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Andes to the Amazon; Peru and Brazil  (March 1999)

            Before paying any money to Nan at Boulevard Travel Agency in Thousand Oaks California, I weighed the value of this trip that I may never have a future opportunity to do, against leaving Marcy alone.  I know my father’s 80th birthday will be missed but he says that he knows I will think of him and honor him.  He let me off easily.  I bought him a suit, he was happy with that even though he seldom wears one.  Marcy is a completely different story.  It seems we’ve been together, married, for such a short time, so I find a great sorrow in her absence as my travel companion.  We live and travel well together.  I really miss her.  Although this entire journal could be an ode to her, sufficient words have been written so that any reader of my journal will understand the great emptiness that the lack of her presence causes me.  

Travel Services to Call

From Khalid 1-800-Airfare Too slow
Travelmate 818/507-6283 LMTC
Up n Away 213/852-9745 NO ANSWER
All Continents 800/368-6822 310/337-1641 LMTC
World Link 818/779-1418 LMTC
American Travel Assoc 800/243-2724 or
           818/783-1585 No Answer mach
Eros Travel 213/955-9695 NO ANSWER
Traveling Traveler 310/973-7938 LMTC
American Travel Consolida 800/872-4601
Galaxy 800/418-2600 818/907-1825 LMTC
Amirs Travel 888/764-6342 310/231-1234 LMTC

Brazil Visa
8484 Wilshire Blvd. Ste 711 or 730
9a.m. to 1 p.m.
Fax: 213 / 651-1403
Dr Horton 805/446-4444
Westlake at 9 am on Fri,2/19/99
1240 Westlake #231
Probably will cost about $350 for all Immunization
Or the Pasadena Travel Center Immunization

           I have purchased all air transportation I think I’ll need.  I paid $1541.   The only land travel which is yet to be arranged is from Peru into Brazil.  That section I hope to make by river transport.  I expect a few problems when I hire a guide.   I expect it will be rainy all over and high water in the Amazon and Patagonia.

            From the very first day of March until the day I left,  I packed, repacked and packed again.  Trying in every way to lighten my load, I evaluated the need for each and every item.  My backpack weighs fifty-one pounds at the final weigh-in.  The two liters of water and fruit chews, foods that will be consumed within a day or two are very heavy, proportionate to their physical size.

My Estimate of Needed Time for
South American Destinations




Est.  Days



From Miami




Close to Machu  Picchu


La Paz/Huatajata


By Lake Titicaca




Amazon River Base in Peru




Amazon Base in Brazil


Iguassu Falls


Important Site


Rio de Janeiro


City of Departure


The Journey Begins 

Friday, March 5, 1999   From Los Angeles to Lima, Peru      

            Following our plan to get to Los Angeles International Airport, Marcy rode into her office with her friend Brett.  I met her at 11:00 a.m. in Marcy’s car, the Lexus.   We made our first stop at Tito’s Tacos.  Marcy bought ten tacos for her office staff and I ate two burritos knowing that it’ll be a few weeks before I can come back again.  This is the one part of this adventure that will not be fun; my separation from Marcy.



Payment to Whom    /   For What Item




Flight on  United




Dr. Horton (Immunizations)




Travel Insurance  phone: 800 / 654-1908




Aero Peru  &  Bolivian stuff




First aid medicines (Rite-Aid)




Booties (at K-Mart)




Kramer’s Pharmacy Larium (malaria), Scopolamine , Diazon (altitude sickness)




Visa (from Brazilian Consulate)


            At the airport, we tried to make the parting brief.  Marcy was crying.  I’ll miss her.  The plane boarded late by forty minutes (we left at 3:10pm.)    I had a two-hour layover in Miami scheduled, so whether I spent the extra time on a late plane here or there was irrelevant.  Once in Miami I was obligated to confront the new airline rules about how much luggage can be brought aboard with me.   Now I was on a full sold out flight and it was a smaller plane.   Only one bag was permitted to accompany me as carry-on luggage.  I had two pieces (my backpack and camera bag.) I don’t want to check either of them in. 

            Somehow, I’m not sure how, I stuffed the second bag into my backpack then I forced the backpack to fit in the plastic box.  I staged my performance clearly within the view of the ticket-taking pursers who stood behind a tall plastic counter placed strategically in the waiting area so passengers could measure carry-on luggage.  If it did not fit in the box, the stewardesses insisted that the luggage be checked in.  I had several (what I thought were) good reasons for not checking in my backpack, like I had no locks for the compartments and I had cash hidden in several pockets.  Also it would have been disastrous if my journey began with misdirected or misplaced luggage!   

            The plane filled quickly but I found my seat right away, it was right by the door.  Easy off!   A thick river of people pushed past me.  Everybody was carrying packages and jamming them into every crevasse they could find.  Many people tried to block use of the overhead bin above their seat in vain attempts to hold the space for an errant travel partner who, for whatever reason was not able or willing to be herded among the first people to board.  The overhead compartments would fill quickly but the next package bearing passenger could, somehow, manipulate the contents to fit his package in too.    It was a crazy scene.  The flight left at 11:30pm from Miami and arrived at dawn (5:00am) in Lima.            

March 6, 1999 Saturday   Lima, Peru

What a dollar was worth
Peru 3.7Soles
Bolivia 5.7 Bolivianos
Brazil 1.8 Real

A large purple and white neon clock in the dank airport terminal  is about to turn to 7a.m. in Lima, Peru.   I was the first off the airplane but others ran past me.  Customs officers were slow to  inspect the exiting passengers, I was out quickly and the line built up behind me. I was among the few that were able to bring their luggage aboard rather than to wait for the lethargic baggage handlers to begrudgingly toss, from the plane, each bag onto a crusty, old yellow metal cart.  A small gas tractor had two of the long carts in tow, after the first was piled high, they would fill the second.  Two men, uniformly dressed like other members of an orange-overall wearing gang of seven, and were the only ones to labor at this task.  The others stood about, facing each other, talking about something that, I’m certain, had nothing to do with the job at hand. The two men who held broad black bristled brooms used it only to support themselves, not for the task to which it was intended. 

What I Always Kept in my Backpack
Gloves, first aid kit, personal medicine camera, video, clothing, jacket, guidebook money, boots, poncho, gators, batteries film, toilet paper, bug spray, toiletries kerchief, bug net, plastic bags, flashlight.
            First I must find a guide and move on out through the city.  Morning light is still in the gray, shadowy minutes of dusk.   A taxi would be a good choice to look around Lima on a slow drive to Miraflores.  I push my way through a vast lake of drivers and guides who are hoping for a fare.  I can see on their faces that they are desperately searching for a way to earn enough money to exist another day.  Sadly, the definition is too distinct between the poor and the rich.  Only the rich were airplane passengers, a mode of travel only dreamed of by those who live much closer to the brown earth.  It is only members of the lower class, waiting patiently, a whole day, if necessary, to uncover a paying fare.  

            Many drivers speak English, German, or French.  They are all speaking to me at once.  I look too much like a tourist and felt like a piece of bait the way I was being cajoled to walk this way or that.  I changed my mind and paid twelve American dollars to buy a bus ticket into Lima.  Taking a taxi would cost thirty dollars, according to posted red and white signs by the taxicab stand, written in Spanish English, Portuguese, French and German.  It wasn’t the difference of money that deterred me, but the drivers’ demeanor.

            Nobody else was on the bus; I was the sole passenger.  I handed the bus driver a small slip of paper with the address of a well-recommended hotel which I copied from my Lonely Planet Guide Book. It was about forty minutes till we arrived at the hotel.

            I’m checked into a small, chic, garden hotel in the Miraflores district called El Patio Hotel.  Miraflores is a wealthy suburb of Lima that is primarily occupied by foreigners because they are the moneyed people.  The kitchen area was a warm place to wait for breakfast to be prepared.  I have no idea what the food will be nor do I know how, or where, it will be made.  The only edibles visible on the table are a stained, half-full jar of cheap instant coffee. The jar sits on a laminated blue-checkered tablecloth framed by several small wrinkled packets of sugar scattered, randomly, across the table.  This will probably not be a gourmet meal.  

            All of my friends, who’ve preceded me to Lima, were right about Lima being dull.  The most gracious thing I could say about Lima is that it was only slightly more interesting than Calgary, Canada.  Maybe I would have had a different impression if I spent a little more time looking at the city.   They have a few architectural structures of historical interest, but there were a few things I saw, of great interest during a twenty-dollar three-hour bus tour of Lima.  Outside of Plaza Mayor the most interesting site was the partially constructed pyramid, abandoned by the indigenous natives before the arrival of the Spanish, four hundred years ago.  The yellow tinged, clay brick base stood about ten feet above the ground.  We were not permitted to get close to it.  The crumbling clay base was protected from tourists by a six-foot high chain link fence.  I’m sure if someone really dug out the history it would be more interesting than the tour.  Included were a few 18th-century homes built near the one remaining 17th century home.  The history of this city extends much further back, but little mention was made outside of the city’s political and historical center, Plaza Mayor.  I seldom have heard much about the Indian predecessors who occupied this region before the Spanish invasion.

The weather is pleasant and the city, large as it is, is cleaner than others I’ve seen in my previous Latin travels.  Kinda boring but I’ve adjusted my biological clock and the three-hour time difference will become four when California goes on daylight-saving time soon.  They stopped the ridiculous seasonal changing of clocks in Peru after it caused lots of problems.  I was pleasantly surprised when I found a cybercafé and checked my email and wrote a few letters.  Hard to believe: it cost me about $1.50 US to use their computer for thirty minutes.  3.34 soles to the dollar; a worse rate of exchange is offered for travelers’ checks.  I tried to figure out how to get out of Lima tomorrow but I don’t think I can do that.  I want to go to Cuzco a day early.  I’ll check it out tomorrow.

            Personal Medicines



When Used

How Much?

Diamox  125g

Altitude Illness

 Start 3 hrs prior

2 x daily



Each Sunday

1 x



First sign Illness

1x daily

Imodium AD


First signs

2x daily



Every day

1x daily



Two Daily

4x daily max


Sea Sickness

An hour before Boating/Scuba


March 7, 1999    Sunday   Lima, Peru   

            If I could change it, would have been better spent in Cuzco.  I could have gone to the airport (twenty US dollars and thirty minutes each way by taxi) and gambling on a very “ify” chance that I could change the flight date to today, included dragging my large backpack with me.  Instead I relaxed, read, wrote, showered, then walked out in front of my little garden apartment in the Miraflores district and gazed up and down the long, quiet street on this warm sunny morning.  I hired a passing cab to take me to Plaza Mayor, the social and historical center of old Lima.  No business is open except the Catholic churches which are really busy.  I see few men among the many women and their broods of very ambulatory children, are going to or coming from religious services. 

            The wide plaza is surrounded by colonial-style buildings which are largely occupied by governmental staff.  The omnipresence of armed policia and the military is overwhelming.  The furtive eye movement from every man in uniform, as though they were expecting something to happen is giving me a foreboding chill.  I feel edgy, because I don’t want to be caught in any crossfire. 

            All banks have at least one armed guard.  Most have more.  Every busy street corner had a very visible armed policeman.  I was reminded of the need for this extra measure of security yesterday when, as part of the city tour, we drove past the large estate of the Japanese Embassy where hostages were taken four years ago. 

            I wandered out of the taxi, almost drunkenly from one edifice to the next, carrying my large plastic orange bag filled with all items of value I could not easily replace including my Canon F-1 35MM camera.  It has always been extremely, reliable.  That is one characteristic that the fancy, new cameras omit as a feature.  There is a vast array of gadgetry built into all of them.  I thought I’d bring the video camera too because it might best capture the “flavor” of activities I might glimpse. 

            There exists a malodorous, seamy side to this populous city that undulates like a snake. That life force can only be recorded with video film.  How could this be helped?  It exists everywhere that there are more than two people. There are plenty of people working (very visibly) in the sanitation department but it’s just way too little.  One small strike by the workers and chaos would occur.  Since it hasn’t, people have adjusted to, and live with “the way it is.”  Like an old rotting building, given a fresh coat of paint, everything “looks fine” but underneath that thin veneer, there await deep endemic problems that can only be forestalled for a short time . . . just long enough till it becomes the problem of next generation.  

            The Limans have, what looks like, a stable economy—well, I should say I measure the health of the local economy by the number of beggars I see and how persistent they are.  It is how I take a city’s financial well-being temperature rectally.  If the asshole is doing fine then the rest of the beast is okay too.  No science here, its just the way I see it.

            There are beggars here to be sure, but not many.  Mainly its “indiginas” (that’s what native Peruvian Indians prefer to be called currently).  Some of the women have the same shitty begging game of training their kids to do it for them while they chat amongst themselves.  I am disgusted, every time I see begging used as an alternative to work by those healthy enough to do it.  Begging, as a vocation worldwide, has few men are who are takers of alms.  Only the men with a really gruesome deformity can make enough here.  Although I very seldom ever give money to children working for their lazy mother (because I think it promotes begging within the family), I often give a little money to the people I perceive as really needy.  The system of alms giving and taking I know I won’t change so I’ll just share what I have with those that appear to be needy, rather than learning to ignore them.   It must be added that a traveler must find what comfortably suits them.  Sometimes a little generosity can get you swarmed by little children hoping to get in on your good nature.  Prepare, as I do, for predictable consequences of your action.   

            While walking along the street a man asked if I wanted to sell dollars then he offered 3.5 soles for each US dollar.  When he wouldn’t produce his currency, I became suspicious.  He wanted to “hold” my money to “feel it.”  It was a new $20.  I wasn’t about to let go of the bill til he showed me what he had.  He wouldn’t, so I left.   There are endless scams that happen each day, the easiest target is often the traveler, and I was certain this was one of them. 

            I walked along a street which passed over a river.  Its water was traveling north, not south as it happens in the northern hemisphere.  Well, I am in the southern hemisphere now and that is what is supposed to happen.  A gang of three preteen age street children crawled out of a three-foot wide drainage canal on the cement-paved side of the river.  I could sense their deep desire of survival in the rough, unfriendly world in which they were born. Without parents to love, protect or guide them.  The boys came out of the hole in a feat of acrobatics. Each, in turn, had to grab hold of a piece of bent rebar protruding from solid walls above the opening to pull themselves out, one at a time. Then they scurried up the cement bank onto the street above them.  My mind wandered about, thinking about how sad it is when children are “lost” like these.  Where is help for them?  Sadly, I believe that there will be none in a very poor and overpopulated city such as this.  The children must protect themselves.

            Unusual things were for sale in the plaza, during my walk; bright green lizards, fuzzy puppies, dazed, walking irregularly from one side of a cardboard box to the other, ground fruit pulp frozen to a wooden stick.  Lots of cheap pizza was available.  One slice with a small, thin, small square of ham on it would cost about 33 cents.  I’ve walked by many restaurants but not one has the kind of good hygiene I hope for. 

