A Travellerspoint blog

Vilcabamba, Day 1

Yay! No more holidays!


Happy New Year everybody! I hope yours was better than mine! Haha. It could have been worse, but mine was a bit crummy so I`m moving on to bigger and better places now. I will describe what the locals did though, cuz it`s very fascinating.

First of all, I must say that they`ve got the most hilarious Santa Claus commercials here. I forget what they advertise actually, but the first time I watched one I laughed my ass off. It starts off with a guy just getting out of the shower and grabbing a towel. Santa has walked into the house and appears in the door of the bathroom, points at the guy`s willy, and laughs ¨ho ho ho ho ha ha...¨ as the guy is mortified. It`s priceless!

Anyway, last night was very interesting, but once everyone was hugging each other after midnight I got lonely and went back to the hostel. I headed out just after 10pm with my Frankenstein`s monster mask, not really knowing where the party was, but everyone seemed to be walking down Bolívar street so I followed the train, watching all the people. Everyone had their paper maché figures out on the street or tied to their cars (some very expensive cars, I might add - I saw a bloody Mercedes drive by the other day!). Like optional dress-up parties everywhere, most people didn`t actually dress up, but there were a good number of adventurous, fun-loving people who went all out with their costumes. There were tons of monster masks, some witches, monster costumes, a grim reaper...all scary stuff.

The crowd gathered in one of the minor plazas at which there was a speaker system pumping loud loud music, huge effigies of devils and headless politicians sitting in a giant cauldron waiting to be burned. They were all bright red with evil faces. The street was left open to drivers as a parade of vehicles overflowing with people went by to look at the devils and the4 gathering crowd.

I suppose it makes sense that the people who dressed up were the ones who danced unselfconsciously on the streets, sometimes soliciting money from the drivers. One guy was decked out as a hunchback with a monster mask - he was very fun to watch. Another guy in a wrinkly mask was walking around with a baby doll in his arms, the baby´s head covered with a wrinkled old woman`s mask - very bizarre but hilarious. Yet another guy pulled up on his motorcycle with his girl behind him. He was well-dressed with a nice yellow collared shirt, but the whole scene was made eerie by the yellow moster mask he had on. The whole tone of the city changes when it`s normal to see ghouls all over the place.

Then at midnight, instead of the regular Canadian countdown, they set fire to the devil`s cauldron and threw all the politicians inside, followed by the devil himself. The flames burst up so quickly that the crowd simultaneously took a few steps back away from the heat. This was the biggest, most impressive fire, of course, but along every street in the city were other, smaller celebrations. Every 50 feet there was another fire. The kids were still lighting firecrackers that jumped about uncontrollably, but now they were also taking running leaps over the fires and having a grand dangerous time.

I loved watching the devil go up in flames and all the little fires around the city. There`s nothing like it at home. If I didn`t know it was the New Year I might have mistaken the city for a war zone or the aftermath of a riot or a big looting!

After taking all this in though, I walked back to the hostel with my Frankenstein`s monster mask on for the last time, past all the partiers with their fires. I was back by 12:15am and watched the last happy 1/2 hour of Grease before going to bed.

And now I`m in Vilcabamba! It`s a very pretty town, very green cuz it`s so near the jungle. I checked into a place called Hostal Mandango which is very colourful and has lots of plants. It should suffice for the couple days I spend here. Once I head to that farm I`ll be out of touch for probably just a week, possibly a bit more. They only have enough solar-powered electrity for music and a cold shower, apparently, and certainly no internet. I`m looking forward to it!

Posted by The Cat 15:44 Comments (0)

Loja, Day 4

Read the news today.


As I was walking around the city yesterday I couldn`t help but notice the dozens of stores selling walls of plastic masks. My first thought was is was a bit early for Carnival stuff, but I quickly realized they`re for the New Year`s celebrations! I took a better look, trying to decide who I should be on the big night. I decided to hold off: I might feel like a sexy cartoon woman right now, but maybe tomorrow I`ll feel more like the fire-head man or Darth Vader. It`s got the same appeal as Halloween! Even if I don`t meet any tourists to celebrate with (I`ve seen maybe 2 so far - very scarce) it should be fun just walking around.

I`ve done some sight seeing since I`ve been here, popping into churches, museums, art galleries. I think looking at art is one my my favourite things to do when wandering around cities. Again I saw some wonderful roboty sculptures made from some kind of metal that made me smile they had so much character. It occurred to me that I`d like to try my hand at sculpture, perhaps with clay first because it`s an easier medium.

And I`m in a new, brighter cleaner hostel, by the way. It`s fabulous, the bed is firm and comfortable, I`ve got a TV so I can watch Spanish cartoons, and the shower is hot. Woo!

