I am sure Santiago, Cordoba, Buenos Aires, Montevideo, and Rio will all be nice spots to party a few nights.  Cuzco is our jumping off point for Machu Picchu, and then we will head down to Lake Titicaca and La Paz, Bolivia.
Oh, it appears that coke is more common here than water and about as cheap.  I have not partook of any myself and suspect that I won't in the future, but it is definitely the drug of choice amongst many of the travelers in the hostel and in South America in general from what we have heard and see ourselves.
I have been able to score some 420 and made my first "apple bong" so I could enjoy a smoke.  I do not like joints and cannot roll them.  Thankfully, another American names Josh, reminded me that about anything could be made into a bong.  He was using an apple a couple of nights ago, and I decided to copy him the last couple of days.
I gave away the remaining weed I had because I will not travel with it.  I sure could use some with this 20 hour bus ride coming up.  lol
Ozell and I have made some friends here in the hostel.  Rob (Irishman), Neil (Scotsman), and Freek (Belgian) have been the ones we have hung around the most, but there have been many others too.  We hope to meet up with Freek again in Cuzco.  He took the 2pm bus.  We are taking the 5:30pm bus.  We should arrive tomorrow around 1:30pm.  That is if our bus doesn't rollover into a canyon in the Andes.  It seems fatal accidents are somewhat frequent on the mountain roads we have to travel.  :(
I have also learned that everyone has been robbed at least once while traveling South America.  Many people have been robbed more than once.  The consensus is that is just part of the cost of traveling, and I had a easy time of it so far.  Other people have been robbed at gun point and have had everything but the clothes they were wearing taken from them.  :(  I don't know if I like the fact that literally everyone we have talked to who has been traveling in South America for any extended period of time has been robbed.  That is not a could stat for tourism.  We did learn that most of the thieves are considerate enough to give you the memory card out of your camera when they take it if you can ask for it in Spanish.  I guess that is part of the local thieves' code of conduct.  LOL.
Well, I am going to get offline again.  I'll write about the bus journey after we arrive and recoup in Cuzco.  We are going from sea level to 12,000 feet so we might take a couple of days to adjust to the altitude.
Cheers to you all,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Barranco Neighborhood of Lima...

Good afternoon Everyone,
I gave this posting the subject heading it has because that is where the attached pic is from.  Barranco, as you may recall, is the neighborhood of the hostel where we are staying.  This neighborhood is a collection of old homes, newer homes, old homes which are patched up, run down churches, old deteriorating wealthy homes, shacks, and new modern condos.  The attached pic is the first attempt at the "panoramic" function of my camera.  It looks like it came out pretty well.
I am also going to try to upload a couple short videos that I took when Ozell and I were riding back from the city center in a local taxi.  The videos will give you a taste of the traffic, smog, horns, and unregulated intersections in a city of 9 million people, but this particular ride was a little tamer than most.  The bus ride I had has been the most unique transit of the trip for me.
But we will be making a 20-hour bus ride to Cuzco tomorrow through the Andes from sea level to the city's elevation of 12,000 feet.  It is the main city used for people going to Machu Picchu which we intend to do as well.  There is a a couple of smaller towns between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, but Cuzco is the closest nearby city.  I think it is around 350,000 people.
Well, my computer battery is dying, and I want to upload this post.  So it is goodbye for now.
Sean  :) 

Monday, October 20, 2008

Peru: More about this place...