            If I’m going to stay healthy, I must maintain vigilance of certain standards at all costs.  Consequently, I have not eaten anything since I got off the plane except snacks which I brought with me from the local Trader Joe’s market.  Roasted sunflower seeds and the Gumi bears were intended for kids I’d meet and a dried fruit and nut mix that I bought at Trader Joe’s Market near home.  I’ve existed on these foods only but I want to try eating cuy in Cuzco.  Cuy is an Inca delicacy consisting of a large, specially grilled hamster. 

            The next few days should be really busy.  I just rechecked my airline departure times and I’ll be moving quickly after today.  I bought two new tee-shirts both were not “extra large” just “large” but they were new and clean so I’ll wear them.  It is still cheaper than sending them out to a laundry,   As I strolled along on one quiet boulevard, a fellow with a piece of rectangular paper with the word “taxi” scrawled on it in black ink, hollered out of his window “taxi?”  I asked him (in my limited Spanish) how much to go to Miraflores, the district I’m staying in.  He said six soles—I paid ten times more in a regular cab to get here earlier today.  I gave him the business card of El Patio Hotel with a small map printed on the back of the card and off we went.  He spoke no English, but we were in his country, I must speak Spanish, regardless of how primitive my attempts are.  We discussed the weather and “la Ciudad es muy bonita.”   He understood and pretended to appreciate my weak attempt to use Spanish. 

            We agreed that, for twenty soles, he’d pick me up tomorrow at 3:30 a.m.  There is still sunlight but I went up to my room.  I showered again; a few minutes in the hot damp air leaves me with an unclean feeling and I have plenty of time.  Everything is ready for tomorrow. 

            I walked about a mile to the cybercafé where I wrote email to Marcy.  She said, before I left, that she’s leaving the phone off the hook so I guess trying to call would be a time waster.  I really miss her.  Marcy is a great traveling companion.  She is willing to suffer through weird circumstances just by her good nature.  For a little over a dollar, I sent her a letter and I could read her email she sent to me too.  I was happy to hear that Carol’s wedding shower went well.  I’m going to repack my gear again to get ready for the early morning departure.  The procedure of repacking my backpack frequently teaches me what I have and where through repetitive handling and viewing.  Also, each inspection makes me evaluate the necessity of certain items, discarding or using up those that add more weight than their value to me.  Hopefully I’ll be set for the tough part of the trip.

            March 8, 1999 Monday     Lima, Peru

            I had problems sleeping.  The small room was hot, humid, and the only relief I had was the result of a small, blue plastic, electric fan that sat, unevenly, on a small wooden desk.  Because I was told laundry service was unreliable I washed my black jeans myself then I used the hot sun to dry them while they dried I wore the dark-blue shorts I got in Bali.  The bottom had ripped open at the seam unbeknownst to me so I walked all around not noticing until night when I took them off!

            Throughout the night I woke and turned on the small flashlight to see what time it was.  Seldom had more than an hour past.  Finally it was 3:30 a.m., I was up and ready in less than a minute but the fellow I hired to drive me to the airport was waiting for me on the street twenty soles (about seven dollars) was worth him getting up to meet me at that time.

            I checked into Aero Peru.  I could see the fog settle in over the airport so it wasn’t surprising that the flight was delayed over an hour.  I had tried to get on an earlier flight but it was full.  Departure at 7:40 a.m. and arrived in Cuzco at 8:50am.  Soon a portly fellow with jet-black hair with a sprinkle of gray at the temples found me.  I liked his smile, but he dressed like a barber. 

 3/8/99 Monday, Expenses

in Lima: Taxi to Airport                                       25 soles
in Cuzco: Taxi to Hotel Conquistadores              $2
“all day” tour of Cuzco w/Jose                          $60
Site Fee                                                            $10
Lunch (big meal for two)                                     30 soles
(10) Totem + (2) small trinkets                            12 soles
Hotel Conquistadores                                         $25
  (til 5pm)                                Subtotal                 $117
Back Bag                     20 soles
Hat                                12 soles
Star                               28 soles
2x bags change             5 soles
2 hours on the Internet 6 soles
                                     79 ¸ 3.4 (per $) = $23
Total                            +$117  =  $140

            I talked to a couple of taxi drivers to discover if one of them would want to be my guide for the day.   Jose said he wanted fifty dollars for all day but, as I’d discover later, he was worth more.  He was very animated and colorful, and loved being a guide.  His English was very good.  I asked Jose to take me to the ruins outside the city boundaries of Cuzco.  We traveled about two miles up a narrow asphalt road leading higher into the mountains.  

            Everything was visible surrounded by the verdant grounds, colored so by recent rains.  This is the rainy season, but today we have great weather.   The first Incan structure, located just a few feet above the town was pronounced “Sassy Hooman,” but spelled Sacsayhuaman, was the most significant edifice of all.  The walls covered a square mile.  To look at the stones and how exactly they were carved, fitting securely as an integral part of the wall, made me wonder how patient and determined the Incas must have been.  This site was made even more interesting by Jose’s colorful stories of history and the way he intertwined his historical roots with all that is around us. 


            Like most Cuzcoians, he is Catholic but retains an infusion of dramatic Incan religious ceremonies and beliefs solidly rooted into his personal brand of Catholicism.  I was amazed when he explained, laboriously, and with much more detail than I required, how the dogma of both religions, do not, in his mind, conflict at all.  Several times, I interrupted him, as he was trying to cogent how the two diverse philosophies, one responsible for the downfall of the indigenous cultures of South America, could coexist in peace.  I was fascinated with this, the most ancient city, as the longest continuously-inhabited city in the Americas.


            Jose drove into the rural settlements and villages surrounding Cuzco.  Fifty miles from Cuzco he turned up a narrow street assembled of well-worn, fist-sized rocks packed together.  The half-mile long road emptied onto the crowded town plaza lined, on each side with vendors of produced.  We stopped to watch an unusual event; a town festival for women’s rights.  The women of the village put on a hilarious play which mocked the machismo manner of their men.  Mannerisms of getting drunk, not wanting to work and flirting with other women were satirized in such a clear way that the need to understand the dialog was unnecessary.  I understood it all.  The comedy carried a new message to these women.  They don’t have to live with a man like that and that it can be acceptable and even better, to live without such a man.  The play advised women that they should, first, tell their man that his behavior cannot be tolerated. If there is no change, she should talk with the town elders about her situation.  Not surprisingly, the audience was almost entirely women and a few young children.  I guess it isn’t so amazing that few men sat watching this.  I captured some of it on video. 

            We stopped at a place for lunch which Jose said has the best Inca style food. No guinea pig served here though. Instead I had a thick, wonderful, but strangely spiced, potato and meat soup. The second course was a colorful lima bean salad. Jose was angrily surprised when I said that the green beans are called “lima beans” in the U.S. “But,” he said, “the beans come from this valley; they are from Cuzco!” The corn on the cob served was neither as attractive nor tasty as I would often enjoy back in Los Angeles. Large, bland, yellow kernels with a space between each row lack any discernable flavor, corn or otherwise. I’ll try the cuy (guinea pig) some other time. Jose says that on Sunday many families make it. I drank coca tea as I do with each meal. A definite relaxer!

            After the meal, it isn’t uncommon to chew a few coca leaves for a while or offer some to friends.   Jose says the many farmers chew them all day. I have seen how it blackens teeth and destroys the gum line that holds teeth in. One or two hundred leaves are very normal to be consumed in one day!   He says they stay young and healthy for a long time---but, I imagine, with no teeth!  “Anyway,” I thought, “It’s certainly another good story.” 

Prof. Jose Cuba Alexandra, Jose Jr.
Phone: 226179
                                                                                                                                                                     The legend of how Quezco got its name came from the first Inca.  He was given a golden rod which he plunged into the earth and that point became the earth’s bellybutton and the place of birth of the Inca nation.

            Agriculturally this place is a phenomenon.  Corn, potatoes, lima beans and other produce originated right here.  That so many different varieties first began here is the anomaly!  I saw a number of fruits and vegetables which are locally grown, that I have never seen before today.

            The sky had been gray all day except for momentary glimpses of a huge cerise palette behind the tall, billowy clouds.  Light rain was falling or maybe it was just a thick, heavy mist from the rain clouds that covered us until we climbed to a higher elevation.  We sped along the endless mountain road that cut a black ribbon around the intensely green mountains.  The car slid to a halt on the loose, gritty tan dirt shoulder of the road at the edge of a precipice.  We were close enough that from the car window I could look straight down for three hundred feet, into the verdant farming valley.  A river twisted by the small community tucked in the center of the farming village. What a stunning view!

            At the first hint of sunset Jose announced that we will be heading back to town now.  He turned his old car back to the city with the fervor of a rented horse heading back to the stable after being ridden by an unfamiliar rider.  He drove so quickly that twice I turned toward him with such a look of fear shining in my face that he would slow down.  He drove this shabby, thirty year old small Ford export, as if it was a new Maserati.  He cared for the beaten vehicle with much love and time, but little money.  Safety equipment was considered superfluous.  I had to hold the door handle tightly to prevent tumbling onto him as the car screamed around the next hairpin turn.  The one lane street cutting through the Andes was smooth and new but no railings existed anywhere to prevent a vehicle from tumbling over the edge.

            In the Hotel Conquistador, right off the town square, we sat at a small square table in a dimly lit room off the main lobby.  Jose had a bottle of Cerveza and I had a cup of hot, light-green coca tea. We made arrangements to meet tomorrow. He’d take me to the train station for Machu Picchu in the early morning.

            The three flights of creaky, wooden stairs led to the top floor and my room.  I looked out of my window to see the busy street below.  This room was situated directly over the main hotel entrance.   I left everything, except my jacket, in the room and quickly returned to the city scene.   While wandering along the town square, which was only one very short block from this hotel, I bought several small gifts and trinkets for my return.  Many “Indiginas” were trying to sell the same things as their neighbor.  Handmade goods at very reasonable prices made the search interesting.  Everything I bought, including small alpaca bags and mystical totems, totaled  less than thirty dollars. 

            I walked to the Internet café around the corner.  For less than a dollar I checked my email, read, and wrote to Marcy.  It is really wonderful that someone can instantly check their mail like that. “Damarlin” was on the internet so I instant messaged him.   He asked me (over the Internet) to prove which way the water travels when you flush the toilet.  My one-word response was “Down!” 

            I left the little storefront computer cybercafé and  walked back to the hotel.  The rain continued today but it has hindered me very little.   Before I entered the hotel, I shook the moisture off my coat.  Rather than to  complete entries in my journal I was so tired I threw myself across the bed, wriggled out of most of my clothing and quickly fell asleep. The rain was beating hard against the window nearest to my head.  Without my internal clock properly set for Peru, I  woke at 3:30 a.m., turned on the lights, and looked outside onto the wet shiny cobblestone street.  It looked cold outside, but it was warm in the room.  I showered, dressed then wrote for a couple of hours in my journal.  Still tired, I fell back on the bed for a few more minutes of sleep before walking downstairs.


            March 9, 1999   Tuesday     Machu Picchu, Peru

            Waking very early gave me a chance to catch up on the journal entries.   I have until 6:00 a.m. to meet Jose. Machu Picchu today!  What an exciting day I have planned!  I drank some very hot coca tea then checked my Sony video camera and 35MM Canon F-1 camera to confirm that enough film and necessary filters are packed for this journey.  Jose is prompt.  While I waited in the car, he confirmed my passage then motions for me to go to the train where he is standing. Jose boards the train car and then motions for me to sit in my seat in  “Preferred”   It is ten dollars more than 1st class but the car is much newer and this train will make the journey quicker, without several stops.  The agreed price was seventy US dollars for transportation to the site, including the bus ride to the top of the mountain, at the Mayan site.  The train left the Cuzco station at 6:20  this morning and seldom exceeded 50 miles an hour—for good reason.  The tracks reminded me of a journey twenty years ago on the jarring Spanish train tracks which Franco ordered installed much too quickly.  Hurky-jerky, the train shivered, side-to-side, in an intimidating way as it spun its way down the mountain.  Heavy rain splashed down all around us, pouring more water into an already swollen river and creeping into any crevasse of open windows.

            Up here, in the Andes, is where the great Amazon begins. The angry brown river has many tributaries that lead into this huge, racing, gush of water.  The waters were made unnavigable by huge boulders rooted every few feet, immovably lodged in the riverbed.  Hundreds were visible above the high waterline and hundreds more must lay hidden below the water line. Most of the concealed stones could be identified by watching how the water bends or sprays after striking the submerged boulders.  During the four-hour train ride descending from the high-mountain city, I saw the river transform from a peaceful flow near one of its highest points less than one mile outside of Cuzco into a deadly force, pulling earth and animal alike should any dare to be too near to the water’s edge.  Machu Picchu (meaning old mountain) is lower in elevation than Cuzco by two thousand feet.

            The train stopped at the destination for those who plan to visit Machu Picchu. Passengers transfer to a waiting bus by walking two kilometers through a narrow dirt path lined thickly on both sides by persistent peddlers and a smattering of opportunistic thieves.  We were warned by large colorful posters about the risk of theft as we exited the train.  I walked behind thirty other passengers from the train.  At the other end of this treacherous path were buses, queuing to take the next batch of travelers, me among them.  We were guided onto the first bus in line.  A young Japanese man whom I met on the train, said in limited English, he really loved Peru.  The Japanese are so happy here for special reasons.  The Peruvian government is currently headed by President  Fujimori a second generation Japanese.  Often he goes to heroic measures to assure the safety of Japanese tourists, so they are watched extraordinarily closely.  Being so favored, many Japanese tourists come to Peru and spend freely.
            I struggled to board the next bus, traipsing through the light rain.  The thick mud clung to the soles of my boots making them unwieldy and cumbersome. I lumbered forward through the dense paste, ripping one foot out and forward, then the next foot until I reached the bus.  On my first step into the warm bus I turned around to scrape off the thick layer of clay adhering to my boots.  I found no seat up front so I had to sit on the back bench.  The experience was reminiscent of my bus trip to Goa where when boarding I saw all the Indians crowd to the forward seats and all the rear seats (like here) were open.  I sat directly over the back tire (there isn’t a worse place to sit on a bus).  Every bump, jolt and jar was transmitted immediately and directly to my seat. Up the steep muddy grade, the bus ascended, swirling and sliding at every turn. Mud and rain didn’t slow the bus, which may have been sure-footed in the front, swayed uncontrollably loosely as it trudges forward, up the twisted, narrow incline.  Twenty minutes pass while we travel the three-mile route to reach the incredible monument perched on a flat field on the top of this mountain.

            The rain had soaked through my light jacket which was only protected from the rain by a flimsy orange plastic raincoat which I brought for an emergency.  I looked around immediately after exiting the bus.  Although only a minuscule portion of the site was visible as I exited the bus I was impressed with what I could see.  The guide, who was assigned to my group, spoke poor English.  I couldn’t understand him well enough to have him with me.  I asked for a private, English-speaking guide.  They said one was available, but only if I pay fifteen dollars. (The way they said it was as though no one in their right mind would pay that much.)  I amazed them when I agreed.  Alejandra, daughter of Jose Cuba, was introduced to me.  I was shocked to find her here although Jose had told me his daughter would be here to meet me.  She spoke English very well and I could immediately see a physical resemblance to her father.  She was about twenty and petite with definite Inca features like her father.  She explained her answers to my questions to which she knew the answer in lengthy detail.  She tried to infuse a great deal of mysticism into her answers.  Much is still unknown about this place since Incas had no written language, hence no written history to answer present day questions.