As I was passing the municipal building in the plaza yesterday there was a crowd of people there standing with their effigies, waiting to be burned tomorrow. I thought it was just some political demonstration at first with the guy on the loudspeaker, music going, these paper maché model people, often with no proper head. Each effigy has on and around it bits of paper with poltical messages.

It all became clearer to me last night when I flipped my TV on to the news. They were interviewing people in Quito about who their effigies were and why they were going to light them on fire. There was also some footage of the smoldering piles from last year. One guy was explaining something about how it was a positive thing. I should research it a bit more (in English) so I understand better, but I`m assuming it brings good luck in the new year.

The other interesting bit on the news recently is, of course, Saddam Hussein`s execution.
Saddam Hussein executed in Iraq
World views on death penalty

I read yesterday that his order to be hanged would be carried out no later than today, and this morning as I passed a store I stopped dead in my tracks at the headline on the newspaper displayed in the window: ¨Saddam fue ejecutado¨ (Saddam was executed). I know he was a bad man who has done a lot of terrible things...but just thinking about the reality of someone I`ve heard about for years and years being hung gives me the most dreadful feeling. I was nearly in tears.

Part of it is that I can`t help thinking: why is someone like Saddam executed for his crimes when someone like President Bush goes unpunished for the deaths for which he is responsible? What gets me, too, is the irony of Saddam`s conviction: he was sentenced to death over crimes committed during a war which the US supported.

Also, a bit I remember reading a few days ago: effective January 2007 Canadians will require a passport to cross the US border. !!

Posted by The Cat 08:45 Comments (1)

Loja, Day 2

People really DO live in that wreck of a house on Paper Street...

rain 19 °C

Well well well I get myself into interesting places sometimes. This entry isn`t about much, but it`s long nonetheless cuz I simply have to describe in detail the hostel I`m in right now. I arrived in Loja last night at about 7pm with no information about the place and therefore no idea where I was going to stay. I went on the recommendation of my taxi driver and MAN what a place. And by ´what a place´ I don`t mean it`s beautiful - I mean it reminds me of that dirty wreck of a place that Tyler Durden from Fight Club lived in: falling apart, paint peeling, walls moldy... And yet it has its appeal... Anyway I will stay just one night more before checking into a nicer place. I think the writer in me wants to prolong the experience a bit.

Here is what I wrote last night, more or less, but first a bit about my reflections on Goldfinger:

7.46pm - Wednesday 27 December 2006
I find since I finished reading Ian Fleming`s Goldfinger this afternoon I am almost subconsciously thinking like Mr. Bond, Fleming`s sly and very charming fox. The thoughts running through my head contain the same language pattern, syntax, and tone as James Bond. It must be a sign of very clever writing.

It`s a very exciting book, by the way. I acquired it in Máncora and devoured it in a few days. Now I can`t wait to read the rest of the series, of which I only know the film versions. I rather enjoyed its raciness adn Bond`s womanizing, and the marvelous inventiveness of the gangster plot.

I`m in a shithole of a hostel. It`s by far the dankest, darkest place I`ve been in on this trip, and yet there`s something about the building itself that appeals to me in a twisted sort of way. It`s certainly got a lot of character. When you walk in the narrow entranceway from the street you know not to expect much: the yellow lighted sign advertising ¨Hostal Americano¨ is dull and unwashed, the reception desk dingy, made of a dark wood faded and scratched from years of disservice.

Just beyond the desk the place opens up into a sort of indoor courtyard with the hostel`s 3 stories of dark doors and railings towering up around the perimeter. I`ll get back to this in a minute though.

My room is on the second floor up some creaking steps of the same dark wood that everything bit of furniture seems to be made of. It is basic and square in shape with a 10-foot ceiling painted white, the only bit of brightness aside from the unflattering florescent tube light that serves the whole spacious room. The floor is the same wood, though patchy from when holes needed to be filled, the silver heads of the nails showing. The walls are painted 2 shades of dull blue - darker on the bottom half to hide the dirt of previous inhabitants, no doubt - and they are rough and crumpled from the bad plaster job underneath. My furniture consists of an old chair covered in paint splatters, a dark brown desk in the corner, and a lumpy bed with a scratched up irom frame. It looks like there used to be a window, but it has long been closed up and painted over, leaving only a large sill which could now serve as a shelf.

The florescent light buzzes continually.

For the first time in over a month I will sleep in my sleeping bag instead of the sheets. I don`t trust their cleanliness or that the mattress is bug free. I have a feeling I`ll be jumping into bed, too - I`ve already checked once to see if there are monsters in the space underneath. I don`t think I can be in a house like this without letting my imagination get the better of me. And I haven`t even mentioned half of it.

On my way to the bathroom I had another look at the imposing courtyard. Above the third floor is a stained glass roof (it`s really just coloured rippled plastic but stained glass sounds better), hanging from a beam and resting level with the second floor is a gothic- like chandelier (the candles replaced with more florescent bulbs). Looking around, it is a vast building with staircases on either side, winding around to unseen wings where there are, presumably, more guest rooms.

