Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Greetings from Cusco Peru

Hi Everyone,
I am in Cusco. After my last update I left Puno after only two days. I didnt feel anything special for Puno. I have great love for Lake Titicaca but of the 10 days I spent on the shores of this fabulous and spiritual lake, only 2 were in Puno. I like the little town of Copacabana on the Bolivian shore much better. It is at the same altitude but for some reason Puno is much colder. Everyone knows that I dont like cold weather. So I left Puno and went to Ariquipe Which is also in Peru.
Ariquipe is at about 1000 meters lower altitude than Puno. It is quite warm there. It is known as the city of eternal spring. The weather is the same all year round. It ranges about 15 to 25 degrees. (55 to 75 Fahrenheit) It is sunny 360 days per year on average. I stayed in a pretty nice hostal called Hostal Regis which had an excellent location and a pretty good staff. It only cost 18 soles per night for a private room with shared bath. On Friday and Saturday nights it was noisy until about 4am which is the price one pays sometimes for being in a central location with lots of bars restaurants and nightlife places all around. The rest of the week it was not noisy. Ariquipe is beautiful. Not just weather wise but the buildings are all nice and there are many 300 year old churches and the cathedral is huge and has a really extraordinarilly beautiful facade.There are a lot of poor people here in Peru and it is rather obvious. There is also a lot of what is called in the USA "working poor". These people are less obvious. They have jobs and dress nicely and dont beg in the street, but... I spoke with some people who have "good" jobs here and they earn 600-800 soles per month that is 200 to 275 dollars per month. They survive and raise families on this, but it is impossible to save or "get ahead".
The church has these huge buildings and they lock their doors at night so the poor cant sleep there. The church has people on the street asking for money so they can help the poor! Hahh! What a joke. The church has 1000 times more money than the people they ask for donations.You sure do see them taking but you dont see them giving!!! I give lots of monedas (coins) to beggars in the streets. Some times people criticize me for this and say I am only encouraging them or that they are somehow secretly rich and they are begging as a scam and they are really gonna drive home in ther BMWs which are parked around the corner... What hypocritical bullshit.
First of all I say they get as much money as YOU give them which aint much, and secondly no one begs in the street who doesnt have too, and Thirdly... I am not giving them money for them... I do it for me. I dont know what they do with the money. I dont know if they buy wine or dope or hire prostitutes or gamble or....or...or... I just dont care. I care about what I do with MY money and my karma and you dont help the poor by giving to the rich (the church) thats for shit sure. So its good for my own karma to give to beggars,as to what they do with the money well, they have to worry about thier own karma. There is a great book by George Orwell called "Down and out in Paris and London". George Orwell is one of the most brilliant men to have ever written in the english language. The next beggar you give a sol to may be George Orwell dressed in Rags.
So anyway, from Ariquipe, I went to Colca Canyon. It is an incredibly beautiful area of the world. The canyon is as deep as 2000 meters in places and it stretches out for 100 kilometers.It is one of the only places I know that one can usually spot Andean Condors. I spotted them on both days I had there. The first day I only saw two but on the second day I saw about 10 or 15. It is hard to tell because you spot the same ones over and over. They have a wingspan as much as 3 meters (about 10 feet). They are huge birds that eat dead stuff.They are scavengers. They are mostly black on the top kind of brown when immature, and mostly white around the neck and head. They are both black and white on their underside and the wings end with feathers giving an impression of fingers, as do all members of the vulture family. They are magnificent!! It is the third time I went on a side trip to spot condors but it is only the first time I was successful.
Sometimes I wonder why I keep my binoculars in my pack since I so seldom use them. I wont wonder again!! I was so thankful to have them. They are one of my most favorite possessions. I got them at a Big 5 sporting goods store in Paso Robles for $20 a couple of days after Christmas when everything is on sale.
So I had an interesting experience, sitting in the little collectivo bus going to Colca canyon right next to me was a Rabbi from Cornell University in New York. He is the rabbi on campus for the Jewish Students to seek counselling if they so desire. I told him I was a guest lecturer there in the 1980s. He was about 10 years old at the time.Hmmpphh, I may be getting old...
We had a good talk about spirituality and my own path. He thinks its good that I give money to beggars. I asked if he does. He smiled and said that I was right to worry about my own karma. He wanted to know if I needed justification from him for doing a "mitzvah" a good deed, and I said no. He asked if I had some need to be his Judge and I said no. I dont think so but maybe. He said it was always best not to judge others because we can never know what is going on in somewone elses heart.He said to give to enrich my own heart. He said that is the way it should be. Mitzvahs must come from within your own heart and not out of a desire to please others or to show off. I let him use my binoculars to see the condors.
After two glorious days in the Colca Canyon we went back to Ariquipe and I said my good byes to the rabbi and the other nice traveleres I was with and stuck around Ariquipe for a couple more days. I just really liked this fine city. Now I am in Cusco, the "Doorway" to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the archeological wonderland that is Machu Pichu. Tonite I will meet up with Ana a nice woman I met in Bolivia who has lived here all her life and we will go out. In a day or two I will go to Aguas Caliente a small pueblo near Machu Pichu and have a nice soak in the famous medicinal hot springs there and then make my way out to the ruins of Machu Pichu in the next morning. Then come back to Cusco.
Cusco is what is known as a turist town. Maybe a turist trap. Here one finds many tourists but not so many travellers. Tourists are on one or two or even 3 week trips and they have huge budgets of money to make up for tiny budgets of time. They spend lots of money while travellers spend lots of time. Cusco is much more expensive than Ariquipe was. But with a little help from Ana I have found a nice cheap hostal room at a place called Casa Grande only a hundred meters form the Plaza de Armas the central focal point of the city. Following my usual pattern of avoiding places that look like they belong in California or New Jersey, I take my meals in places where I am usually the only white guy. I try not to go to places where none of the customers speak spanish and all the prices are given in dollars pounds and euros. I have a more authentic experience. I like to eat like a Peruvian while I am in Peru.
I am exercising the ideas from Miguel Ruiz book "the Four Agreements, A Toltec Way of Wisdom" and trying to be a peaceful warrior and not take stuff personally and not to make so many assumptions. I am smiling and even laughing out loud at small inconveniences that used to make me angry. Anger is like a prison one must learn to escape from if one is to be truly free. Not taking things personally makes one free from anger. Not making assumptions also leads to less anger when the things I assume turn out not to be what is really the case, so instead of becoming a prisoner to my assumptions and my anger I am free and laughing like a free natural human being, like a small child, like a prisoner who has been released from Prison. Being happy and being free are one and the same. For me at least.
So thats enough time spent today in artificial light in an internet cafe in Cusco.
I hope this finds all of you as happy and free as I am in writing it.
Love to all of you
Rambling Robert