            This area was not revealed by Incan scouts employed by the Spanish, so it was overlooked by the Conquistadors when they came through this area.  Writings from the Spaniards would have recorded this discovery in detail.  The climb up the steep, roughly hewn stone steps was exhausting. The heavy, ground-hugging fog and the misty earthbound rain made each precarious step dangerously slippery. There was no distinct border between these two sources of wetness. Both chilled and dampened everything they touched.  Not far above me and off to the west, a patch of blue sky held six motionless paper white clouds.  The surface of the clouds oddly reflected sunlight in a strange magical way that embellished the mystique of this ancient place. The bizarrely shaped beams of light and sharply defined edges of cloud shadows played over the ruins like peyote-inspired shadow puppets. 

            I offered Alex, as she preferred to be called, the bag of Gumi Bears.  She enjoyed the candy so much I couldn’t ask for the bag back.  I saw how this foreign treat thrilled her.  I had finished exploring this site.  My thin cheap raincoat had been tattered by the sharp edges of the many blocks of stone and battered by the periodic, sweeping wind.  The only thing preventing me from throwing it in the trash was that, even in its present state, it was the only bit of clothing that didn’t actively absorb moisture.

            I left Alex to wander around on my own.  I took a few photos and some video film too.  I was instructed to be back for the bus around three in the afternoon.  An empty bus was parked near to the entrance and it was slowly filling with passengers ready to go down the mountain.  The bus used more brake rubber than gas as it slid, dangerously, down the muddy hill, stopping close to the train depot.  There has been talk of putting in an aerial tram for safety and to get more tourists there.

            I waited in the small cement depot, peering out of the windowless openings to watch for a train.  I sat on the rough unpainted wooden bench for over an hour before the next train paused there and I was able to board.  The “Express Train” was waiting impatiently as it was preparing to leave this station.  For thirty-two soles which I put into the uniformed hand of the station ticket master I was able to switch to this earlier train instead of waiting for my reserved seat in a fancier but a slower train is scheduled to arrive here in fifteen minutes.  Before I could sit down, the train lurched out of the station.  The countryside was so green and filled with neat patches of farm crops interspersed with all sorts of colorful flowers.  The brown Ollatamba River was even angrier the water reached with such force as crashed on down the mountainside.  Any thing caught by the turbid water was certainly lost.

$1            computer internet access
$70          to Jose Cuba for entire Tour
$9            (approx. 9—30 soles) Taxi Fares
$25          room


I arrived at Cuzco station at six and the Sun hasn’t set yet, I have two hours before I was scheduled to meet Jose.  I walked around and went to the cybercafé for a half hour.  I read mail from Marcy.  I miss her but I’m even more concerned that all things will pass smoothly while I’m gone.  I waited at the station for Jose; I saw his car.  We went to a nearby tavern for the local Cerveza made from something other than barley.  I wanted to discuss what to do after tomorrow.  I have three more days here than I need so I don’t want to waste them.  Besides with the closure of Aero Peru this night it makes me change everything.  I walked to the internet place with Jose to help him get listed on the Internet.  He was surprised and delighted by it.  He was very happy.  I walked to the hotel and went to sleep immediately. 


            March 10, 1999 Tuesday   Cuzco, Peru

            The plan Jose had been different from mine.  I already had a ticket to La Paz then I’d go to Puno since border formalities are relaxed there.  So Bolivia, Peru, back to Bolivia, then go to Manaus or somewhere in Brazil.  I had arranged a ride with a tour group going to Machu Picchu so I could get a second day in I couldn’t get a room in Agua Caliente which is about twelve or twenty miles away.  It was difficult to gauge it accurately.  Some people hike the last part of the Inca trail from here.  I walked about four miles of it to Machu. Not only was it the most difficult leg but it took quite a long time.  We started before most people had gotten on the trail.  I wandered around and because the weather was even worse I took the train back to Cuzco. 

3/10/99 Expenses
 Exchange rate 3.7 soles = $1

$13.50  50 soles for quoy (guinea pig)
$30.00     to Jose for the Day as guide
$ 5.40      20 soles for bags
$ 3.00      11 soles for tee-shirt
$ 5.00      laundry
$ 1.00      3 soles into church
$36.00     LAB agents for Aero Lloyd
            to change ticket
$25.00     room rate hotel conquistadores
$ 1.30      5 soles taxi ride
$120.00   till 5:30pm

$1.60       6 soles water, 2x
$.60         2 soles, nuts
$4.80       17 soles Post cards w/stamps (5x)
$127        total for the day


When I got there, I called Jose and made arrangements to meet.   He had the idea that he’d DRIVE me to Puno. Since I had an airline ticket already that was it for me.  I’ll just change the date to 11th from 13th.  The only change possible was for earlier flight since the airline has announced its bankruptcy.   The clerk was great.  She made the change for me quickly.  When I met Jose, he was markedly disappointed. He tried every way he could to change my plans, but I stood firm.  He met me at the station in the early afternoon and took me to a few craftspeople in town.  Nothing was a fantastic bargain so nothing was bought.


            I was hungry.  Today is my last full day in this great city of the Incas.  I have been promised a dinner “typico Inka.”  Jose stopped at a restaurant where he gets 50 soles from me for the main part of the meal; the Quoy.  I walked into the cocina to view the cooks busily at work.  The grotesque halves, evidence of a tortured death of the roasted animals makes me a little squeamish about what is on my dinner plate.  The cooks wrap three of the blackened critters in newspaper. 

            I waited outside for Jose to conclude this deal.  I saw three little six-year-old boys “examining” the door lock to see if they could get more of the Gumi bears I had given out moments before. Only on the very edges of their toes, could they peer in the car window and look in. Frightened by my sudden reappearance, they backed away when they saw me coming.  I sat in the car watching the boys watch me.  Finally, to break the tension, I invited them to come over for another piece of candy.  Willingly, the sheepish little imps slowly inched within grasping distance of my outstretched hand.  Jose came out of the restaurant holding the “take out” and beaming. 

            We drove to his home, a modest one but fairly clean.  Religious pictures and  family photos hung on the walls; a little scribbling was on the walls too.  He brought me to the table where his son Jose Jr., a fifteen-year-old student, Alejandra; an attractive twenty-year-old graduate of the university, a much younger daughter (maybe three years old), and his wife were present for this meal.  Potatoes (boiled and skinned), vegetable soup, corn on the cob, quoy, chile relleno, and condiments were on the table.  Strangely, no prayer was said.  I had erroneously anticipated one.   We conversed, for my pleasure,  in English.  Jose Cuba’s wife was seldom seen—she ran back and forth seeing to everybody else’s comfort and pleasure.  I did have difficulty eating this animal because it was so closely, in form, resembled its living brother legs, claws, all still clearly attached.  The innards removed and most parts ground into a sausage with onions, cilantro, and some mysterious grasslike herb.  The cavity of this carnal morsel now was stuffed with folded stems of flowers. The skin was thick and tough so I pulled the hide away to eat the meat.  Surprised by this, Jose remarked that “the skin is the best part.”   I removed the garnishment and, following Jose’s example, I pulled the front from rear and gave the front section to Mrs. Cuba to serve others.  Although standard eating utensils were placed for everyone’s use, the hands were the primary utensil used.  When I went to wash my hands, I saw that there was only one faucet, cold water that’s it.   

            I took numerous photos of the family to send to them later.  After thanking everyone, petting their very pregnant dog, a boxer, smiling at his toddler daughter, Jose and I departed.  He took me way out in the country side to show me a church which he said is the best in South America.  It was in a small town once occupied by Incas then Spanish were using the town to convert Incas to Catholicism.  Although not permitted, I took two photos in the grand church.  I continued to thank him for the high honor to be invited into his home.  “Por nada” he repeated frequently.

            After dropping some things off in my hotel room I walked around and stopped to write a postcard to Marcy.  I discovered that Bob Hardy, my longtime friend, was on the Internet.  We chatted, but it was just mainly funny stuff.  I tried to include a lot of “¿”  because I was using a Spanish keyboard.  Most important, of course, was Marcy.  I always want her to know that I am thinking of her.  My laundry was not returned to the hotel until I asked six times then very late at 9:30 p.m.            

I have a full backpack; each compartment is full.  I did everything I could to prepare for an early morning; washed, shaved, folded and packed I was ready.  I woke at 3:30 a.m. but went back to sleep for a couple hours more. 

March 11, 1999   Wednesday      La Paz, Bolivia

3/11/99 $1 = 5.7 Bolivianos
US             Bolivars
4             Taxi to hotel
20             Hotel
70             Tour of Lake Titicaca
15             Hat
50             Bag
22             Dinner
7             dinosaur Fossil rocks
5             Internet (½ hour)
16             92 ¸ 5.7

117             TOTAL

                                                                                                                                                            Thankfully a loud knock at my door at 6am, as requested, got me up.  I put every last item away and hurriedly ran down the three flights of stairs to wait for Jose who was already there.  He reminded me that today is a good day to leave because a major strike is planned today to protest the probable privatization of Machu Picchu by the government.

            One mile from the Cuzco plaza, angry men stood in the street next to six small stacks of burning tires.  Dense black smoke spiraled into the sky.   We idled in a short line of anxious vehicles.  The driver of the taxi-van that Jose and I were in looked nervously at Jose and waited, impatiently, for new instructions.  Jose swirled his finger in the air and the driver instantly knew what was expected of him.  He turned the car around, our tires squealing, to get away from something down the street.  Whatever it was, I didn’t see it.  Jose jumped out of the van and told the driver to wait.  He ran ahead and talked to some of the rioters beyond earshot.  Then he hurriedly waved for the driver to proceed.   Reluctantly the driver did move on with measured caution.

            I sat quietly not making eye contact with the protesters.  A small band of angry, young men were throwing rocks and sticks at vehicles trying to pass the strike area.  We passed slowly through the jeers and taunts, but when one large rock struck the roof of our red van with a loud thud the driver stood on the accelerator and we sped away. The airport was a couple of miles further.  Because of the strike, we were not allowed to bring a vehicle into the airport area.  The driver let us off and we walked the remaining kilometer.  At first Jose carried my pack but it was too heavy for him so I let him carry the much lighter orange bag and I donned the pack.  I was first in line to Aero Lloyd.  They would not open until 7:30 a.m.  I have two hours to wait which was enough time for me to quietly write in my journal after I thanked Jose for showing me much and watching out for my safety.

I got my boarding pass when I paid a fee of ten dollars for an exit pass, then I had to make a short walk to an upstairs restaurant with a view of the airfield.  I could see spires of black smoke coming from the direction of the city.  I ate a roll and butter with a cup of translucent green coca tea.  I could get very easily use to this tea and a leisurely pace that life travels here. 

            In my hurry to get dressed early this morning, it wasn’t until I sat, onboard the vessel, when I noticed my front zipper was completely open!  What friendly people—nobody says a thing!  Although the airplane will leave about 30 minutes late, I expect that this would be a short flight.  There was a moment of confusion when no one knew where we were expected to go (we had to pass through customs). I discover, with daily practice, my Spanish is improving every day.  I still have problems understanding large numbers and fast talkers.

            As advised by the Lloyd Aero agent, the first thing to do at the airport (after the necessary stuff like collecting my backpack) was to confirm my seat to Manaus.  A substantial amount of line cutting happens.  I was next in line, a short sweating man reached over to have his ticked confirmed took a long time with the only agent working, it looked like he was late for his flight.  Then a very short Peruvian woman with a child bundled on her back in a blanket slid in front of me too.  From her colorful costume I could see that she was a rural citizen and unfamiliar with normal etiquette in the cities. She seemed very nervous like this was her first time in an airplane.  But when an able-bodied young man was about to go around me, I body-blocked and garnered the clerk’s full attention long enough to confirm my seating. 

            We landed without incident and I immediately walked outside the airport after quickly passing through Customs.  Long lines of waiting taxis were waiting to greet all arriving passengers.  I found a driver who spoke English.  He drove to town and suggested the Hotel Galeria on Virgen de Rosario.  He “happened” to have a full brochure on it.  It did look fine and was only twenty dollars a night.   After I checked out the hotel and room, I paid the driver and the hotel for the first day.  If this hotel were in a nice part of L.A. It would certainly cost one hundred dollars a day.

            The bed was firm enough and the hotel had a friendly ambiance about it.  Lots of plants and glass; very airy; quite nice.   After checking in at about 11a.m. I decided to walk along the main street, Santa Cruz Avenue.  It is where many women sell their homemade goods.      Many women carry an infant in a colorful blanket which is slung over one shoulder and under the other.  The blanket was tied loosely in front.   I was amazed that I had, not once, seen a baby fall.  The women frequently stood about 5’2’’ or 3’’ tall with wide bronze-colored faces.  The shiny long black hair was almost always covered partly by a too small pork pie hat.  Often the hat would be jauntily tilted to one side as a statement of high fashion, but they’d remind me of the hats worn by Laurel and Hardy.  Loose sweaters of many colors covered the upper portion of a dress and petticoats.  But the biggest splash of color was usually the blanket. 

            The men had no standard outfit like the women.  These women, in their own way, sought the best way to make a buck or Boliviano in this case.  They carried the commerce where few men were involved.  Men were farmers, servicemen, police, and shopkeepers.  Each had their own domain.

March 12, 1999   Thursday   La Paz, Bolivia

            Although we were within 150 miles of the border to Peru, any Peruvian soles were simply refused without any negotiation.  Worthless, the fifty US dollars I had exchanged for soles were just not good here. U.S. dollars were the desired currency.  I searched through the vendors to find a few more items to bring home but I found nothing.  That’s not because these female business people were not helpful, diligent, or persistent.   To the contrary, they were all of those things.   Once I made any eye contact, or showed any interest in their goods, they would spend ten minutes offering insistent advice about whatever they were selling.  Women would ask for two Bolivianos (forty cents) if I wanted to take a picture of them.  Care must be taken if you think you can escape payment; they have a quick eye and feel that you must pay, just as if you bought a package of gum from them. 

            It was about five in the afternoon when I sought out Internet access.  What good fortune to find it in my hotel!  That is until I realized the incredible slowness with which the computer operated.  It crashed twice before I took to the streets to find a better place.  At the bottom of the hill, in the very large St. Francis Square I found my answer.  A small cybercafé was right off the main square.  I was able to quickly read my email.  I was very happy, to read Marcy’s letters.  I sent her two letters in the short forty minutes I sat there.  Staying in touch with my friends was a pleasure.  That was an inexpensive pleasure. 

