Monday, November 23, 2015

Super quick visual tour of the last 9 months: part 1

Some friends were bugging me to write more back in May-June, and just as I was about to post another update here, I lost access to this email account until I returned to the States. Bummer! Here's a quick summary of March->October, when I returned, and I'll fill in details later...

Mid-March: I left the indigenous family I stayed with in the Ecuadorian jungle; my friend Seaver and I headed to a small town called Pisac. Pisac is full of hippie people... the sort that give other hippies a bad name. I got invited to an astrology class and bit my tongue really hard the whole time.
(none of these pictures are mine, but I was there, honest)
Mountains give Pisac a big hug on all sides.

In case I had humility issues, these ruins are actually from multiple civilizations, each of which rose, left its mark, and then disappeared. Right next to Pisac.

To give an idea of scale, each of those terrace walls is taller than me ( >6 feet!) made with huge rocks dragged from all over the valley.

End-March: My friends Seaver and Jess and I leave Pisac, a small town outside the large city of Cusco, and head for Puerto Maldonado in SE Peru
Cusco, the major city near Pisac, is in south-central Peru. Puerto Maldonado, where I went next, is to the east of it.

April-May: Puerto Maldonado / Infierno. Puerto Maldonado is the sort of city that prompts the comment, "Wow, I thought that last city was the armpit of Peru." Sadly, several Peruvian cities are like that.

Welcome to Puerto Maldonado! The road above actually looks less trashy than I remember it.

We headed to a small, officially designated "Native Community" south of Puerto Maldonado. You know your conquerers respect your culture when they name your town "Infierno" (in English: Inferno, i.e. Hell) and call you "Salvajes" (savages). I can imagine the conversation: "Where did you grow up?" "I'm from Hell." Also, just to add insult to insult, the province's name is "Madre de Dios" (Mother of God). Just like I might say I'm from "Asheville, North Carolina, USA", the name of this native town, translated, is "Hell, Mother of God, Peru." We stay with a local 'shaman', but it's not a super warm place. His spiritual warmth seemed to vary in proportion to the likelihood of us paying him more. Hmm.

Skipping a lot of details... my friends and I thought we found a welcoming native community about 8 hours upriver from Infierno, but we were wrong.  I actually had the proverbial "surrounded by a bunch of angry natives with machetes" moment. After a heated 45 minutes, the 8-9 men and surrounding women/kids decided not to get violent, for which I was grateful. I had it easier than the 2 friends I was with: I at least spoke 6-month-old Spanish and could understand and respond to the natives. My friends' Spanish was poor, so they only recognized that things weren't going great. Which was an accurate recognition.

No boat ride was too long with this view! Now compare this with the picture of a major Peruvian city above.

May: I order a Kindle and coconut oil online which get impounded by the Peruvian government. According to the gov't, I need a medical prescription for coconut oil! Approximately 5,000 doctors laugh at me trying post-hoc to get a prescription for it. Also, Seaver has medical trouble, so we leave for Lima to take care of both these things, though not before meeting a bunch of clown dentists in Puerto Maldonado. Lack of patient understanding and consent is no barrier to intensive drilling for these doctors, no-sir-ee. Happily, we prevent any major/unrecoverable medical errors and things are taken care of in Lima.

May-June: We head east from Lima to La Merced and then Satipo.We'd heard there were less-civilized natives in this area, which was confirmed by a news report of someone finding a body in a boat floating down the river, the body having an arrow sticking out of it. Off we went!

The pin marks Satipo. You can see Cusco and Puerto Maldonado to the south east of Satipo.

[Then our protagonist gets tired and decides to write Part II soon, wherein he does an extended fast, gives up on finding the sort of indigenous community he sought, finds it and lives with wild, beautiful human beings for some time, catches malaria, doesn't feel so good in strange ways, gets better, and returns to the US, among other things.]