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Travel update from Puno, Peru

Hi Everyone,
Well, I have been in a few places since my last update. I left Sucre with my travelling buddies Laurance and Thomas, both from Belgium. We all took a night bus to Cochabamba and arrived at like 6 in the morning. I HATE THAT!!! It sucks to arrive at such an ungodly hour. We walked all over town, waking up sleeping hotel front desk clerks, trying to find a nice place that wasnt too expensive and wound up in a pretty cool littel HI affiliated hostal. We took a 3 bed room with a private bathroom and a swimming pool. It was kind of expensive by Bolivian standards at 35Bs (about $4.00 US)per person but it was pretty darned nice with cable TV a Pool and free breakfast. It was a good central location too.
Good thing we got a private Bathroom because poor Thomas got pretty sick. Must have been something he ate or drank. You have to be careful in Bolivia. He was in the bathroom mostly all of the second and third day we were all there. I havent heard from him since then as I split on the morning of the fourth day and went to La Paz.
Cocahabamba is an okay city I suppose. It is a huge retail market town. Bolivians come there from all over to go shopping. (Shop till you drop!!)I am not much of a shopper but I enjoyed walking around and looking at all the stuff. Laurence and Thomas split for Santa Cruz on their way to Brazil, I took the high road and went to La Paz on my way to Copacabana on Lake Titicaca.
I only spent a brief time in La Paz. a lot of people really love this city but it didnt really do much for me and I didnt feel too much like exploring.It seemed kind of tense with a very large police and military presence. There have been a lot of problems over an impending bill over the future of natural gas rights in Bolivia and the involvement of about a dozen foriegn Multi Nationals. There was TREMENDOUS unrest there about a month ago and the whole situation settled down before I arrived and now it looks very bad again. I arrived in La Paz at 3 in the afternoon and left at 9 the following morning.
I always wanted to see Lake Titicaca. I dont really know why, I just always have.At 3,800 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level it is the highest Navigable lake in the world. It is more than 100 kilometers wide and It has many islands in it. It is a sacred place to the indigenous peoples particularly the Inca who believe it is the "navel" of the world. According to the Inca, on the Isla de Sol The god of the sun created the Inca and so it is thier garden of eden sort of. I went there for a couple of days. It is a gorgeous island with unparalled views of the lake epecially at sundown and sunset. There are some interesting Incan and pre Incan ruins and I explored most of them. I especially liked the Temple of the Sun and the Sacrificial center where animals and virgens were sacrificed to appease the gods.
I wound up staying in Copacabana for about a week (I lose track of time very badly) it may have been longer. I walked on the banks of the lake everyday and sat quitely beneath trees reading and feeding cheese to stray dogs, and watched the sunset over the lake every evening.
The situation has relly deteriorated in Bolivia and there are lots of Blockades on the roads again...piles of stones and burning tires. I was lucky that Copacabana is only a few kilometers from Peru and had no trouble leaving. I met a couple of Canadiens who got tear gassed in La Paz and their bus to Copacabana was delayed 6 hours before a blockade was cleared.
Anyway now I am in Puno which is a large city also on the banks of Lake Titicaca but on the Peru side. I will stay here a couple of nights anyway. I have been eating fresh Lake trout or Kingfish everynight. It is so tasty I cant stop myself. Every night for 8 nights!!!
Peru is much more modern than Bolivia and also more expensive. It is also an hour earlier here. I think I am done with dirt roads for a while.I think Bolivia might be the cheapest country in South America, but Peru is still pretty cheap. I have a nice hotel room with a shared bath and a TV and nice bed with a nice firm matress for 15 soles per night (3.25 sol to the dollar it comes to 4 dollars and change).
I have been studying my spanish real hard the last 5 days or so and I am getting pretty good. I have been also reading a lot of spiritual stuff and feel pretty happy with my pursuit of inner peace and mental freedom.
I read a fantastic book by Miguel Ruiz called "the 4 agreements" which really crystallized a lot of stuff that has been in my own head for a long time. I read it twice. Once in Cochabamba and once in Copacabana. Also re-read Thich Nhans book on personal freedom called "Be free here where you are".
This seems to be what life has come down to for me for a long time now. It has taken 20 months of travel to really have this crystallize for me. I think another phase in my personal development is now eminent. I think my midlife crisis is coming to an end and I am re-discovering who I am and who I want to evolve into. It feels good... Real good! I am getting over a lot of weird stuff from my past and making a lot of new peace treaties with myself and silently forgiving a lot of people from my past who broke my heart a little, and I am accepting My universe the way it is.
So... All is well in my little world right now. I am being a benevolent god in my universe. I lost another inch on my belt and had to have a new hole punched into it to hold up my pants. I shaved my beard and mustache off. So now I look like Yul Brenner, Telly Sevales and Uncle Fester all rolled into one.(been shaving my head since Mid March). So I feel different and look different too. More on my personal observations in the next update. Till then the rest is silence...