            As I walked the neighborhood, I talked with several travel agencies along Santa Cruz Ave.  Prices to see Copacabana and Lake Titicaca ranged from $70 US to $180 for essentially the same simple program.  I chose the one for seventy bucks since it sounded just like all others, just the better (or cheaper) price!  They promised to pick me up at the hotel tomorrow morning between 7:30 a.m. and 8:00 a.m.  I walked up the steep street till I reached the hotel.  Walking along the cobbled stone street was made more difficult to navigate with the wafting trash and spilled wash water.  Wet cobblestones are much easier to slip on than asphalt, concrete, or cement.

            Back in my room I reorganized my pack and showered.  The work on my pack took a long time.  I was not finished until after 11pm.  I watched numerous US sitcoms including “Seinfeld” and “Cosby” both had Spanish subtitles but English words were spoken.  I turned off TV at 11:30pm but only had a little sleep because at 1am I was awakened by loud screams, police sirens and sounds of a noisy crowd.  I got the video recorder to film the conflict.  I put the camera away when it seemed that the action stopped never long until the action started again, I was ready.  The noise would have woken anybody.  It was no quiet affair.  The noise continued till I could not stay awake any longer at 3AM.  Only four and a half hours later I woke up to prepare for the bus driver to pick me up.  I wrote a little while I waited for the tour guide to meet me.  He was on time so I finished a roll with better and jam with a cup of tea.  I put some gear in storage then I packed a very few pieces I needed to take.  Off we were.  The bus was already filled except for three seats in the very rear.  I sat there reluctantly. 

            Soon the adjacent seats filled for the two hours we drove to Lake Titicaca.  It is a huge lake fed by numerous streams.  Strangely, three tributaries feed the lake.  Most water that feed the large lake comes from the ample rains.  Each of the three had different flavors of the water as a result of passing through unique sedimentary minerals.  The Incas had them running together through a stone block that had three holes cut in it to channel the magically potent liquids.

            The bus let all passengers get off when the vehicle had to be ferried across a narrow part of the lake.  We, the thirty passengers rode across the lake in a leaky power boat.  On the other side we boarded and took our same seats to resume the journey for another hour over bumpy, but paved, road.  At Copacabana the bus stopped and everyone got off.  Those going on to Puno were to return in two hours; those that are staying should go to the hotel to which they are assigned.  Teodoro met me and pointed out the nicest hotel-still far from a one-star hotel.

5/3/12/99 Expenses    
Teodoro 4 Kids 5-15
Water     3 Bolivianos
lunch     20 “        
 Dinner150 ”                       
Boat       173 Soles
Daily Exp.  $30 total

            The small room on the 3rd floor was less than spacious.  It had one faucet which provided cold water only and the shower which could be switched to hot water only.  A small wooden table stood along a narrow bed.  Good enough for me because it was clean.  Teodoro and I had made plans to meet at 1pm for lunch but as I walked around this very small village, looking to buy some local handicrafts I saw Teodoro in one of the shops.  The goods being sold here were (90% of them) the same as what was being sold in La Paz, just at higher prices.  I bought nothing not even postcards because I couldn’t get stamps to mail them to the USA, what’s the point? 

            I met Teodoro for lunch at the hotel.  Teodoro (he preferred the use of his full first name) brought me to the hotel restaurant.  I ate some cilantro flavored chicken soup.  The soup’s density was increased by the addition of small grains of Inca rice.  The grains curled in tiny circles.  Excellent.  Next course consisted of a small salad.  I didn’t eat is for, as attractive as it looked, that was one rule I follow.  Never eat vegetables that are not served very hot and have been boiled for a long time.  After that I ate another bowl of the delicious soup.  Two cakes of cooked long grain rice accompanied a large spoonful of a ragout of beef, onions, peppers and tomato.  Coke was served chilled in the bottle.

            Teo and I agreed to meet in a few minutes so I could get my jacket; it’s often cold on the lake.  We met.  I had put on a Transderm patch behind my ear.  It’s a small round bandage that has a tiny amount of narcotic applied topically behind my ear and it deadens or prevents sea sickness.  The hotel was situated two blocks away from the lakeside up the dirt street.  Because all of the boats go right through the middle of the lake, there was no view of the coastline so I asked Teo to hire a private boat that coasts 150 Bolivianos.  Less than $25 for the whole day.  And that’s what we did.  The boat took about 1.5 hours to make the journey across Lake Titicaca to Isla del Sol.

            Others had docked at the same spot on Isla del Sol too.  After docking Teo and I started to ascend the trail while being constantly assaulted by Bolivians in native dress asking that you take a picture of them for two Bolivianos!  I had brought several pens and sparkling bandages to share with the poor “indiginas.”  I took some photos without them noticing but 95% they caught me, even when I took a photo near to them, they thought I should pay them.  At 3:00 p.m. it was time to depart. 

            I met a mother and daughter from Vancouver B.C.  They had done extensive hiking in the Himalayas and covered much of South America.  Their exploits were very interesting.  The daughter is studying current ecological issues back in Canada.  They accepted my offer to ride back to Copa in the boat I had chartered.  Our boat would not make a bee line from port to port but follow the coastline where practical.  I figure that’s a lot more interesting than water.  Although this is a lake, the water is very salty and not potable.  After the journey back to Copa, I wished them well as they were going to Puno tomorrow.  I will see more of Copa then go back to La Paz tomorrow.

            Teo and I walked back to the hotel and ate dinner.  A grilled chicken leg and thigh, a thin bean soup with french-fried potatoes thrown to add substance to the hot liquid.  It was called “french fry soup.”  At high altitudes water will boil at a lowered temperature than at sea level.   A large pile of french fries was stacked neatly on a thick gray plate with five small white, aluminum sealed pouches of ketchup.   We talked about Teo’s hopes and plans.  He’s happy to be a guide, but he says he has no aspirations for a greater job.  We agreed to meet in the morning at 8:30 a.m. to tour this town before I return to La Paz. 

            The temperature n my room was so cold I decided not to bathe; I’d rather smell than get a cold and be sick for a few days.  I had the hotel clerk deliver a heater.  To heat this small room should not be difficult, nor was it.  I tried listening to the radio but I could only discover a good signal on a religious talk show.  I would have settled for anything even religious music but this!  So no radio listening for me tonight.

March 13, 1999    Friday       La Paz, Bolivia to Lake Titicaca

I woke at 6:30 a.m. to no water to flush the toilet.  Well since I leave soon, this is their problem.  At 7:30 a.m. the hotel is so tightly locked that I couldn’t get onto the muddy street.  It rained lightly during the night.  The restaurant in this hotel was also closed, I’ll try later but for now I went back to my room and waited a few minutes before returning for the coffee at the restaurant.  It is made differently from any methods I’ve seen before.  The coffee is first poured into my cup as a syrup followed by enough hot water to fill the cup.  The jam is an opaque slime with a reddish tint and the orange juice was not acceptable because as is commonly done the glass is filled two thirds with orange juice then the glass is topped with plain tap water.  Because La Paz, Bolivia is an hour earlier than Peru it is 8:00 a.m. here but 4am in Los Angeles.  Marcy is probably just waking up, except I notice today is Saturday so I hope she is peacefully sleeping.  Begin out of touch with news for so long like this is a strange feeling.  I will check the news on Monday if I can get access to the Internet. I miss Marcy very much.  I drew a small calendar to check off the days till I return.  I spend a little time thinking about the great adventure immediately before me: The Great Amazon.  I am titillated and scared at the same time.  The fear is not one I hadn’t expected even though I know that it can be very tame depending on my choices.

Expenses for 3/13/99:  
                US Dollars            
                10           50           Misc.  Alms
                5                              30                           Lunch
                1                              5                              Internet
Total: 16

Teo appeared at 8:00 a.m. as we discussed last night.  I followed him back to the breakfast table.  He ate some loosely scrambled eggs with fried baloney.  That would not be my choice, for certain.  We walked along the short one kilo street, the main avenue of commerce.  It was very apparent that this town was for tourism, little else was here that I saw (but of course I’m a tourist).  We walked to the church where every February there is a huge celebration.  This church was filled with very ornate plates, gilded frames on the paintings, and decorations. Many of the frontispieces were covered in silver or gold.  Like many other churches with history that could reach back several generations, the Spanish priests got gold by destroying Inca temples and with the aid of the Conquistadores, pillaging it from the villagers.  The Spanish missionaries acquired stone bricks or anything of value they could get from the Incas.  The story of the Conquistadors follows, if written in broad strokes, like the North American conquest of the American Indian.  Manifest Destiny or God’s will, whatever the words, they justified evil deeds against the people indigenous to the land.   Nonetheless the Indiginas (native American Indians) are highly superstitious and seldom will do something contrary to religious teachings by the Roman Catholic Church.  I felt especially intrigued to see how the Indians adopted the religion as their own when it was forced upon them in the bloody manner which history records.  

Although most Bolivians and Peruvians combine Catholicism with the animism of the Inca religion, which teaches that there is a spirit that resides in the animals.   The snake rules the underworld; the jaguar rules this earth and the condor rules the heavens.  The first Mano Inca was commanded by the condor to thrust a golden rod into the earth which he did at Cuzco that became the Earth’s belly button.  This Earth is considered, in Inca Lore, as the Earth Mother.  The rivers are her blood and the dirt as her flesh.  But this belief explains why they respect the Terra Firma with a great reverence.  The Inca philosophies reach extended far into Bolivia too.

When the church was first built in 1626, it was much smaller.  Not until the middle of the 17th century.  A larger structure was built around the original building.  We walked through the church courtyard which was lined with alms takers on both sides.  I had given Teo fifty Bolivianos so he could give some money to those he felt deserving and make a donation to the church too.  Also he was to use the money to buy me some water because they charged me a different price than him.  To me a two-liter bottle cost 3.7 Bolivianos; to him it was 2.5.

In the central part of the church was mounted a mannequin which this church and its supporters adorned and worshiped as the Madonna.  Occasionally the ornately attired figure was swivelled on its base so that people in a smaller rear church could view the Madonna figure too.  Teo pointed out the most important features of the church.  While I wandered about it, allowed Teo had an opportunity to do his personal worship.  We walked out together while he explained more of the history here.                              

Outside the courtyard the street was filled with small vendors on the west side of the street sellers of woven baskets sold their wares.  On the east side vendors sold items like small toy houses, cars, bundles of fake US $100 bills.  Many small toys as such were magic totems.  Teo said these were used to bless a newly acquired item like a new car.  The priest would bless these things and people would buy the totems.   Cures and remedies were usually dispensed, for a small price, by the witch doctors.  

The town was protected by two steep hills and the lakefront.  Teo suggested we walk up one of the hills.  A treacherous, stony path led to the top. It challenged my abilities, partly because I had carried thirty pounds photo equipment and enough water to last all day.  Standing on the summit, I could look out to see a three hundred, sixty-degree view that made the climb worthwhile.  I could look far over the lake yet not see the other side.  I realized I was drenched in my own sweat.  I saw many women with their children, trying to sell fat candles to use for some Catholic-infused ritual performed at the peak of the mountain by an old grizzled man.   Teo said, was a witch doctor.  The walk down was equally treacherous but much quicker to do. 

We went to Teo’s favorite Copacabana restaurant to have the local fish which was served with fried ground manioc roots (tasted like a soft french fry but larger and softer). I paid thirty Bolivianos for our meal, expensive compared to other restaurants nearby.  I had local beer; it was a hot day.  I was offered a whitish drink made from masticated roots from a tuber-like plant, manioc. This is a popular local fermented beverage.  After the root is thoroughly chewed by several women then it is spit out into a communal vat.  The vat is then sealed for three months until it becomes mildly alcoholic.  The whole idea disgusts me.  I can’t break out of my American shell to be able to try the saliva-laced brew. On the other hand, I would have tried the thin, brackish gruel, had Teodoro not explained this to me first.  It is a popular beverage among the Indiginas. 

I was guided to several buses in a waiting area they go to either Puno or La Paz.  I regret not making it to Puno but, at least, I finished the trip to Lake Titicaca.  Taking the bus back was a pleasure for two reasons.  First I sat right behind the driver second, no one sat next to me.  I could really stretch out.  Unfortunately the little hotel I stayed at didn’t allow the water to run between 11pm and 7am so I went without shower, shave or tooth brushing.   Even when I asked if there was hot water I was shown a switch to press to change to hot water from cold.  I elected to skip this very potential hazard.  I got on the bus and, in four hours we were back in La Paz.  An hour was wasted (okay, not wasted) while the bus and passengers were shipped across a narrow strait of the lake crossing Peruvian territory.  Passports and identity cards were glanced at superficially, but little more. 

As soon as I got back to the hotel, I dropped everything in my room, then ran to the Internet connection center.  Once there I was so exhausted from the morning climb and the steep eight-blocks I skipped downhill over broken pavement, slippery cobblestones, and wide pools of putrid waste water.  While trying to catch my breath I could feel droplets of sweat rolling down my face.  As I removed my jacket, I was reminded that it has been more than two days since I took a shower.  I had to go immediately to the cybercafé.  It was paramount that I contact Marcy.  I ignored unpleasant glances from the few people in the room now and flipped the switch to start the slow (albeit functioning) unit.  I hooked up to my email account in three minutes.  Marcy’s doing okay but I am worried about my Dad.  His gallstones . . . I’m not certain what they are, but I know it isn’t good.  He’ll be eighty in a few days.  I’ll check in as often as possible.   I finished on the Internet and was charged eight Bolivianos for almost an hour. 

I strolled back to the hotel. An occasional streetlight didn’t hold back the darkness from rolling in at seven p.m. I was happy to shower and shave.  The rest of the evening was spent watching Spanish television but I sought out channels where English was spoken but Spanish subtitles were present.  “Martin,” a sitcom about a black fellow, sounded humorous when dubbed, especially because with the Spanish language comes the Spanish intonation and lilt. The voices are distant cousins to American tone and inflection.
I set the timer on the television for one hour, then drifted off to sleep quickly.  Although my body has made major adjustments to the altitude, I still have a little labored breathing.  I have had wonderful weather even though this is the rainy season except for the heavy mist in Machu Picchu. 

Some of the other travelers I have seen really go to great lengths to “look the part.”   I see that they have the “right” hats, the “right” brand label on their backpacks; you can collect this equipment just like skiers or golfers collect only specific brands. 

            March 14, 1999 Sunday   La Paz, Bolivia to Manaus, Brazil

$1 = 5.7 Bolivianos
US Bolivianos
130. Blanket
131. Poncho for Marcy (not for wet weather)
23. lunch
25 0 guide
10. magic amulets
35. Taxi #1
Taxi #3 to Airport
13. laundry
5. Tips
6. Taxi #2
20. Exit tax from Bolivia to anywhere Interntl
58. TOTAL US Dollars
59. Total Bolivianos 336/5.7 = $59
2. Snack of coffee & French Fries
Today my plan is to see the City of La Paz and then catch a flight to Manaus, Brazil.  I met Teodoro at the hotel this morning at 9:30 a.m..  I had to have my clothes cleaned.  They were really getting travel fatigue.  Jeans, sweatshirt, two tee-shirts and some underwear and socks cost me eleven Boliviano plus a modest tip of two Bolivianos so they would hurry and they did.  The clothes were still damp when they were returned, but the clothes smelled much better.    Teodoro hired a cab for us to visit a few places of importance in La Paz.  Churches and colonial style buildings mad up 80% of what there was to see. 