Hello All,
I am in much better spirits today and have been able to process and purge the fact that I was robbed yesterday.  I have actually message one of the guys who was present a couple times since it happened.  I am not so sure anymore what happened.  I could have been robbed on the way out of the club since everyone was leaving at the same time.   Oh well, it is just a lesson learned.
I wanted to chat more about some of our/my experiences in Peru.  I think Ozell is going to do that same thing, and I could very well repeat what he writes.  Hmmm,  I wonder if that will be a neat record when this trip is done, and I wonder if that would be entertaining for you and us to read?  The "that" I am to which I am referring is the fact that Ozell and I will share some of the same experiences obviously, but it should be interesting to see the differences in our perceptions and reactions to those very same experiences.  Hmm,  I think I will like that.
Sorry for the little bit of stream of consciousness writing.  I guess the joint is kicking in.  Actually, it is the little remaining, step brother, and runt portion of the original joint, but it is successfully providing a mild sublimity to the early evening.  We are at the hostel typing simultaneously.  The Point Hostel is nice enough.  It is not super crowded which I prefer anyways.  We have a double room which affords us a little privacy.  I have cheapest dorm rooms do not really appeal to me.  I can deal with some of the negatives of shoestring budget traveling like cold showers with no water pressure, but it is rough to spend night after night in a 6-person dorm room.  I'm sure we'll have to do it from time to time, but I'll be happy to pay a little more for a tw0-person room. 
There are some French, German, New Zealand, Canadian, English, and some other nationalities here currently.  There is only abs;)out 20 people here at most.  Ozell has interacted much more significantly with other people so far.  I'll let him write about it.  Everyone is nice and cordial.  The Englishman he has already mentioned in his blog is the one who has sold me a little 420.  It is not high quality, but it does the trick.  Especially since I am not smoking regularly.  My tolerance has decreased.  A nice glass of wine would be particularly satisfying right now.  The fog and sea mist has seeped in just like back home.  It is cool but pleasant.  No southern hemisphere stars for us though.  I have been looking forward to seeing their twinkling.  :)
The bar and club we went to Saturday night were enjoyable.  The first, La Sede, was a smaller bar with enough room for a small dance area.  The clientele were more genteel and our age or older.  They were dressed reasonable well and looked like people who had been out to a nice dinner.  The music was okay.  Some of the people were hot.  The place was soft colored, warm, but with more energy than an American counterpart.  The dance club ,or disco as to mainly call them here, we patronized was called Vale Todos, and it was very fun.  The crowd was younger than La Sede, but still plenty of people there our age.  I liked that I can see over most of the crowd here in Lima.   ;)  The music was fantastic in both rooms, but I preferred the electronic over the latin room.  The crowd ranged ostensibly from 18-40 with most in their 20's.  I'm sure there were more than a few 16 year olds around also as it is not to difficult to get into the clubs from what I have been told.  I don't understand why American clubs can't play music like they do in all other non-english speaking countries.  Admittedly, most of my club experience has been skewed towards the gay scene so I can't properly speak about all clubs.  And what I mean about English speaking countries is my experience that Australian and New Zealand clubs were not very different from the US in what type of music they played while Germany, Switzerland, and now Peru have been.  I like electronic music for dancing and do not like what Ozell calls "happy fag music".  Anyways, it was fun to dance there.  They also had a handful of people in moderately extravagent costumes and make up which some may call "club kids", but I don't think that is fully correct.
Ozell and I were dancing, and we were impressed with the quality of men there.  The place was pretty damn packed especially the dance floor, but it was large enough that you could actually dance instead of wavering back bouncing from the body on your left to the one on your right.  Three locals dancing next to us befriended us.  They were all very nice and were obviously attracted to us.  They were pretty hot too- and young.  18 according to their testimony, and since they were in Universidad and looked it, I believe them.  We spent a chunk of the time with them but also made our way around to other parts of the crowd.  Ozell found other interesting guys including the ones we left with later.  It was a fun and good time.
Yesterday, we mainly took it easy and recuperated since we didn't get back to the hostel until 8am.  But later in the day, I had an adventurous ride on the most crowded bus I have ever been on.  It wasn't a full size bus as you may be thinking.  Most of the buses here are converted vans and Volkswagen Minibus.  I needed to get to the other side of town, and to make the cab fare a little cheaper, I took the bus to Mira Flores.  I had a local woman who worked at the hostel offer to go with me since she had to go out all the way to the airport to get home.  She was a help for sure especially when it came time to negotiate for a taxi.  So I was standing in the doorway of the bus for the first part of the trip with half my body hanging outside the vehicle and only able to hold on a metal rail along the ceiling.  As a couple people got out, I was able to worm my way into a prized standing position entirely inside the bus.  lol  But remember this was a VW Mini bus so standing is really more like crunching over- at least if you are over 6' like me.  It is also a prime place for tourists to get pick pocketed.  I did not have any problems.  But the National Police stopped the bus and demanded to see the proper paperwork.  My guide new this could take a while and would probably end in a bribe from the bus driver to the police so we exited and then caught a cab.  I met a very nice man named Samuel at San Miguel Plaza (a mall) whom I had met at the club the night before.  We had a nice evening talking and fooling around at his place.  His English is very good, and he had a very amiable personality.  I really enjoyed his company and intend to stay in contact with him.  :)
Last night after returning from Samuel's, Ozell and I got a little food, but then ultimately just stayed in the hostel and retired to bed early to make up for the long night before.
Today we saw the Centro Lima district.  There will be pictures.  This area has some nice buildings and culture, but the area surrounding it was not very safe from what we read.  We saw the Presidential Palace and Cathedral.  There were also some unexpected 16th Century colonial ruins nearby.  We also had a fantastic late lunch/early dinner at a local place called Quierlo's.  It was recommended by the guide book as a good place to go to get authentic Peruvian food and a locals' non touristy spot.  I had a fish pasta, and Ozell had a chicken and rice dish.  Check out the pics for a view.
Now we are back at the hostel and planning our next move to Cuzco.  I'll keep you informed.
Sean  :)