Down below I can still hear the blare of the television, currently being watched by no one. It`s the kind of house where you can hear every little noise seeping through the walls. I can hear someone shuffling above me, the creak of each step as another person walks down the hall, opens a door. Along the hallway with its high ceilings, the doors are also very tall, probably 9-feet. And embedded into the walls lies the occasional oddly placed mirror, for what purpose I can`t imagine except to pick out the vampires from the humans.

The hall that leads to the washroom fails to reveal a door: there is no bathroom to wash up in. You come to two filthy sinks, around a small half-wall is an open urinal, down a tiny hall to the left are small doors for the toilet and shower stalls. The toilets are all seatless and the rubbish bins beside them look like they`ve been puked in or worse, stained and disgusting. I peeked into the shower: a moldy mess of dirty crumbling tiles. I won`t need to remind myself not to touch anything. Even without the sight, the smell of piss will be enough.

This house is formidable, creepy, haunted for sure. It`s straight out of a horror film and in a way that`s why I like it. As horrible a picture as I`m painting, the writer in me wills me to stay here for another night. I get a little thrill out of the ominous creaking of the boards, of the feeling that I`m being watched. In fact, within the first few minutes inside its walls I was already running through my head the words I`d use - or the voice I`d use - to write about it. It almost immediately reminded me, too, of the delapidated house in the film Fight Club. It has the same disgusting, anti-materialistic feel to it, and I can just picture Tyler Durden prancing around in his bathrobe, making soap in some dark corner of the basement.

When I walked in after dinner there was family sitting around a table in the courtyard playing Monopoly. I wouldn`t be surprised if, later on, I found out they were the ghosts of a family who once lived here.

Posted by The Cat 08:35 Comments (1)

Machala, Ecuador (including the rest of Máncora)

A new country once again!


So I hope everyone had a wonderful smashing Christmas, wherever you are in the world! Aside from the frustration of trying to make international phone calls in a small little town, mine was very good.

But before I talk a bit about Máncora and how beautiful it was, I should finish up the last bit of Chiclayo in Perú.

The last thing I went to see there before taking a bus to Máncora was the Royal Tombs of Sipán Museum. It`s the most spectacular place. My guide book describes it as ¨world class¨ and it really is. You walk the museum route through dark rooms, each object and information board expertly lighted with spotlights. It holds the finding from the royal tombs in Sipán, about 30km from Chiclayo. I looked at everything from ceramic pottery that lined the perimetres of the graves, to large ornamental earrings made of gold and turquoise stone, to the most intricate shell necklaces, weapons, shields, textiles, gold septres (sp?), crowns... everything the nobles were buried with 1700 years ago. They also have a recreation of the Señor de Sipán`s tomb, which was also impressive.

It took more than 2 hours to walk through the whole thing, and at the end you`re rewarded with a room full of models in full dress and jewels, replicas of all the items in the museum. They are all placed to show what life at court would be like and it`s very well put together.

Anyway since I got to Máncora very very early the next morning, I haven`t even written in my personal journal cuz I`ve been either busy or lazing about in tropical land.

Máncora and that whole stretch of beach on Perú`s north coast is a tropical paradise. The beach is gorgeous, there´s always a wave to surf, colourful umbrellas lines the beach while everyone, tourists and Peruvians alike, either soaked up the sun or splash around in the ocean all day. The beach is lined with little huts serving seafood of all kinds, further down there are various signs advertising surf board rentals or lessons, and there is always some sort of music pumping. I also spent a good deal of time just lounging in one of the dozen fishing-net hammocks scattered about the hostel.

To talk about each day would be redundant cuz in a place like that you certainly do things, but you also do a lot of nothing and always have a good time at it. I did fall into a crowd from the hostel and we partied hard Christmas Eve, had dinner together again Christmas Day and just had a quiet night, and generally had a good time just talking and relaxing together.

And the surfing was good, too, of course. :) I only went the one time but when I get to the coast here in Ecuador I`ll definitely take another lesson.

Today I crossed the border and have landed in Machala, a dingy ugly city in the south of Ecuador at which I will only stay a night before heading to Loja tomorrow. Looking forward to New Years!

Posted by The Cat 17:10 Comments (0)

Máncora, Day 2 - Happy Christmas Eve!

It doesn`t really FEEL like Christmas. Weird!

sunny 30 °C

Hello all and happy happy Christmas Eve! I`ve been on the internet way too long already writing emails, but I wanted to let eveyone know Màncora is a beautiful, hopping little tourist town, full of surfer dudes and partiers, so all is well and though I miss everyone so so much I`m having a good time nonetheless. I went surfing today!! I`ll try to write more tomorrow, but until then: MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by The Cat 14:18 Comments (0)

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