In St. Francis Plaza stood a large black basalt monolith.  This stone marked the place at which this city began.  Plaza de Armas had an impressive array of buildings around it including the President’s Palace and numerous buildings of the government this area is called Miraflores. 

            We exited the cab.  I laid thirty-five Bolivianos into his waiting, extended hand, then we started to walk.  One area we passed was called The Witches’ Market.  Here thirty stalls were laden with incense, written tracts of incantations, or potions to bring good luck or bad luck avoidance. Some of the magical remedies were supposed to bring curses on someone else, good health, but most common of all were items to win or win back a loved one.  Magic incense was available to bring a man’s potency back, lots of choices for this in every witch doctor stall.  I think excessive coca leaf chewing might contribute to the problem.  I bought the good luck potpourri basket (it had a little for everything) for ten Bolivianos. This seller, who did not look like a witch, was short, but very meaty. A too small bowler hat was doffed jauntily to the rear, but ir rested precariously on her head, covering very little of the thick black braid of hair that flowed down her short, shawl-covered back.  She looked at me suspiciously, then said to my guide and interpreter, Teo, that this was especially good luck for me because it was assembled by her daughter and it was her first sale of the day. Good for me.

            There are other secrets in the clay basket which she said she would not disclose to Teo, or anyone because it is part of her witchcraft.  She explained that when the item is first removed from the basket it begins to lose its potency.  Once it has been broken or chipped while in a particular room the magic will stay there in that room, with whomever occupies it, radiating its power to them.   Each amulet should be broken carefully and with kindness, not just accidentally.  Further, I was told, the larger the room into which the icon is “opened,” the less concentrated the powers will be.  I should confront the icon in a small room rather than “outside.”   I told her that the basket would be a gift to a friend.  She smiled a big grin revealing her last four teeth, large molars, still anchored in her coca-stained mouth.  The witch said I must take care to not let the clay dish that the amulets are in, break or chip while traveling.  If I do then it can no longer be transferred to another.  I will pack it well.  The prices here are very cheap.  I should have done the trip in reverse order so I bought stuff just before going home.  I bought a few other items including a hand-woven llama wool poncho for Marcy.  If that charm works, I’ll get it all home without damage.  We stopped at a dark, cavernous restaurant just up the hill from the Plaza de Armas for a fixed-price lunch.  I had a pork chop with rice and salsa.  Teo had the chicken.  Chicken is served quartered, like in Asia, with the skin on.

Turtle was long life, the heart represents sexual love of someone
Stone gate is for a discovery
Idol represents piety and dutifulness.
Sun means strength. 
Llama gives the ability to travel and explore (this symbol I really liked). 
Fish meant to be never hungry.
Owl represented wisdom and the ability to see everything. 
Bird meant power.
Rat meant wealth I was most perplexed by the meaning of the rat but this is how she evaluated each token.

                            It was almost 2:00 p.m. so I wanted to get prepared for the airport.   I’ve had good weather till now but I can see the clouds darken as they congregate over the city.   With a belly full of mediocre food I walked down the hill into the main plaza then back up the other side till I reached the hotel.  Teo walked home from the restaurant.   With a little luck the flight will be on time.  The airport was almost empty when I arrived.  I paid the taxi driver eight dollars because he paid the fare over the bridge.  We had agreed on seven before I sat in the cab. 

The airport clerk perused my travel documents, quizzically pouring over my passport, page by page, to look at the different stamps from many countries in it.  He returned my medical form proving that I’ve been inoculated for yellow fever.  He brought the passport to someone in a back office who, after hearing a few words peered out at me giving me the “once over” then said something to the clerk who walked out of the office and returned my passport to me.  I got the boarding pass now I must pay a departure tax of $20 US.  For this fee, the Customs guard put a small green stamp on my pass and told me I’m free to go to gate two as soon as it opens in thirty minutes.  Next to me is an empty seat; one I wish Marcy was in. 

The flight from La Paz to Santa Cruz will last fifty-five minutes once we start to taxi down the airfield.  I must change planes in Santa Cruz.  I will look for an Internet connection in Santa Cruz Airport  while I wait to make the Manaus flight connection.  Everything goes as planned except there is no internet café in the tiny airport.  At this very late hour every shop in the terminal is closed.  The flight boarded for Manaus quickly, we were in an even small vessel.  Seat numbers were sporadically visible on a small black plate screwed to the rim of the seats. 

March 15, 1999 Monday     Manaus, Brazil    (The Heart of the Amazon)

The flight landed in Manaus at 1:30 a.m. where I got off the small plane quickly and walked through customs without a problem.  I discover that the taxi drivers and touts are waiting for fresh arrivals.  They know that many of the new arrivals don’t know much about the prices of goods and services.  They try to “explain” that the official exchange rate is now 1.65 real to the dollar.  These guys are trying to jerk me around using 1.65 reals to the dollar when my Internet report shows it at almost 2 Real per $.  The taxi driver brings me to my room in the Hotel Solimoes in a bad part of town.  Later I would learn that the exchange rate that was in use here and most of the Manaus wasn’t better.
Two hours after I landed I was asleep in a musty, downtown hotel room, waking four hours later at 7:30.  I quickly showered and dressed.  I will check around to find a reasonably priced boat tour or I’ll figure out how I have to arrange it.  A walk around the town, trying to stick to the waterfront since that’s the most likely place to find river guides. 

At 9:00 a.m. it is already hot and humid.  A fellow saw me walking along the street and asked me if I was interested in a tour of the river.  After I talked with the tour operator for a while, I left a twenty-dollar deposit.  The range of rates is incredible.  Back in the USA it was $1598 for five days on the river.  The first agent I talked with, advised me he could do a five-day trip for $850, a little more than half of the US quote. 

 I continued walking along the river front. A swarthy man of twenty-five with closely cropped hair introduced himself to me as Zamora.  He queried, in satisfactory English “Are you looking to do a river tour?”  We talked for a while on the street, then he convinced me to follow him up a steep flight of stairs to an office where I was “turned over” to Carlos, the Owner-Manager.  Everything sounded good until he explained that Zamora, a fellow to whom I had taken a liking to and spoke English better than his boss, would not be running this tour.  And that there will be two Chinese for two days then, well, it depends if a group of German tourists sign up and for how long they decide to travel. 

Zamora walked with me when I decided to eat lunch and think if this rate of $350 for five days is the best I can do.  Zamora helped me find a few items I needed.  One was a poncho, and a water-repellant bag then I wanted to find a good place to eat.  Zamora chatted with me about how his life took many twists.  He told me a portion of his life story. He was born in Angola of a Portuguese Dad and Negro mom, when he was eight they sent him to London to study and live with his uncle.  A few years passed then he went to another uncle who was very wealthy but died before Zamora got there.  He sought his Portuguese father who had emigrated to Brazil.

3/15 Expenses
           1.7 real = $1 US
           $18 Taxi to Hotel

12            Real Breakfast
10            Poncho
2              Bay
30            Advance to Zamora
17            Hammock
18            Water/Drink
77            Advance to Amazon Trip

Zamora is now 45, although he looked to be not yet thirty.  And he had never married.  He said he could arrange “anything” the way he said it there was a dark edge to the words.  He saw me look straight at him then he said some girls would like to go and – I stopped him right there.   I told him that I’m lucky to have an understanding and loving wife who let me go on this adventure.  I can’t repay that by doing such a thing.  Nor would I ever.  I love Marcy very much and I see now that we could have done this trip together.   Except the heat and humidity.  Anyway, Zamora was just trying to please me. Since we left the office, we discussed a direct deal between Zamora and me—that’s it, except for the boat captain.  Zamora would get the food and consider my likes and dislikes.  He would take care of everything for forty dollars per day.  Including everything so a five-day journey would cost $200! 

I followed him to the dock where a boat and captain were chosen from people he knew.  A deal was struck; we leave tomorrow at seven a.m.  This is the end of the low season which ends mid April, then rates and demand for these services skyrocket.  I looked for where I could get Internet access.   This is a large city, internet service must be somewhere, but Zamora didn’t know either.  The phones are difficult to use.  Although I tried with a phone card it just didn’t work, I couldn’t’ figure out the problem but a passing man said that these phones are only for Intra Brazil.  I need to go to the post office which is closed today.

March 16, 1999  Tuesday     Manaus, Brazil      (The Amazon River)

Rocking, impatiently, back and forth on an old boat, I am ready to head up the Rio Negro beyond where it meets the Rio Salimoes.  Yesterday Zamora and I chose a boat and Zamora established a price with the captain.  Today all things regarding price, change instead of forty dollars per day it is now sixty.  The boat captain, Zamora said, changed his mind.  I gave him thirty real in advance yesterday, then two hundred more this morning.  At 9:00 a.m. we moored just up the river from Manaus to purchase supplies.  Zamora is being tracked by his boss who thinks Zamora wants to strike out on his own.  Which is absolutely true although he is scared to try it.

At this point about five minutes up the Amazon we stop for purified water and ice.  We bought beans, rice, oil, chocolate and a few other staples in Manaus.  While there, the prior guide, Carlos, by whom Zamora was employed called out that Zamora is a thief (for having stolen a customer) and I (yes, me) was no man.  He was very angry and scared several passengers on his boat which had Germans sunning themselves on the deck and slight Japanese tourists dressed in high jungle fashion.  All the women wore large sunglasses, some tilting the glasses back on top of their head.  We waited till the water and ice were delivered then off we went up the Rio Negro. So our start was rough but with pleasant weather like today I know I will enjoy this voyage.

This thing with Carlos is a darkly humorous episode in my travels.  Carlos is trying to prevent Zamora from striking out on his own.  It clouded this trip because Zamora continues to dwell on the things Carlos might do to him—(or me!)  Actually I see the excitement of a beginning of Zamora’s tours and hope that he’ll tough it out against the odds and succeed. 

I used a scopolamine patch to steady my nerves and stomach while on the boat.  Its amazing—I’m on the Amazon!   The ride in Disneyland isn’t too far off with the color of the water but there are few animals to see except of the flying kind.  There is an odor to the river; a slightly musty, leathery aroma.  The water is the color of café au lait and I have not seen any creatures abiding within the brown river except a large family of silvery small fish that lurch forward with the boat endeavoring to stay in the cool `shadow of the boat.
After an hour we motored past the convergence of the Salimoes and Negro Rivers.  The vegetation on both sides is beautiful and lush but other than livestock, there is little animal life to be seen.   Along the Northern bank there are many small shacks made of anything that is water resistant, especially wood or tin. 

All of the houses were on stilts jutting more than three feet above the current water level.  Important note: this is high water season. The usual scene in front of each hut included a woman washing clothes, babies, or vegetables on a tiny, frail dock no bigger than three feet wide and two feet deep.  A boat was moored somewhere out front. Each had a cow, usually three or four; and a few scrawny mongrel dogs.  A low, boxlike shack for storage, always barefoot children.   I saw none that were adolescent.  All were less than ten years old. 

1.65 = $ 1 US
200. Boat
27. for food
30. advance to Zamora
10 water & ice
100. to Zamora on 3/18
name of Araujo Silva IV
(I asked Zamora to explain where the older children are but he was not certain either.  I should try to find out what is the meaning of this.  Are they working in a factory somewhere like Manaus?  Was there a plague or illness that decimated one generation?)   The Meneze family name seems to have members all along this stretch of river we are on.

It’s one o’clock and the cook is frying rice mixed with small bits of vegetables.  I smell that there are lots of onions in the mix.  With the rice he serves two whole fish that were split and gutted, pan-fried then pieced together for the presentation. I ate alone on the deck in the warm afternoon.  I notice dark clouds are accumulating.  To this point in my trip the one or two inches of rain each day  haven’t stopped us from doing anything because it has not rained much during the day.  The heaviest daily rains come at night.

Zamora and I took a light rowboat to venture onto land.  We hacked our way through thick floating gardens of lilies, grasses, and vines.  After an hour, knelling in the row boat, we reach a trail leading up to a typical abode of this region.  Zamora knows this family. After ten minutes of social chit chat the man leads us deeper into the forest revealing the properties of many plants.  He was happy to lead me thru the jungle as he jostled along in ragged pants, shoeless and shirtless.  He took pleasure in revealing some of the jungle’s secrets to me. 

 It was necessary that each of us had a machete, because the brush had, in numerous places, overgrown the long and treacherous trail.  The heat and humidity were stifling under the jungle canopy.  Vines, rocks and fallen trees crossed the path often making it impossible to continue on the path, but creating a new path of linked detours around obstacles in the ever-changing jungle.  Soon we were deeper into the forest with sounds that echoed through the trees. 

The jungle guide brought his hand above his head and plucked a yellow fruit from a tree that stood alongside the path.  Without climbing the tree the fruit was within his reach.  With the machete he severed the top of the grapefruit sized fruit revealing a white mass inside.  The native motioned for me to come closer and taste it.  I did.  Slimy with very soft nuts, it smelled of chocolate, but tasted like a coconut. It is the chocolate source-cacao. 

No rain yet but the sky was very cloudy.  Cutting through the dense, floating grass, the heavy, shallow-bottomed canoe was tied to the larger scout.  I carefully balanced my two-hundred pound frame as I climbed aboard the bigger boat.  The large row boat traversed the open waters quicker and sturdier than the canoe.  I had no problem getting into the power boat when we aligned alongside it.

 Seasoned potatoes, rice, and fried, quartered chicken, served hot on my plate for the moment of my return.  After eating a good and filing meal I checked my trousers for more of the stubborn grass segments.  At seven p.m. it was  dark.  I attached the hammock to the interior rafters of the boat.  I slowly climbed in balanced myself than turned on the radio.  Everybody was asleep early.  I dreamed of a deeper journey up the mighty Amazon. That wouldn’t happen until tomorrow.

March 17, 1999   Wednesday      Amazon River, Brazil
The sun came up around six.  I was awake for two hours by then.  Rain is an important subject around here because it can cause the river to rise very quickly, sometimes sending a rolling wave all the way to the Carribean.  Last night I could see lightning off in the distance.  I filmed the sharp edges of the curtain of rain as it progressed to the boat.  The water poured down now on this diesel powered boat.  The captain decided to move away from the downpour and w e moved quickly. 

Zamora knew of a tributary which leads to a large family of monkeys.  Despite his best efforts the monkeys could not be found.  We could hear them chattering and fighting far way from where we are.  The high water has changed where all animals can find a comfortable zone to occupy until the next seasonal change. Zamora said the mosquitoes were especially fierce in this area.  He suggested a long sleeve shirt but I wore a tee-shirt and doused myself with DEET insecticide.  Mosquitoes were a persistent annoyance and often an inch in length. 