The Good, The Bad and the Juicy

Well, Sean already blogged about the unfortunate part of our Saturday night in Lima so I won't go into more details about that.  Understandably, getting ripped off was the most significant news, but I also want to make sure everyone hears about the better parts of the evening because we did have a great time up until we actually left the club. 
The Good: We started Saturday evening by taking a taxi from our hostel to Miraflores, which is only about a five minute drive and costs about six soles ($2 USD).  We wanted to check out a regular bar before going to the club because, as in most countries, the clubs usually don't even open until 11pm or 12 midnight and don't get busy until even later.  We stopped at a bar called La Sede, which is a small video bar with a dance floor.  The crowd was mixed as far as men/women and older/younger and was pretty busy when we arrived.  They did have a 15 sole cover ($5 USD), which was a little steep for a regular bar.  One of the things I liked best about the bar is that they had servers walking around who would take your drink order and bring it back to you so you didn't have to try to make your way through to the crowded bar and wait for the bartender.  As is typical, they don't have the widest beer selection here in Peru, so I've been drinking one of the local beers, Cusquena.  The music was a mixture of typical dance songs you would hear back in the States and what I assume to be more local hits.  It was too crowded to really dance so we just sat along the sidelines and people watched.  It's interesting to note how people dress to go out.  I already knew that custom in a lot of Latin American countries is such that you always dress more formal for going out dancing and there were certainly a lot of people with suits, or more commonly, collared dress shirts.  Jeans and t-shirts were the least common at this bar.  Anyway, we stayed for a couple drinks and then made our way around the corner to the club. 
The club we went to is called Downtown Vale Todo (  The cover was about 20 soles ($6.50 USD) and included one free drink ticket.  Jeans and t-shirts were definitely more common here and the crowd was much younger overall and much more heavily male, probably 80-90%.  One of the things I liked was that not only was the coat check free (they just have a tip jar), they had at least two different areas where you could check your coat.  The bar itself has a fairly large area when you first walk in with a bar, brighter lighting and a seating area.  Then there were two large dance rooms, one to either side of the main area, each with it's own seating areas and bars surrounding the dance floors.  One room played more traditional latin dance music, while the other one played REALLY good house music.  As I've commented in the past, I am so disappointed with the music at the gay clubs back home and if they would learn to actually play good stuff, I could see myself going out more and actually dancing when I do go out.  Why is it so difficult to move beyond Hip Hop and/or Happy Fag music, especially if you have multiple dance floors in one club.  Even the music at gay circuit parties sucks!  Lima, like countless other cities I've been to, knows how to play good stuff and get people on the dance floor, which was always crowded.  We danced a lot at the club and met a few nice guys who were very happy to dance with the Gringos, although I think the one group we were dancing with was more into Sean than they were into me.  Obviously, we also got lots of looks from other guys in the club since it's pretty hard not to stand out being taller than everyone else, not to mention being different colors, so I had no problem finding someone else to flirt and dance with.  Anyway, both dance floors had an upstairs area overlooking the dance floor with additional seating and chill areas.  This is also where one of the coat check rooms was.  Another interesting thing about this bar was the process for getting a drink.  The bartenders don't handle cash at all.  You first have to go to a little booth/cage (like a bookie cage) to get tickets.  You tell the guy what you want, pay him, and he gives you drink tickets, which you then take to the bar to get a drink.  It sounds a bit more complicated than it seems, but it was relatively easy to get drinks because there usually wasn't a line at the cage and the bartenders seemed to work a lot faster since they didn't have to deal with taking and changing money.
The Juicy: [WARNING!  EXPLICIT SEXUAL CONTENT. Skip down to "The Bad" unless you want to read about the sexual stuff]  As we were leaving the club, I met a really cute guy, "M", who was really into me. We were making out a bit (great kisser) and talking to some of his friends, but they had just turned on the lights in the club and were pushing people out before we could exchange info.  Neither of us had a pen on us and not having a cell phone, it's not like I could just enter his phone number the way I would back home.  Conveniently enough, "M" said he lived right around the corner and we could just stop there and he could write his number down for me. So I found Sean and we walked, literally around the corner, to this guys place along with three of his friends. The guy lived in a small room, which seemed to be like one of those downtown residential hotels with orivate bedrooms but common bathrooms and living areas. The room was barely big enough for a bed, a small table, a closet and a little bit of standing room, so it was pretty crowded with the six of us.  Sean went to use the bathroom down the hall upon first arriving while "M" started digging through his drawer to write down his number.  But as "M" was writing down his number, his friend, who was obviously also into me, went straight to my pants and pulled out my dick and started sucking me off. I was a little surprised but definitely not shy and thought, what the hell, they're both cute so I don't mind playing around a bit.  By the time Sean came out of the bathroom, me, "M" and the other guy were almost naked and the three of us were fooling around, while the other two guys started having their way with Sean.  It was kind of hot watching two twinks all over Sean while I had my own two twinks to deal with. Obviously, things progressed to sex and as the gay guys reading this can probably assume, they were all bottoms.  Ah, talk about a warm welcome to Peru!!  I'm not usually even into twinks (the guys were 24, 22, 20 and 20), but one thing I've learned about Latin guys is that they know what they're doing when it comes to sex and these boys were definitely no exception.  I think I fucked three of the four of them and got off twice by the end of the night, or morning, with the second load compliments of one of the youngest, and definitely most insatiable of them all.  This boy just couldn't get enough.  Just when I thought we were all done and spent, everyone was laying down on the bed talking and stuff, Sean was getting a back massage (I don't know what happened to my massage) and as everyone else was busy with conversation, this agressive little bottom boy started sucking my dick again, got me hard, straddled me and slipped my dick inside his ass again.  Talk about a good lay!  He was really passionate and as I was looking into his eyes and making out with him, it was clear that he was enjoying my dick as much as I was enjoying his ass. He even paused mid-fuck and asked one of his friends to take some pictures of me fucking him... uh okay, just no faces.  Me being the exhibitionist, I was very turned on by the idea so whatever... I ruled out public office years ago.  Anyway, after a couple hours of tossing around, we all cleaned up and got dressed, exchanged number and emails and such and Sean and I were on our way. 
The Bad: It was after 7am when we left and were walking down the street to find a taxi when Sean noticed his money was gone. I had all my money so for a moment it was unclear when and where he lost it.  But after thinking about when he last bought something at the bar, etc., we were pretty certain one of the boys must have ripped him off.  He still had his wallet and everything else, but his wallet has a money clip on the outside which makes it a little easier to stick your hand in his pocket and grab the money out as opposed to the bill-fold style wallet where you would have to take the whole wallet.  We went back and questioned the guys, but obviously, without knowing when it happened exactly, it was hard to accuse anyone of anything without any proof.  Besides, one of the guys could have done it completely without the knowledge of the others so the others could have been geniune in saying they don't know what happened and that they didn't steal anything from us.  We left and ended up walking back to the hostel, not because I didn't have money for a cab, but because both cab drivers we stopped weren't sure where our hostel was and I was too frustrated to deal with added difficulty at the moment.  Plus, the walk would give us both time to walk off some of the anger and frustration.  Having experienced similar things before, and not being the one who was robbed, I was not as pissed as Sean and I was pissed for different reasons.  His main issue, obviously, was getting ripped off.  My main issue was the fact that we actually had a great night up until we left the club, but because of the way the night ended, all Sean would remember is the bad. Obviously, I am pissed that he got ripped off, especially since it was my idea to go home with these guys, but I'm also the type to realize that there's nothing we could do about it after the fact and dwelling on it doesn't make the anger go away.  You learn and you move on.  Sean needed to vent on the walk back and I listed without responding for a while, but also knowing Sean, I knew there was nothing I could say that would make him feel any better and attempting to reassure him, make excuses, or just talk about it would only make things worse so I didn't even bother.  The most I got out was "lesson learned" and we otherwise walked back in silence. 
So that is the essence of our first real night going out in South America.  It sucks that it ended the way it did, but hopefully we'll have many more great nights ahead and I'm sure we'll both be a little more careful if we're ever faced with a similar situation again.  We have a long road ahead of us so, as with Toronto, I'm not about to let one bad experience ruin the rest of my trip.
Fiat Lux!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Lima, Peru: I was robbed last night...

Hey Everyone,
Well, the first unfortunate event of the trip happened to me last night.  I don't want to get into the details, but someone, or more likely, some people stole the cash that I had on me after going to a club last night.  It was about 250 Peruvian Soles which equals about $85.  That was about 3 days budget.  :( 
I am unharmed.  I am all but positive the robbing was done by a group of guys Ozell and I left with after the club because I had my money when I picked up my coat from the coat check.  I did not particularly want to go with this guys, but Ozell wanted to get a number from one of them.  My intuition was not feeling it, but I did not want to be a party pooper or to be out on the streets without Ozell at 4am or whatever time it was.  It was too far to walk back to the hostel by myself.  I should have expressed my concern with Ozell, but there was no opportune time to do that, and all I had was a feeling.  I still don't know for sure it was them, but after rolling this over in my mind, I think it is the only logical answer.  The guys were friendly enough and one of them lived right around the corner from the club.  There were four of them.  We went to the one guy's place that Ozell liked ostensibly to get his number, but that is the first thing that didn't make sense to me.  Why did it require going back to this guy's place to get his number?  Why couldn't that be handled at the bar?  But again, this could have been an innocent way of just inviting us over for some fun so I didn't put up a fuss.  I wasn't interested in fun because I had too much to drink and knew my "plumbing" would not function properly.  lol I wasn't inebriated to the point where I was mentally incapacitated or unaware of what was going on, but my dick won't work after more than a few drinks.  Plus, I wasn't attracted to these guys.  I was attracted to other guys at the club whose contact information I received at the club.  Anyways, we went to the one guy's place.  Just a room really which was the next red flag to me.  It looked like all of the other necessities needed to constitute a livable dwelling (like the bathroom) were common to the entire floor. 
I can't lie and say I didn't enjoy myself a little fooling around with these guys, and they seemed friendly and innocent enough.  But my intuition still was bothering me.  Actually, it was bothering me enough that it was part of the reason I was not responding sexually.  I was thinking about other things.  I even indirectly verbally expressed my wariness by exclaiming more than once that these guys were just like the Sirens who irresistibly lured ancient seamen to their doom with their enchanting voices.  Well, substitute "enchanting voices" with "getting your dick sucked by one guy while kissing and fingering another and watching your partner fuck the other two" and that was our Sirens' call.  It's quite an effective way to distract your targets.  I said this to everyone (including myself) under the guise of jest, but it turns out it was the perfect analogy. Hahaha-  at least I can bitterly laugh about it now.  I wish I could have at least enjoyed the play.  Then I would have just considered this a moderately expensive prostitution event.
And given my personality and the fact that this is just the very beginning of our trip, the effects of this unfortunate event will linger with me.  I am the type of person where I will only feel better about losing this money after I have "saved" the equivalent amount of money by not doing some of the things I would like to do.  Take the para gliding over the Lima bluffs for example.  I have decided not to do that and thereby save myself half of what I lost.  I was also hoping to have a nice seafood dinner with Ozell at one of the cliff top restaurants, but now I will eat extremely cheap food for lunch and dinner the next few days.  I understand the perspective and advice that some of you may be thinking, "Sean, don't let this bad event negatively impact your desires and planned activities while you are in Lima.  When will you be able to para glide over the ocean and the city of Lima?"  But, by eliminating these costly activities, I will give myself a peace of mind and will be able to put this event behind me more quickly.  Things would be different if we were at the end of the trip and still had plenty of money left.  But this is our first stop, and if I burn through money at this rate, then we will be back home by Xmas so this is what I have to do.
Well, writing about it has made me feel a little better about it also.  Time to take out my physical stress with some physical exercise, and then I will be in a better spot.
I'm ready to leave Lima.  I want to move on.  But I need to talk to Ozell about that, and our departure may rely upon when we can schedule transportation to Cuzco....
Thanks again to Heiko my German friend who made me laugh and smile with his comforting words.  He is one of the most positive and happy people I have ever met... Du bis ein fantastich Mann, mein Freund!
Best wishes to all of you!
Sean   :)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