As we traveled along the edge of the river, I could see many families making “farine” along the riverbank.   It is made as a community effort, usually twenty or so men and adolescent boys.  The cassava melon is gathered then grated. The juices are separated in the first stages of grinding. Then it is allowed to drain all day before it is tossed into large metal skillets about two feet across.  An oar is used to prevent the mixture from sticking, congealing, or burning by stirring constantly while the huge metal skillet is heated from below by a wood-fed furnace walled with clay. 

The tan grain is transferred, after cooling, to a second skillet and the cooking process is continued.  This gritty grain, like hominy, is eating instead of rice because the popular opinion is that after rice you are hungry soon afterwards.

Now it is 10:30 a.m. and the sun seems in full force.  I burned my back yesterday, but I wasn’t aware of it until the late evening when I mounted the hammock.  I couldn’t sleep on my back because it was too tender.  We head further up the Amazon through what appears to be a flood plain.  This is a high water season and it is to be expected that most animal life has fled into the far interior of the rain forest/jungle.  The river separates, joins and separates again.  Throughout the section of the river I traveled it was a mile wide, often more.  Its size and volume are spectacular.  The sight is difficult to imagine when my eyes are closed.  Such massive movement, unlike an ocean, the current flows heavily to the east, occasionally a large tree, ripped from the loamy soil of the river beach, will float helplessly in the unrelenting force.

We traveled two miles up the Amazon, then pull close to a narrow sandy beach.  Because of the high water, there are no beach heads to be seen.  Most sandy areas will be under water for two or three more months, not drying out till the water recedes thirty more feet.  To reach a narrow sliver of sand Zamora and I wade, through waist-deep, coffee-colored water. Once ashore, I took the machete and took turns with Zamora, cutting a path inland to explore the flora and fauna. 
In this area Zamora has recently seen monkeys, wild pigs and tapirs.  He promised a glimpse of the pink dolphins but I have lost hope that will happen.   As we walked along a poorly marked damp, clay trail, he pointed out signs of animal life including footprints, feces, a tree rubbing.  He sniffed the air in long nasal gulps turning his head to find the direction of some odor or other. Like a dog or wild animal, I could hear the nasal sounds of a deep sniff.  I knew he sensed the life hidden around us. The trail of damp leaves carpeted the thick forest beneath and all around us making the only signs that I could see on the narrow trail was that the leaves were packed tight.  The strange, mysterious odors I sensed were damp, musty, menthol mixture of wet grass and mushrooms.   Poisonous snakes habituate here brought me to a heightened sense of awareness.  Each cautious step forward, on the thick jungle carpet of multicolored leaves, compressed eight or nine inches, caused me to stumble frequently.  Once I caught my balance, after such a step, by grabbing hold of a nearby tree, not noticing that it was protected by long hard black needles. Four needles pierced the skin of my left hand.  Even though the punctures were small, the juice of the needles prevented coagulation.  Blood flowed, mixing with my sweat and the thick humidity into a fluid that dripped down my arm, marking our trail with small red dots that stained the leaves underfoot.  It looked so much worse than it was.

I coated my entire body, especially any exposed skin, with heavy concentrations of DEET, and used a special concoction to cover all clothing before we began this watery journey, the mosquitoes persisted, hovering just behind my head and ears waiting—waiting!  Their incessant buzzing constantly reminded me to stay vigilant against these hungry predators.  Zamora fanned the air to protect me and as a consequence they attacked him.  I had offered him the DEET but he said he protects himself by amulets which work well.  He has, however, had malaria five times, but he’s better now.  

We stumbled through thick forest in search of animals.  I anticipated a lack of wild life in “the Amazon” guide book by Brant.  But the hope of seeing a small sample was enough to induce me to follow Zamora deeper into the jungle.  Although it was only 3:00 p.m., the canopy of tree tops concealed the blue of the sky.  I looked down at my feet and saw that we were on no path!  Lacking a compass or water and the setting of the sun was approaching in a few precious minutes.  I was getting concerned that this might be the very place I will spend this night.  He sniffed the air in various directions then indicated confidently that we must head in that direction, pointing straight ahead.  I was sweating profusely and overheated from the journey.  We plodded up a leaf-covered hill, that despite the recent rains would often slip underfoot.  At the crest of the hill we could see some  sky in the thick canopy of tree tops.  Zamora moved ahead knowingly and exclaimed “we are back on the trail.”   In twenty minutes we were back at the beach, quickly climbed aboard the rowboat and pushed off for the anchored chartered boat. 

An hour later we docked at a floating bar.   A bar—for drinks!  This is where we would spend the night!   Moored to the floating BAR!  Fortunately we were the only customers so after buying three large bottles of beer, the bar was closed.  I wanted to sleep on the boat rather than in the bar where my cook threw his blanket down to sleep on the bare wooden floor!   Except for the mosquitoes I suspected that nighttime could bring out the jungle wildlife I didn’t get to see during the daytime.  I certainly didn’t want them sharing my hammock.                                          

The blackness of night was complete at 7pm.  The light of the moon illuminated the entire jungle and river, but the shadows cast added to the eerie surreal reality I was in.  I slept well in the hammock.  I only woke once at 2am and fell asleep til 6am. 

March 18, 1999     Amazon River, Brazil

                This is about the middle of this trip and I’ve already seen or done almost everything I was intending to do.  I am going to try to get to Iguasso Falls soon so I can explore that area more thoroughly.  I spent the morning in a room in Aria Towers in the thick Amazon jungle.   I served myself a simple breakfast of strong, aromatic coffee, bread with a small wedge of cheese and a small triangle of a sweet, firm, yellow melon.  I walked upstairs to my room to shower; something I didn’t do for two days.  Juices were made with purified water after the fruits were soaked in a very diluted iodine solution to remedy intestinal reactions from American and European tourists.  

Expenses for 3/18/99
Exchange Rate 165= $1Real

15       small trinkets
4         water
3         peanuts
5         taxi
50rl     boat
100rl to Zamora for Boat
$30 to change flight date
$107 dollars, $137 Total

                     I saw many signs of construction.  The wooden maze extended a half mile west and a quarter mile in another direction Other workmen were adding upper levels to extend the walkway through the verdant parapet.  I boarded the boat at the dock. The crew waited for my signal across a narrow inlet that circled around the main building.   The river encircled the wooden Aria Towers.  We traveled with the current at full steam as we headed back to Manaus.   The journey and exploration took two days up river then going back in a day.

                     Aboard the sturdy wooden tug-sized vessel, the young pilot had been successfully fishing while we traveled around.  The waters, through murky, were filled (according to the pilot and his younger brother) with fish.  Nearby was a place that many piranhas frequently are found.  They caught twelve large fish; more than enough for a final barbecue for the journey’s end.  Just outside the city harbor a small blue dolphin leaped near to the bow of the boat then he disappeared.  I had hoped to see the rare pink dolphin but the disappointment wasn’t great.  I had a wonderful time.

I went straight to my hotel room, a five-block walk through the busy city streets.  I took a long warm shower to wash the river grime away.  I had worn the same clothes for the entire journey; it was a pleasure to peel them off and put them in a sealed plastic bag.  I threw myself across the bed and fell asleep in a moment.   I was exhausted and my left heel was blistered from the hike from the beach yesterday. 

 Zamora brought me to the ticket office of Varig and they courteously made the change, yet because my appearance in their office was at the tail end of the normal two hour siesta, I had to wait thirty minutes to pay for the change.      One thousand of my dollars became 1,650 Brazilian Reale at a cambio.  The official rate is 1.87 and Varig gave me change at that rate.  The money changers only offered 1.65.  A year ago it was 1.1, signs of rapid inflation.

At the hotel I showered and packed for my flight tomorrow.  I wasn’t feeling right, it was probably just exhaustion.  I may have had a high temperature, but I certainly had diarrhea. I took two antidiarrheal pills and felt better in three or four hours.  

March 19, 1999  Friday    Manaus, Brazil

3/19/1999 Daily Expenses
72       Laundry, room & local phone call
10       Breakfast
35       Taxi to airport
28       Twelve postage stamps to USA

155 Reale (1.87 Rl = 1 US $)

I woke up at midnight to call Marcy and expect her to be home now.  The difference in time is four hour.   And Iguasso Falls & Rio it is one more hour ahead of L.A. time.  011 is the long distance dialing code for the US I had told the clerk; it was 0110.  Somehow he got through so I got to talk with Marcy.  I felt wonderful hearing her voice; knowing she missed me as much as I missed her. 

Sarah wrote a letter saying she was disturbed that I wasn’t taking her calls.  She doesn’t know I’m away because it would be difficult too difficult for Marcy.  I felt tired but very happy I called.   There is no Internet access here so, even though Marcy said she wasn’t answering the phone, it was worth the thirty-dollar gamble I was charged.   That was the minimum, even if they were not successful.  I could make a call from the central post office but it is jammed with a long line of people which never shortens from 8:30am till closing.  (It opens at 9am).  The lines are terribly long, reaching out onto the street and meandering further around a corner where the end of the line disappeared.  It is often a four-hour wait to use the International phone system where it would only cost $7 for a three-minute conversation. 

Notes from Varig Airline Magazine:
Igusso Falls to Sao Paulo 1h 35mi 516 miles
Manus to Sao Paulo 3h 30 mi 1653 miles
Zamora arrived at eight a.m. to do a little more shopping.  I promised to help him get a web presence which would help him start his own business as a tour operator.  I wanted to have more of the Tambaque fish because it is rarely served outside this region.  I stopped for breakfast/lunch at a place I knew would have it.  I enjoyed the meal and Zamora had some soup.  I went to the post office because I had to get stamps if I would ever send any post cards.  I hope to find Internet service in Iguaso Falls.

At noon all of my gear was put away ready to go.  I had to be at the airport two hours before flight time and I was cutting it close.  I got there at 12:45 for a 2:45 flight paid a 9.15 real departure tax for a domestic flight to a nervous and fidgety Varig employee.  I had to stand in a very long queue. 

The airlines’ computers were down so all seat assignments were being done manually.  This was a very slow process.  I struck up a conversation with a young man from Boston who has had a temporary job in Buenos Aires.  He told me he decided to tour a bit before he goes back home.  After waiting ninety minutes a stewardess handed my boarding pass to me and points to another line I must wait in to board the plane.  I rate Varig well.  Good food.  Good service.  Adequate space for my feet, now its good.  And even though we are cutting across most of Brazil the flight is only four hours and ten minutes but that must include ground time too. 

I arrived in Iguasso Falls on the Brasil side and used my lonely planet book called “Brazil” to find the right place to stay here.   It was late, around 11:15 pm., when the taxi driver delivered me at the hotel so I went in and registered.  The main light in the room didn’t work but enough of the other lights did to compensate for its lack. I had advice from the guidebook that a room at the Del Rey Hotel would be a wise, reasonable choice.  At twenty-five Real per day (about $14), and upon seeing the room, I realized it was a great bargain.  As if being clean, centrally located and with air conditioning and TV, both working wasn’t enough, I discovered that having a room in this town included an ‘all-you-can-eat’ breakfast.    Without the energy to take a shower, I collapsed on the very hard bed and didn’t wake til 6a.m.

March 20, 1999   Saturday    Iguasso Falls, Brazil

The early morning was already hot so the fact that there was no hot water, only a cold shower, was not met with great disappointment.  I was ready to go quickly.  I am anxious to finish the trip, as much fun as it was, and go home.  Up to this point, other than Areo Peru’s financial collapse, I’ve been lucky all other days.  I left the hotel after breakfast.  Although Foz de Iguacu, the actual waterfall, is very far south of the equator, it is still oppressively hot and humid here.  I walked to the bus station but when I found out that the bus leaves in forty minutes and takes two hours for what seems to be a twenty minute drive on my map, I hired a taxi.  The driver’s name is Gionano.  His story is that he currently has three wives.  Two women have two children by him.  And the youngest wife has only one so far but he’s sure she’ll have more.  None of his children are over five.  He looks like he’s about thirty.  I explained that I have only one wife who I love and want none other.  He tried to explain that it is no sin to have three separate families/marriages in Brasil.  It’s how things are, that’s all.  These stories came out during the course of the day and Gionano speaks about twenty words of English.  He says he loves and supports them all.  If that’s how it is, well,  that’s how it is!

So the first stop was across the Brazil-Argentine border, is the actual Iguassu Falls.  The official price to enter was five dollars for me and three for the taxi. Another way to take money from the tourists.  From the instant I saw the edge of the falls, I was certain that they were spectacular on a world-class level.  I was not disappointed; they were so incredible, the vastness and sweeping panorama of waterfalls would not fail to take the breath away from the most jaded traveler.
Gionano brought me to the gate where I paid $33 US for the spectacular boat ride to the bottom edge of the falls.  The hour journey on a large yellow  inflatable boat provided a genuine thrill and was worth a lot more, even so the ride was greatly overpriced.  It was exhilarating and beautiful.  We saw several tapir and a vast, uncountable number of azure blue winged butterflies and gently fluttering moths of innumerable species.  Most, if not all, were dazzlingly colored when they opened their wings, thousands of them, so many you have to sometimes shake them off or cover your face and eyes as they sleepily flutter here and there in twenty-foot clouds of color.  

I got in the boat and after twelve others did the same the zodiac-type rubber raft revved its engines and off we went.  Almost immediately the pilot accelerated to high speed causing the front (where I was seated) to lift up.  The craft sped toward the falls, then the pilot brought this raft close enough that everyone was drenched; camera gear and all.  I tried to get a few good shots but the water poses too great of a risk to the video & camera so I stopped soon.  I watched this spectacular scene as it happened around me.  Wonderful! 

The ride back was exciting too, if just for the surrounding scenery and the speed of the boat along the Rio Iguacu.  Next I went to the Devil’s Throat (still in Argentina) for $4 US.  The aluminum boat brought me and ten Japanese to a walkway close to the edge of the falls.  It extended further but in 1994 or 1997 there was a big flood and the extension was never replaced.  Even at $4 US it was less than my expectations and didn’t travel to the point I thought it would reach at the edge of the falls.  It lacked the thrill of the earlier boat ride, but the wonderful scenery was there. 

Charges for 3/20/1999
$         BzRl
3                  water x 4
33                Igusso boat ride
4                  walkway access
         80rl     for Goiano
$12              for Argentina tee-shirt
$3                for Paraguay tee-shirt
         39rl     Churras Cria Restaurant
$8               official Argentine Park Fee
$3               video tape 8mm
Total -          $130.30 US {$1 = 1.85 Reale}

Next I wanted to go to Este in Paraguay.  It is about twenty miles away and an easy trip up to the last three miles which are jammed with buses going both ways and cars and motorcycles squeezing through using every inch of the street without regard for lines or traffic direction. Traffic lights are treated as advisory.  The only obedience the vehicular traffic maintains with consistency is a police officer directing traffic.

There are huge traffic speed bumps four inches high across the main street.  If a car hits one of these it would do some real damage to the car.  All traffic does slow for speed bumps.  My crossing the border, into Paraguay, was delayed for a few minutes when the cabbie suggested lunch  at a Churrasceria or barbecue grill which he enjoys whenever he can get an American tourist to pay for his meal too.  All-you-can-eat meat grill was seven dollars.  I made up for the small breakfast I had this morning.  The grilled meats were heavily salted.  The sausages tasted like cheap hot dogs.  The whipped cream cake was actually a marshmallow cake and much too sweet for my taste.  The coffee, while very good, was already heavily sweetened and served in a demitasse sized cup.  Coke came in an opened bottle and was served at room temperature.  The chili sauce tasted like it was spiced with turpentine.  With all that, I still ate too much.

Note about Argentina: They have their Peso tied to the US Dollar so it is one to one. Things are extremely, expensive there as a direct consequence, and even though Brasil and Argentina are friendly Brasil charges a fee for a visa and Argentina recoups such an extra expense with an environment that isn’t conductive to tourism and the accompanying spending.

When we were about to cross the Rio Igusso, which is also the actual border, I could see what a mess this border town was.  Beyond the traffic was the litter, wafting higher with each passing car swirling around, tainting any expectations a visitor might have.  Pollution from vehicles waiting to make the border crossing in either direction, with long lines of old, battered vehicles, badly in need of a new head gasket or a tune-up fouled the air and made a miserable sight. Bluish-black clouds of auto exhaust reduced visibility to one city block.  Adding to the distasteful mélange were thousands of vendors, crowded into every vacant space on the broken, uneven sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to either walk single file or walk around the stalls.  Each vendor had just a few items, hardly more than could fit into a milk crate or shopping cart. 

Everything for sale was poorly made and identical to the inventory of his neighbor.  No great buys here; nothing here in this vast marketplace,that was not to be found in East LA.  I bought nothing but a cheaply made tee shirt for $5 US.  I was surprised that I couldn’t even find a well made leather belt.

We waited in line to get back into the Brazil side from Este, Paraguay.  After an hour in the humid heat  Goiano, my driver, had enough; he negotiated angles and turns like the pro that he is.  He skirted past a long section of waiting cars and another line of smokey buses.  He got through the border guards and we were there, on the other side!  The temperature was in the low 80’s but the humidity made the air stifling, especially when noxious diesel fumes are swirling in the thick air.  The taxi had a fan, but no air conditioning.  From the Brazilian border, it was only a few minutes till we arrived at Hotel Del Rey.  I paid him and  we parted as friends – of course he had, now, a bunch of what was formerly my money – he should be happy.  He’s on his way to one of his three wives with that newly earned fistful of dollars!

I immediately turned on the air conditioning to its highest setting.  Only half of the hotels in this town have any kind of air conditioning.  Smaller hotels disable the ac during cooler months like this. I called the clerk to replace a burned out light bulb.  The shower is heated by an electrified attachment, a heavily serviced (as evidenced by huge amounts of black tape) barrel-shaped device was plugged in by way of a long ancient cord, into an electrical outlet high on the wall, within splash distance, itself, from the shower water. This could be a really good electric shock giver!  The television has thirteen channels (yes, 13 – one to 13) but only seven are occupied by any sort of a signal and when I flip through the channels there are really only three different programs being broadcast.  I went to sleep early, dreaming of Marcy.  One good woman.  I love her.

March 21,1999  Sunday    Iguasso Falls, Brazil  Argentina

Expenses for 3/21/99
75rl      (25rl x 3 nights) hotel room
70rl      for Taxi 5 hours
10rl      for tee shirts
  2rl      for cookies
15rl      for bag
13rl      for snickers & chicken                                      Varig to change my ticket
  6rl      Natl. Park Foz de Iguazzo,                  181      $131 total
I woke early, got out of bed quickly, and drank a gulp of water. I turned on the television just for the company. American movie (like most movies are) about several skateboarders in Venice, California who skateboard for the championship against the evil gang of skateboarders. The evil gang try all kinds of chicanery to win, but in the end the good team wins (lead by the really good guy).                     

In an expected twist of fate, the real good guy gets the girlfriend from the evil gang’s leader.  (She was always wanting to be on the good side.)  The only attraction of this movie was that is was shot in Venice/Playa del Rey/Santa Monica locales.  The storyline was one of the most boring I’ve have spent the time to see and way too dull to be of interest to anyone over seven years old.                                          

I looked outside toward the early morning’s light.  It was raining with large gray clouds still floating overhead.   An hour later, by the time I was ready to leave the hotel, the clouds had moved on.  The Sun appeared slowly, warming the morning air.  The equatorial Sun quickly heated the streets and sidewalk, eerily vaporizing the overnight rain into low swirling clouds of white steam.

I have been able to complete everything I set out to do. Since most  prices were negotiable, I found that I was able to pay less than the prices projected before I left to go on this adventure.  I was careful not to bargain too hard.  I stopped at a fair price; I just didn’t want to pay what the German and Japanese tourists paid.  Negotiation is a way of life here.  It shows respect for both sides if done correctly.  I haven’t  touched my traveler’s checks which I brought as reserve, in case I went over the budget I established for daily spending.  The greatest surprise I expected was several lost days due to inclement weather but that hadn’t happened.  I want to see the Brazilian side of the falls and the Itaipu hydroelectric dam.   Standing six kilometers away, it stretched from one end of my visual panorama to the other.  A pamphlet from the local Itaipu Information office said that the cement used to make it was enough for the creation of a two lane highway from Lisbon to Moscow.  (That’s really a lot!)

Unfortunately, even using my press pass, they would not let me pass through the gates to get close to the dam.  It is closed today.  The guard station is six kilometers away.  The rain was coming down thicker now.  I hoped it would stop soon but I was very wrong.  Passing back through the city, Goiano maneuvered his white and red-checkered taxi to a very touristy shopping center.  Buses were tightly packed with tourists even in the rain.  Everyone was given a tag when entering so that it could be identified who gets a cut of the money that the busloads of tourists leave there.  Some very nice things were there mixed with the garish tchokchkes.  Everything was more expensive, often double than what could be found elsewhere in town.  I bought nothing.                                         

The airport was the next stop.  The warm rain was still coming down. Since this was a taxi, he pulled into the taxi zone and we went to the Varig counter where the woman, without hesitation, let me change the date I will fly to Rio.   Consequently I’ll  move up the date of my return for L.A.  I know that will surprise Marcy.  I have to find out when she returns from Florida with Karen.  She sent me a recent email with all those details.  I was surprised because the conditions of the tickets on Varig didn’t allow for these changes.  I was ready to pay full faire if I had to rather than hang around here for two more days.  Not that I didn’t like it; it’s just I’ve seen what I came to see, now its time to go.  So I paid her the $30 US that Varig charged as a penalty and it was done.  I was happy at how easy it was to ”change the rules”.

He drove through the rain to the Brazilian side of the Iguasso falls.  Because of the angle – looking toward Argentina – the falls seemed more beautiful today than yesterday.  Goiano let me out and said he will wait where the trail ends.  I began to walk along the well-maintained asphalt path.  The cost to get in to this national park was six real.  The falls were not visible until I had walked eighty meters past the ranger station where I had paid to get in. 

The falls appeared at once when I rounded a corner.  Except for the falls and the sky, all in the panorama before me was deep green.  The asphalt and stone path was two miles long but the hike was the most beautiful I have ever taken.  Incredible neon blue butterflies, free flying parrots and a Toucan resting on a nearby branch were the only contrast to the verdant green and crystal blue.  Further on the trail, a rainbow glowed through the mist, over the base of three closely grouped cataracts.  I was undaunted by the rain, which had lightened up some.

I wandered along the path past a few Europeans and a handful of Japanese who stayed so closely together among themselves, as though they were shackled together.  I stopped to enjoy a chicken Empanada at a tiny stand quickly erected out of boards and cloth pulled from a nearby battered auto.  In the car sat the father and several children danced around, watching me eat a second chicken pie.  I finished this snack with a snickers bar.  Cost: three real.  This gave me a moment out of the rain to change the film.  Rain or not, I wanted to capture as much of this scene as possible.  At the end of the path, which continuously looped back and forth, steeply down the mountainside.  I paid one Reale to ride an elevator up about six stories to street level.

I spied the cab, parked behind some trees.  When I approached the vehicle it looked vacant, but closer inspection revealed Goiano asleep in the back seat (taking a siesta from 12-2 is the practice here).  I woke him – Hey, he’s on my time!  I paid him the 70 real – kind of high especially because he didn’t speak English, so most communication was sign language or my limited Spanish.  Somehow I was always able  to get my thoughts through to him or vice versa.  I bought two tee shirts for Trevor, then I walked to the sole town internet station two blocks from the hotel.  Unfortunately something was wrong, I’m not certain what, but the lady said they would not be opening for several days.  I leave tomorrow so that ends that. 

I bought five cookies at a bakery and two bottles of water.  I brought it all back to my room.  I gathered my laundry to have it washed here because the hotel promised to return to finish in four hours.  I pulled everything apart to check for damage to any photo equipment from the rain water, which had even seeped into the plastic, heavy-duty, waterproof orange bag I was using.  My plan for tomorrow is to get my laundry in the early afternoon; finish packing; have Goiano pick me up at noon; go to the hydroelectric plant and get to the airport by 3:30p.m. for the 5:30 flight. 

I stripped down to my underwear in the room so that my clothes might dry.  If I don’t use the air conditioning the temperature in this room can get up to 85° F.  It is cooler outside, but opening the window lets in innumerable flying pests.  I took a long walk through this small town looking for another Internet service or a phone with international service so I can call Dad on his 80th birthday.   Since today is Sunday and all businesses (except for a ‘pharmacia’) are closed.  I’ll call tomorrow in the morning from the main post office.  “Dad – HAPPY BIRTHDAY”  I hope he could hear me! 

 March 22, 1999   Monday    Foz de Iguasso to Rio de Jainero  Brazil

The day started with no rain – which was good despite the clouds stretching the entire horizon without a sliver of blue sky revealed.  I walked downstairs to find out how a person can get to Itaipu hydroelectric dam from town without a taxi.  He gave me simple directions, saying through Spanish, English, and sign language mixed together.  I understood and replied “yo sabe” which means “I understand”.  I had made arrangements to meet a cabbie at noon but if I go now it should give me more time at the airport and I can allow for any delays that might occur.  I have everything packed, except for the laundry which should be done at 11 am when I return from Itaipu Dam. 

I got to the dam in thirty minutes, just as the rain started.  So it was a little wet – I had such good weather otherwise, I can’t get upset by a little water now.  The drizzle didn’t prevent or deter me from seeing anything.  I did choose the wrong side of the Itaipu Dam Tour Bus.  First they presented English film about the dam.  They also ran a Portuguese one but those were the two choices.  Then they pasted a sticker on you, whether Portuguese or English and you boarded your appropriate bus.  Mine was #5.  Through the rain, about twelve buses made the routine two stops.  Both stops allowed for a good photo opportunity but the story of the dam is so complex and, to me, incomplete.  The massiveness of this creation is gigantic. 

          Several knowledgeable sources have said that its creation has had such far reaching negative ecological effects, that all will not be known for another twenty or thirty years.  Even within the propaganda of the film it says that there are numerous projects operating to try to rescue  and resituate wildlife. 

 In the film, while talking about how they are trying to save the animals, the visual image was showing them cutting open animals to study them – well that’s the assumption I made, the cutter could have been dressed in a laboratory smock or a cook’s outfit – I wasn’t totally certain as to which it was. 

In the struggle between man and all other earthly creatures it will always be Man’s indomitable need for more land, food and water.  The animals come in second in a two-entry race.  The dam was necessary to provide electric power to Brazil.  25% of the total national consumption comes from here.  For Paraguay they get 75% fo their total national consumption from the generators of this dam. 

The steep descent of the Iguasso River to the Atlantic Ocean; harnessing that drop for power was first operational about ten years ago and is the biggest, most power-generating dam in the world.  After the two stops, the bus returned me to the main center.  Through the continuing rain Roberto guided me to the taxi.  We stopped at a small café to get a cup of coffee. 

Expenses 3/22/99

10rl        for laundry
50rl        for taxi (Itaipu Dam)
  7rl        for airport departure  tax
10rl        for 3 min phone  to   Marcy
  3rl        for large cola
  6rl        for coffee & empanada @ Maria y Mao
96rl        in Foz do Igusso
30  in Rio

104rl      for room in Rio
 3rl        for chicken sandwich
 1rl        for ice cream
234rl   $124 Total

At the Hotel del Rey and I got my laundry, packed it all in, and dragged all my bags into the waiting taxi.  Roberto and I attempted some limited conversation.  I told him that Brazil and the US are amigos – How mundane, okay?  But the people generally like to hear this stuff I think – whether it’s true or not – and I don’t know what either side thinks officially, the only thing that’s important is that for each of us, representing our respective nations, is that we are friends.  He asked me – and I asked him to repeat his question to make certain I really understood what he said, but he asked me if Bill Clinton is Jewish!   I sat, speechless!  Where could such an idea come from?  Then, when I answered, he asked another stunning question. “Is Bill Clinton Israeli?” – “What?”  What kind of thinking dwells in the mind of the “average Brazilian” if he is the “average guy?”  I was happy that we were just pulling into the airport then because I was feeling strange being in Roberto’s company.  My flight was scheduled to leave at 5:20 p.m. so I had more than five hours to wait.   Being so early at the airport allowed me to get a good seat assignment (something Marcy taught me).  The attendant had me pay a departure tax for a domestic flight of seven real and said he could get me on an earlier flight if I would like.  This was contrary to what was told to me by the attendant yesterday.  She said that there is only one flight each day.

I agreed to leave on the three o’clock flight that has one stop.  I checked my bags and wandered around the airport, stopping in the Asparagus Snack Bar.  I nursed a one-liter bottle of diet coke for over the two hours while I wrote.  The window by my table revealed a broad view of airplanes landing on the wet pavement.  I found a place in the airport building where I could make an international telephone call. 

First I tried to reach Dad, since I wasn’t able to call yesterday and the Internet office wasn’t operational.  The operator couldn’t get through.  I tried Marcy at work.  She should have been in; it must have been around 8 am there.  I could only leave a message for her.  I’m going to be able to get through when I’m in Rio de Janeiro certainly.  That won’t be till much later tonight.  I’ll try Dad,  then I’ll try to reach Marcy again.  It’s 4:30 pm and I’m in flight, now, to Rio. 

Once I land, I’ll phone Dad and Marcy, then arrange an earlier flight on American Airlines.  If she were here, Marcy would say I’m nixing this trip by remarking how smoothly it has happened – well, except for the failure of Aero Peru (while I was in Peru).  The call for boarding had me put down the pen for awhile, pushing to embark.                                                       

The plane ascended and banked sharply.   I was treated to a beautiful view of the Iguasso falls from the air.  I spent a little time reading about Rio.  My expectations, now, are high.  I’ll see what kind of flight schedule it is possible to make.  Marcy and I discussed the possibility of meeting in Rio.  Bu I can’t imagine her doing such a crazy thing.  It’s 10 pm and I’m here a couple of days early.  I found, with clear guidance from the Lonely Planet guidebook, a hotel on the beach for $50 a night.  It’s going to be my last few days so I guess I can splurge besides it will save me ten dollars (five each way) on taxi fare to get here because the Copacabana is my destination.  It’s THE Beach! 