South of the Equator

We have officially crossed the equator, a very big first for me.  We arrived safely a little after midnight, local time, here in Lima, Peru after an eight- hour flight from Toronto. Lima is on the same time zone as Central Time in the US, so we're two hours ahead of California and an hour behind the East Coast.  Upon navigating our way through immigration and customs (relatively easy, no problems), exchanging our Canadian dollars into Neuvo Soles, we were happy to find Luis waiting for us with a name sign and ready to drive us to our hostel.  And although the sign said "Ozell Vicente", I was pretty sure we had the right driver.  It was definitely nice that our hostel provided the shuttle service because I would not have wanted to have to arrange for a taxi and barter over prices at 1:30 in the morning upon first arriving in a strange country.  Besides, the airport was quite busy for it being after midnight, presumable because of the large number of international flights.
We arrived at our hostel after a very "efficient" ride through the winding streets of Lima.  I saw a few 30 kph speed limit signs but I'm pretty sure Luis was going twice whatever the posted limit was.  Driving here seems to be a lot like Mexico City, but not as bad as Rome.  Let's just say you better make sure you're watching when you step off the curb.  They do have a ton of strategically placed speed bumps on main streets, mostly at intersections where there isn't a stoplight (or stop sign, which seems common).  I never thought I would be so supportive of speed bumps as a traffic calming measure.  It's also very much like Mexico City in the sense that you immediately notice the exhaust from the cars permeating the air.  It can be a little nauseating at first, but I seemed to adjust relatively quickly, especially as a smoker.  If I'm intentionally breathing in toxic air from my cigarettes, I don't notice all the unintentional toxic air I'm also breathing in from the cars!  Nevertheless, we pretty much assumed they don't have to do smog checks in Lima. 
Our hostel is in Barranco, the bohemian/artist neighborhood and is located right by the ocean.  There is a nice view of the Pacific from right outside our hostel, but there are cliffs shooting up almost immediately after the shoreline, so it's not like home where you can just walk across the street to the beach.  Picture Torrey Pines in San Diego with the city perched atop the cliffs. I'm not good at judging heights, but I would guess the cliffs are about 200 feet.  Anyway, after sleeping in until about 11am, we had coffee and breakfast (i.e. bread and jam) here at the hostel, then took a walk over to Miraflores, the touristy/trendy neighborhood of Lima.  The weather is very much like San Diego so there was a marine layer and fog along the coast and only intermittent sunshine. The temperature is also like San Diego; it was probably mid-sixties today, which is plenty warm enough to wear shorts, but with the ocean breeze and only a t-shirt, it gets a little cool in the shade. 
There is a fairly large and really nice, multi-level outdoor mall in Miraflores called Larcomar, which is built right into the cliff face along the ocean.  We had lunch at one of the restuarants with an outdoor patio that is literally built into the side of the cliff.  Definitely not somewhere I would want to be in an earthquake, but a great place to have a bite to eat and watch the waves. I ordered a bit too much food though. I wasn't that hungry and wanted something light so I ordered soup and a sandwich.  But of course, even though it was way too much food, being the pig I am, I ate almost all of it.  Good energy for walking around the city I guess.  There are also lots of parks and green spaces along the top of the cliffs overlooking the ocean so it was a beautiful area to walk around. Obviously, the city gets a little less glamourous as you move beyond the main strip, but I was still pleased with the availability of trashcans along the street... at least in Miraflores, which is all we've really seen so far. That was one of my disappointments in Toronto.  Even though the city was very clean, it was impossible to find a trashcan outside, even at bustops and outside businesses! 
As we were sitting in the hostel bar today after our little walk through the city, I thought about my arrival in Peru and today's date and realized, this is the seventh country (and third continent) I've been in during the past 30 days: Germany, Poland, Switzerland, France (even though I only had dinner there and went shopping), United States, Canada, Peru.  Even though our Europe vacation wasn't really part of this around-the-world trip, the short time in between them has certainly contributed to a lot of miles traveled.  By the way, the "Total Mileage Traveled" listed on the Travel Blog does not include the Europe trip. 
So far, we've met Dan, an English guy from London staying here at the hostel; I guess he's been in and around Peru for over a year now.  He's a nice guy and works here at the hostel sometimes when needed just to earn some extra money or free lodging.  I also had a chance to meet Simon, the guy I corresponded with when I was booking the reservation here.  We've been checking out things to do tonight since it's Saturday and our first weekend away from home.  We'll probably check out one of the discos in Miraflores.  I'll have to let you know the next time I blog. 
Cheers for now!

Lima, Peru: October 18th

Hola Amigos!
Late last night/ early this morning, Ozell and I arrived in Lima, Peru (population 7.6 million or so)- safely.  The flight was easier than I had expected.  Just about 8 hours in the air, and the time passed reasonably quickly.  I did not sleep much as is typically the case.  We arrived a little after midnight.  After finishing through immigration and customs, we were met by a shuttle from the hostel we had booked.  It is called The Point Hostel of Lima and can be viewed via their website:  The one in Lima obviously.  The hostel is in the Barranco neighborhood to the south of the city center.  It is nearly oceanside.  The Barraco neighborhood is the "bohemian" neighborhood of Lima or at least the remnants thereof.  It is relatively run down, but so is all of Lima actually.  Although this is one of the better neighborhoods.  But more on that later...
The car ride from the airport to the hostel was an adventure in itself.  It was nothing different from what I expected, but I wasn't sure if my well intentioned expectations would be proved either correct or incorrect.  The neighborhood adjacent to the airport was pretty rough around the edges.  We mainly took a road along the coast.  While the buildings and overall environment were better, they were still not what you would see in the USA, Europe, or the other places I have traveled with the exception of the real Cancun in Mexico- not the gringo protectorate barrier island most of the tourists only see.  We are in a second world nation.  And I say that with as little prejudice or judgment as I can.  I am just trying to convey the setting.  The locals have been nice as much as I have interacted with them, and all of life's daily joys are experienced here as they are anywhere else.  The difference is the just quality of the infrastructure (although San Diego's is in comparably as miserable a state), the buildings, the cleanliness of the ground and the air, the stray dogs, and the overall reduced level of wealth.  There is nothing to regret or pity however because I think this could be a happier place than most places. 
We walked through the Mira Flores and Barranco neighborhoods today.  Mira Flores is one of the nicest neighborhoods in town.  We mainly stuck along the coast and found a shopping mall built literally into the side of the seaside bluff.  The top of the mall is at ground level of the top of the bluff.  We had lunch there today, and that is where the pic attached to this posting is from.  As you will be able to see from some of the other pics I will post soon, Lima is very similar to Torrey Pines, California for those of you familiar with that area.  Lima is perched above the Pacific Ocean on seaside bluffs approximately a few hundred feet high.  And like Torrey Pines, there are hang gliders and para gliders who use the bluffs to enjoy their sport.  Actually, it is more of a tourist activity, but I am sure some enjoy it for themselves from time to time.  I think I will try this out because it is something I have always wanted to do.  I have skydived before, but I have not done the paragliding.  And I think it would be more entertaining to me to do it here rather than Torrey Pines because unlike TP where there is no development, here in Lima the city lines the bluffs.  This will be my best chance to get a bird's eye view of the city.  I hope to snap another picture.
Another readily observed similarity between Lima and San Diego is the climate.  Lima is also a semi-arid coastal desert.  We are now in their Spring, and as with San Diego, this part of the year is famous for the fog and marine layer cloud cover that hangs along the shore.  That is what we had today.  However, it did start to burn off by the mid afternoon.
I am currently stoned as I am writing this blog entry.  One of the international workers at this hostel, and English bloke, inquired Ozell at the bar whether he smoked weed.  Ozell replied that he did not, but that I did.  In fact, I think he used the phrase "total pothead" if my aural reception was correct.  I was sitting in a slightly different part of the bar and was not paying closest attention at the time.  Anyway, the English gentleman offered to share a joint with me, and how could a pothead refuse the hospitality of such a gracious offer?  ;)  I did not refuse.  Europeans, as some of you may know, mixed tobacco with their weed when they smoke joints.  I learned this lesson in Europe when I was there in 2001.  I do not smoke tobacco and do not enjoy it.  Since I have narrowly had a drag of any tobacco products in years, even a decade now, the tobacco definitely contributed its own type of head rush.  That combined with the high of the weed and the double beers in my tummy has made for a pleasant evening thus far.  :)  I should probably rub one out before the high dissipates.  Lol
Well, I am getting sick of typing, and it looks like Ozell and I will be going to some of the gay clubs tonight so I am going to get offline.
Adios por ahora,

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Queens Are NOT Fierce!