March 23, 1999   Tuesday       Rio de Jainero, Brazil

       I didn’t get here until 10 pm and there’s still traffic there (across the Avenida Atlantica).  Ipanema is just south of here by five blocks, stretching a kilometer.  I can sense that (except for the heat) Marcy would love it here.  It’s like Las Vegas with less lights, less glitz, and more people.  I KNOW once I tell Mark and Angie about it they definitely will come here.  There aren’t two people more suited for the “body beautiful” action here than them!  

Like all of Brazil, blacks and whites freely intermingle however along the Copa, there are more police and they have their red lights on  they make their presence known.  They watch the blacks more closely and, always, with suspicion.


The beach itself is only about fifty yards deep, this section outside my hotel is called Copacabana.  Ipanema, the next beach to the south is only about five or six blocks away and it is equally as narrow.  The Sun was very intense and the sidewalk along the beach was too hot to walk on without sandals or shoes.  I walked back to the hotel; I felt refreshed after a mid-morning shower and I was relieved to have washed the sticky and abrasive sand off my body and out of my hair.  I went over to the Sucros Bar, where all sorts of fruit drinks are made.  I selected three different fruit drinks, made from fruits, the names of which I could find no translation into English.  Further, I had the opportunity to see the whole fruits before being liquified in blenders.  I haven’t seen those fruits before.

I ate some tejoad, a meat stew—a little salty for my taste.  There are so many different fruits and vegetables!  Much more than I have seen back in Los Angeles.  I have not tried very many of them; that would take months or possibly, years.

                            At the hotel I finished packing for my journey home.  The doorman of the hotel asked if I’d like a cab.  Yes I said.  He told me that it would cost 35 real, I knew differently.  “Get me a metered cab.  I’ll pay what’s on the meter.”   I said

At the airport I had time to write and reflect before boarding.  The flight was long and, even with extra leg room, I never could get quite comfortable.  Most every thought I have is of returning home to Marcy and my whole family.  They got a cab and he tried to charge tariff 2 (which is a way to charge more to the unsuspecting) but I caught that trick almost immediately.  He switched it back to tariff 1 a cheaper rate.  Instead of 35 it cost me 22.50 Reale.  It is important that I am not thought of as a sucker.  It would reflect poorly on other Americans who come here to visit after me.

                          The beach itself is only about fifty yards deep, this section outside my hotel is called Copacabana.  Ipanema, the next beach to the south is only about five or six blocks away and it is equally as narrow.  The Sun was very intense and the sidewalk along the beach was too hot to walk on without sandals or shoes.  I walked back to the hotel; I felt refreshed after a mid-morning shower and I was relieved to have washed the sticky and abrasive sand off my body and out of my hair.  I went over to the Sucros Bar, where all sorts of fruit drinks are made.  I selected three different fruit drinks, made from fruits, the names of which I could find no translation into English.  Further, I had the opportunity to see the whole fruits before being liquified in blenders.  I haven’t seen those fruits before.

                          I ate some tejoad, a meat stew—a little salty for my taste.  There are so many different fruits and vegetables!  Much more than I have seen back in Los Angeles.  I have not tried very many of them; that would take months or possibly, years.

                           At the hotel I finished packing for my journey home.  The doorman of the hotel asked if I’d like a cab.  Yes I said.  He told me that it would cost 35 real, I knew differently.  “Get me a metered cab.  I’ll pay what’s on the meter.”   I said reluctantly they got a cab and he tried to charge tariff 2 but I caught that trick almost immediately.  He switched it back to tariff 1 a cheaper rate.  Instead of 35 it cost me 22.50 Reale.  It is important that I am not thought of as a sucker.  It would reflect poorly on other Americans who come here to visit after me.

                           My flight doesn’t’ leave till 10 p.m. so I have a lot of time to kill.  I couldn’t leave my luggage, then come back later.  They have storage here but I’d have to be back at 4 to check it and six to leave my luggage—they wont’ take it any earlier...it’s just too difficult to do. 

At the airport I had time to write and reflect before boarding.  The flight was long and, even with extra leg room, I never could get quite comfortable.  Most every thought I have nt’ take it any earlier...it’s just too difficult to do.

I was ready to head over to the beach when I e several brochures in a rack in the hotel lobby.  One of them advertised hang gliding over Rio.  I went up and called the fellow and he came over and picked me up at the hotel within fifteen minutes. Ted, the driver, brought me to the top of a mountain.  His VW bug had the hang gliding kite mounted to a roof rack.  We drove to a mountaintop along a swerving one-lane country road. 

Ted hooked me into a set of straps and ran off a short wooden ramp launching us into the air. Ted reminded me that I should run until we get past the ramp. At the last step, I had tried to halt it but I couldn’t.  After we have launched and are in the air for a minute, Ted asked me to please stop running.  When I peered over the cliff’s edge and looked down,  goose bumps ran all over my body.  Mentally I tried to detach myself from the corporal me.  I held my breath until I couldn’t hold it any longer.  After two or three minutes I started to relax and the idea of floating so high above Rio was amazing.  I had tried to take my camera but it was so loose I felt uncomfortable so I left it behind.  In what seemed like close to an hour was only ten or eleven minutes.  In landing, my feet scraped the beach for about thirty feet.  Ted asked me to lift my feet up but it was impossible.  When he tried to stall when we were an inch or two above the ground.   I couldn’t resist the last moment to run  but I slipped, knocking Ted off-balance and we crashed.  Nothing broken, just a small cut on my arm. 

His driver was there to breakdown the glider and bring me back to the hotel room.  I changed clothing, cleaned the cut, then got a taxi to United Airlines.  For $57 I was able to move the date up so I could be home for the weekend for Marcy.  The tickets said “not endorsable” but I guess if they want to they can and, they did!  I took a cab back to the hotel.

An internet shop was difficult to find the place, even with good directions but once I did, I couldn’t get online.  After twenty minutes of having the shop owner get me connected I was there.  Nope – connection broken.  Three times he’d make contact, then lose contact!’  We persevered and the contact was made.  While checking my e-mail I reread Marcy’s letter.  Marcy was going to Florida then!  Maybe I’ll meet her in Florida – that would work!  She’s in Orlando.  I’ll be in Miami.  But wait – she calls me at the hotel.  What a grand surprise!  And she’s going to be there when I land.  Terrific!  I walked around Copacabana.  I bought a hot, slightly scorched, corn on the cob and drank coconut milk from a coconut.  The rain started with a great intensity, unlike an storm I have seen before.  The water pooled, flooding streets quickly.  Just as strangely, it stops.  Slowly the craft vendors start erecting their stands.  I bought some more tee shirts then went back to the hotel room.  The pounding rain was pleasant to listen to while I drifted off.

March 24, 1999    Wednesday            Rio de Jainero, Brazil

                      I want to do some sightseeing, so I took a cab to Acucar de Pao (Sugar Loaf Mountain) and shared a cable car with a tour group of twenty British tourists, not one of them younger than the shriveled eighty-year-old, smiling lady who packed herself tightly at my side. Slowly the car left the platform on the first of three legs of the journey to the top.  Almost immediately when it left the platform it lurched wildly when it free from any lower support or guidance.  I felt more than strange how the height of the suspended cable car renewed sensations I felt yesterday.  It took my breath away.  I rode to the top, looked at the wide, distant views of Rio then I rode down again. Twenty taxis stood neatly lined , waiting for their next fare. 

            I  hired another cab to take me to and through Favela Rochina.  This infamous Rio slum overflows with stories of drugs and evilness, yet as we slowly cruise the narrow, twisted street, the evil face of this slum is not readily visible to me.  It just looked like a poor part of town with real people living amidst generations of poverty.

The taxi driver explained, in understandable English, that he has lived here for many years and said that the favela is both evil and good I saw several homes and business buildings being erected, that is usually a sign of positive growth. I couldn’t pierce its façade.

 Expenses of 3/24/99
  $1 = 1.8rl
60rl        taxi to Favela Rochina
7rl          taxi to Acucar de Pao Sugar Loaf
10rl        taxi to hotel
5rl          for internet
7rl          for tee-shirt
2rl          for ice cream
3rl          for chicken sandwich
12rl        to ride to top of Sugar Leaf
106/1.8 = 59 subtotal

At the airport I had time to write and reflect before boarding.  The flight was long and, even with extra leg room, I never could get quite comfortable.  Most every thought I have is of returning home to Marcy, and my entire Richards family.

Next, the cabbie drove to Bondin Street. We paused at the covered and clearly identified trolley stop.  I waited for twenty minutes for Teresa, the name given to the single trolley that goes downtown by way of a high, suspended track.  From the hill top favela it is a short distance aerially, but if you had to drive around the narrow bustling roads lined on both sides with vendors it could take more than an hour.  The tram takes less than five minutes.

       When the cabbie discovered that the trolley wasn’t scheduled to arrive for another forty minutes I left, disappointedly.  I asked my friendly driver about the section which my guide book labeled as El Centro. Excitedly the driver said that we are very close and that I MUST see it! He swung the taxi around and we followed the shiny steel tracks embedded in the street.  We descended a hill into the oldest section of Rio. Large old homes lined both sides of the street which had become much wider now.  Cobbled streets and colonial-style homes emphasize that I am about to see something wonderful. Every few feet I ask the driver to stop because the homes become more beautiful and grander. It reminded me of Cuba, only  more beautiful (the buildings) I was thrilled to be here, yet anxious to move forward.  I could see that little more than a coat of paint was the care these grand buildings got.  I wandered around for about four hours, on foot, after I paid the driver.  I’m, usually not very impressed with architecture but these fine examples are very impressive.  The Teatro Municipal is the most well presented example of the architecture and it’s stunning cupola is spectacular.

                      Each street was crowded with vendors selling everything from empty plastic bottles to leftover carnival decorations and costumes.  I could have found a bus going into this neighborhood (Copa) but I chose to take a taxi because I was tired and was carrying my camera bag and another heavy sack too.  I had been looking in the business center of Rio for a place to change money; there were few to be found.   I walked into a regular bank and one female teller knew of a place which was nearby.   I had three hundred dollars but I only changed two hundred into Reale.  I don’t want to have too much when I return to the U.S. because of the difficulty I anticipate when I try to reconvert back into dollars.  The value of the Reale is too soft and it declines daily.  Most tourists are grossly taken advantage of.  The Cariocas live with a steep, steadily increasing cost of living which makes travel a luxury few can afford.  It also creates the perception that all tourists as wealthy, so they are able to afford getting cheated or the victim of a small theft.

The weather is beautiful and clear today.  I intend to get a one-day tan at the beach.  Copacabana and Ipanema, two of the world’s most famous beaches.  From my hotel window I can see a mile or two of the oceanfront Avenida Atlantica, framed against a beautiful backdrop of blue ocean and sky.  The wide avenue was paved with gray and black one inch tiles used to contrast with white tiles inset to look like swirling waves.  I took the elevator upstairs  for a light breakfast of fresh fruit and coffee.   It is still early, only seven.  I walked down the narrow dark interior stairway, then out of the hotel and found a good spot on the beach. 

Today is a workday and it is seven a.m, but there are plenty of people staking out a space on the beach like me.  They appear to be tourists, except the hawkers of beach goods like hats, towels, cold soda.  This is the Atlantic, so as the sun rose I could feel it’s intense warmth immediately.  The heat and humidity made everything feel sticky, especially me.  I sat on the beach in my shorts and shirtless.   Without a towel, the sand crept up my shorts.  The sand is very light tan and fluffy.  It adhered to every part of my body, like it was charged with static electricity.  I stood up after a half hour and decided to walk till it fell away.  

March 25, 1998   Thursday   Rio de Janeiro, Brazil  

that were very useful beyond what I expected:

medicines (even though I only needed one Cipro, which ones should I gamble on?)
and aids—my foot blister & as gifts
Gumi bears even though I ate most of them

Things that I brought but didn’t need:
lots of extra plastic bags
river or beach shoes—I haven’t worn them yet.

Bring these next time:
More books—I didn’t have a book on Bolivia
Business cards I only brought Mike & Marcy cards
A second bag—I’m always buying stuff.  Why must I always buy bags
More socks

International phone card—is there such a thing?
A change purse

The beach itself is only about fifty yards deep, this section outside my hotel is called Copacabana.  Ipanema, the next beach to the south is only about five or six blocks away and it is equally as narrow.  The Sun was very intense and the sidewalk along the beach was too hot to walk on without sandals or shoes.  I walked back to the hotel; I felt refreshed after a mid-morning shower and I was relieved to have washed the sticky and abrasive sand off my body and out of my hair.  I went over to the Sucros Bar, where all sorts of fruit drinks are made.  I selected three different fruit drinks, made from fruits, the names of which I could find no translation into English.  Further, I had the opportunity to see the whole fruits before being liquified in blenders.  I haven’t seen those fruits before.

I ate some tejoad, a meat stew—a little salty for my taste.  There are so many different fruits and vegetables here; many more than I have ever seen back in Los Angeles.  I have not tried very many of them; that would take months or possibly, years.

At the hotel I finished packing for my journey home.  The doorman of the hotel asked if I’d like a cab.  Yes I said.  He told me that it would cost 35 real, I knew differently.  “Get me a metered cab.  I’ll pay what’s on the meter.”   I said reluctantly they got a cab and he tried to charge tariff 2 but I caught that trick almost immediately.  He switched it back to tariff 1 a cheaper rate.  Instead of 35 it cost me 22.50 Reale.  It is important that I am not thought of as a someone easy to take advantage.  It would reflect poorly on other Americans who come here to visit after me.  Other nationalities have such a reputation, especially Germans who are well traveled as a people, but little schooled in the ways of the market in third world countries.  Or maybe they just find the social interaction during haggling to be abhorrent.

My flight doesn’t’ leave till 10 p.m. so I have a lot of time to kill.  I couldn’t leave my luggage, then come back later.  They have storage here but I’d have to be back at 4 to check it and six to leave my luggage—they wont’ take it any earlier...it’s just too difficult to do. 

At the airport I had time to write and reflect before boarding.  The flight was long and, even with extra leg room, I never could get quite comfortable.  Most every thought I have turning home to Marcy, Trevor, Mark and Angie, Carol, my parents, brother’s family, and my friends.

My Reflections of Peru                     

            This is a pleasant country trying with some difficulty to gain financial balance.  Indiginas seem to make up 100% of the people I’ve seen. Very little “Spanish” mixed here with the Indians.  Most younger women work and care for the children in Lima, but in smaller towns the women follow the old ways.  Lima has most of the amenities and all of the problems found in any metropolis.  I enjoyed the people because they seemed happy to have visitors from Estados Unidos.  Whether it was a facade or not is immaterial—I felt comfortable here.  Nonetheless, I took proper precautions to minimize the risk of theft.  Transportation ran pretty smooth, generally sticking to a schedule but prices changed frequently.  Sports was a daily major topic, world news was not.  Rioting and protests were usually put down by the military very quickly and seldom made the news outside of the region the event occurred in.