Well, the first stop on our world tour has been pretty cool. We arrived Tuesday afternoon (10/14) in Toronto where we stayed with Andrew, a fellow couchsurfer. With this being our first couchsurfing experience, I think Andrew set the bar pretty high for any future hosts.  He's a great guy, very knowledgable about the city, and very generous and accomodating.  Andrew has an awesome downtown loft in the Old Town section of the city, which turned out to be a perfect location for walking to everything.  And we've certainly done a lot of over the past few days... from 5-10 miles everyday we're been here. I can tell already that I'm going to be in much better cardiovascular health by the time this trip is finished. Anyway, I don't think we could have had a better experience with living arrangements.  Andrew took us on a walking tour of the city and even treated us to dessert at Richtree, a really nice restaurant downtown with a beautiful atrium and cool, relaxed atmosphere.  He also had lots of great advice and insight into all things Canadian.    
Toronto seems to be going through some kind of building boom.  There are construction cranes and sites all over the city, kind of like San Diego a few years ago.  While a lot of the sites seem to be condos and lofts (with signs noting up to 80% sold; unlike San Diego), they also have a couple of what appears to be new office towers going up downtown.  Apparently, the Canadians have managed to isolate themselves from the current world economic crisis because they seem to be doing just fine here, at least financially.  Politically, they have their own issues with their government, although I'll remind all you Canadians, it could be worse.  Canada actually had national elections on the day we arrived and it was really interesting to watch the news and hear commentary on the complete and utter waste of time and money the whole process was.  But as the barista in the coffee shop told me the morning after elections, "Hey, at least it's not as bad as the US".  I don't think he realized I was American, lol.  
We did check out a number of the gay bars here in Toronto.  Wednesday night, we went to the Barn for College Night, which was exactly as it sounds... a bunch of young guys dancing to Happy Fag music.  The crowd was decent, but the layout and what I assume were fire code restrictions contributed to a really fucked up situation in which Sean got stuck upstairs and couldn't come back down to the main floor because they were at capacity.  I'm sure Sean will blog about that since he was more affected than I was so I won't go into drawn out details; I will just say that I was disappointed in Sean's reaction to the experience.  I'm sure we will have plenty of unfortunate experiences and frustrations on this trip, especially in the less developed countries.  It will be important for both of us to just let things go.  Whatever the case, if you ever go to the Barn, just don't go upstairs to the third floor. 
We also met Miles and his boyfriend Kevin at the Barn.  Miles, a guy we met in Cancun earlier this year, is a great guy too and it was nice to hang out with him again, even if the music wasn't necessarily what any of us are into. By the way, Miles has amazing handwriting!!  He gave us a really nice postcard and wrote a really special message on the back that really meant a lot to us.  Thanks Miles!!  We also checked out Woody's, the Black Eagle, and Play, which I learned is the bar with drag shows almost every night. We did watch a few of the drag performers Thursday night, and most weren't very good.  Actually, they were even worse than the drag queens in San Diego.  I am constantly reminded of the shows in Detroit and am slowly realizing that drag queens in most cities would get eaten alive back home.  The Detroit drag queens (or female impersonators/impressionists, whatever they call themselves these days) are truly FIERCE!  I know, I hate that word too, but it's the perfect adjective in this case and, unfortunately, not one I would ever use to describe the Toronto drag queens.
By the way, I've been using Skype to make calls to regular phones for a few days now. I can't tell you how convenient it is to be able to make calls when I need to.  Granted, I can't take my computer with me everywhere so I'm still getting used to not having a cell phone, but the call quality with Skype is surprisingly good, especially with the headset.  It's not always perfect and background noise on either end can reduce the call quality, but even with that, I find it amazing that people back in the US can call a San Diego number and reach me even though I'm in another country.  I even got a surprise call yesterday from my cousin, Chubby, back in Detroit. I love technology.
Okay, enough for now. We're off to Lima later on today and I still need to take care of a few things before we take off.  I will also try to blog more regularly so my posts don't end up being so long.
P.S.  Throughout the trip, I'll list the local prices (converted to USD) of some things I normally buy at home to give you an idea of what the travel costs are for each particular city.
Toronto's COE (Cost of Essentials):
Large Coffee from a Coffee Shop: $1.85
Pack of Cigarettes: $8.50
McDonalds Value Meal: $7.00
Domestic Draft at the bar: $5.00
Six-Pack at the Grocery: $13.00

Toronto: October 14th-17th

Hello All!
Ozell and I are now in Toronto, Ontario.   For those of you wondering why we are in Toronto when we said we would be traveling through the southern hemisphere, it is because the airline alliance we are with for our around-the-world ticket only has Air Canada flying to Peru.  Toronto is Air Canada's hub.  The nice feature of the ticket is that if we are routed to another city in order to get to one of the cities listed on our formal itinerary, then we are permitted to stay in that layover city if we wish.  Since Ozell and I both had an interest in visiting Toronto sometime anyways, we were happy to stay a few days checking it out now.
We are also currently staying with Andrew who is a fellow "couchsurfer".  If you do not know what a "couchsurfer" is, then I suggest checking out when you have the chance.  You can find my profile under the user name:  pater_mulcahy and Ozell's under: etnaix.  Andrew has been a consummate host.  This is our first experience staying with a couchsurfer, and I am afraid that we may have been spoiled.  :)  I have been hosting fellow travelers in San Diego the last few years.
I also want to mention that Ozell and I have been technically homeless for over a week now.  A very kind friend, Greg, was generous enough to host us at his home in North Park the last five days we were in San Diego even though he is dealing with the consequences of a busted water heater.  Greg also found me a place to store my oil paintings and is looking after my car while we are gone.  We really appreciate your friendship and hospitality, Greg.  :)
Toronto has been very pleasant overall.  It is also nice to see all of the Fall colors and the crisp, but still quite pleasant, temperatures.  The city is clean and is also experiencing the urban residential revival that many cities have been experiencing- at least up until the mortgage and credit crisis in the States.   Here in Toronto, development appears to be unaffected.  If you ask yourself, "Why haven't I heard anything about Canadian banks failing when I know that American, European, and Asian banks are failing?", the answer is because here in Canada they actually have some banking regulations so their banks have remained quite solvent.  Imagine that!  BTW-  anyone who votes for McCain is a selfish or ignorant imbecile or extremely feeble minded and easily manipulated.  I personally don't know anyone who has verily benefited from the NeoCon agenda, and yet I know many who continue to vote against their own best interests because their pride and loyalty to the Republican party means more to them than their children's and grandchildren's future.   And no, I did not vote for Obama.  I voted for Cynthia McKinney because Obama has pissed me off with his capitulation to the NeoCons and Corporations on some key issues and because I know that McCain will not win California.  Personally, I would like to see 95% of our federally elected officials of both major parties imprisoned or executed depending on their personal responsibility for the destruction of our once great republic.  But enough of that...
Andrew, our host, took us around the first evening we were in Toronto to see some of the downtown landmarks like the St. Lawrence Market and the Flat Iron building which is smaller but older than the famous Flat Iron building in NYC.  The next day he showed us more of downtown including Yonge-Dundas Square, the Eaton Center, the old City Hall, and the new City Hall.  He then cut us loose, and Ozell and I walked pretty much around the entire perimeter of the downtown area.  We saw the financial district and Bay Street (their Wall Street), Queen Street West which is like OB or the Haight District in San Fran (this is the neighborhood I would probably choose to live in), Chinatown, the Ontario legislature building, and Church Street.  Church Street is somewhat funny to me because it is named for the numerous christian churches that line the street, but it is also the main street of Toronto's gay neighborhood.
We met back up with Andrew in the evening, and he treated us to a late dessert at RichTree Market restaurant.  This place was really cool.  It was a grocery store style buffet of all kinds of wonderful freshly made food:  pastries, soup, coffee, seafood, meet, vegetables, and pretty much everything in between.  I just had a glass of wine and a bowl of fresh berries covered in chocolate syrup.
After we were finished with that, Ozell and I met up with Miles (a guy we met in Cancun this past February who lives in Toronto) and his boyfriend, Kevin.  We met them at a club called The Barn which was a cool enough venue except for one major flaw.  This club had three floors.  Last night, the first floor was not open, but the second and third floors were.  Almost everyone stayed on the second floor, but I made my way up to the third floor a few times when I wanted to get a beer because the bar up there had no line.  That worked for a while, but then on my third trip for a beer up there, I was stopped and not allowed back down to the second floor where all of the action was.  For whatever reason, each of their floors has a maximum occupancy limit, and once the limit was reached on the second floor, they would only let people back down as other people came up.  Of course, no one wants to come up to the third floor because of this ridiculous policy, plus the bar was still letting people from outside come in so us on the third floor were doubly screwed.  It took me about an hour with only ten people ahead of me before I could get back downstairs.  This left very little time to enjoy myself before the bar closed, and I was in such a bad mood that I didn't want to be around Ozell or Miles and his bf.  I finally came out of it, but there is no doubt in my mind that is the worst design for crowd control in a bar that I have ever seen.  They had some disgusting drag queen with a megaphone trying to keep people's spirits up on the 3rd floor by saying things like, "Come on everybody,  let's see those faces smile!" and inane shit like that.  I wanted to rip off her fake titties and use them to bang both sides of her head in.  Lol
I did notice that this bar/club also had a sex play area on the third floor!  Goddamn puritan Americans and their sexual repression.  What a pity we can't have darkrooms in our bars!  Again, this was just a normal bar and club in all other aspects.
Today, I just milled around the city for a bit and then had a trick in the afternoon.  It was not worth my time.  Nice guy, but not exactly what I thought he was going to be like.  However, he was Iranian and 26, and he did tell me his interesting story of how he had to leave his family, escape to Turkey, and then apply for asylum in Canada because he is gay.  Hearing his personal story is just a reminder that even though I bitch and am dumbfounded by Americans' sexual repression and  bigotry, there are many other places in this world that are even more devolved and paranoid.
Tonight, Ozell and I will be heading out to a couple of the bars on Church Street.  We'll check out the leather bar, The Eagle, and one of their landmark establishments, Woody's.
I'll upload Toronto pics soon!
Tomorrow we leave for Lima and the real fun and strangeness begins!!
Cheers to you all.  (except those of you who vote for McCain.  You deserve all the shit that is coming your way...  Just try not to take the rest of us down with you, you sadistic and masochistic sons-of-bitches.) 
Sean  :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Update on our Departure

Well, time is winding down and we're almost ready to go.  We arrived back in San Diego Tuesday night (9/30) after two weeks in Europe and I'm still recovering from jet lag. The Big Box storage container was delivered yesterday and we're almost done packing everything that has to go in it.  We got rid of most of the larger items but still seem to have quite a bit of stuff so we'll see how much actually fits. They come to pick up the container next Tuesday and we are officially out of our place the next day.  We also arranged to vote at the Registrar of Voters office on Monday so I have to read through all these propositions and ballot initiatives before then.
By the way, we both have new telephone numbers for use while we're traveling since our cell phones won't work outside of the US.  The numbers are listed in the side menu on the right.  You can call us from any phone, but the call will ring through to our computers, which means you'll get voicemail if we're not online.  Just leave a message along with a good time to call you back if you don't reach us. The numbers are more like landlines so I'm not yet sure if text messages will work, but I'll let you know once I find out.  Either way, our current phone numbers will no longer be active once we leave San Diego. 
Our official departure date is Tuesday, October 14. We're flying out of LAX at 06:30 and heading to Toronto for a few days before heading south to Lima, Peru on October 17.  I know, the routing doesn't make much sense, but it's because Air Canada is the alliance member that flies to Peru so we have to go through their hub. Neither of us has been to Toronto before anyway so we were happy to stay over a few days; plus, it looks like we'll get to hang out with Miles while we're there. He's a really cool guy we met when we were in Cancun last February.
And yes, I took the picture from our balcony so that's the ocean in the background. I can't believe we won't have this view anymore...