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Greetings from Sucre Bolivia

Hi Everyone.
Well it is the 7th of May and I am in a nice city of 120,000 people in Bolivia. The city is called Sucre. It is the official Capital of Bolivia, which is weird because all the gov´t stuff is in La Paz except for the supreme court which is here. It is at about 2700 meters above sea level. It is certainly the most beautiful and most modern city I have been in Bolivia so far. I have been here for 2 days now. I was in Potosi before that and in Uyuni before Potosi.
Uyuni is a small city about 6 hours by train from Tupiza which is where my last update was from. In Uyuni the big attraction is these tours one can take of an enormous now dry salt lake. It is a few hundred square kilometers of blindingly white pure salt. in some places as much as 8 meters deep. I took a one day jeep tour of the salt flats. It was very interesting and beautiful. The people there harvest the salt and make trinkets out of it but it is mainly used as a seasoning on food. There are many differsent types of salt apparently and this is the type you eat! We also visited the "Hotel del Sal" It is a 14 room hotel and restaurant made completely out of salt!! They form the salt into bricks and then bake it. What a wierd place. I didnt stay the night but it was interesting to check it out. While on the tour, I met a nice Belgian woman named Laurence who had about the same travel plans as I did for the next week or two so now we are traveling mates. She is a beautiful blond 21 year old girl who speaks 4 languages including english. She is good fun and we are having a great time together. The day after the Jeep tour we went to Potosi.
Potosi is the highest city in the world. It has about 110,000 people in it and it is at 4,070 meters above sea level. More than 2 miles high. More than double the altitude of Denver!! It is most famaous as the place where there was a massive silver mine and gold and tin and zinc and other stuff. We got into a prettty nice hotel there and spent 2 days and 2 nights there after a really beautiful bus ride through high mountain passes. On the first night we were in a little cafe with a German and Dutch couple that I had met in Tupiza and an Israeli guy I had met in Salta When... in walks Thomas my Belgian buddy who I traveled with in 3 other cities in Argentina! So he moved into our hotel the next day and the 5 of us went to climb a mountain and at the top is a little half acre lake whidch is a hot spring fed place to bathe. It is called Ojos de Incas which means Eye of the Incas. The incas have been bathing in it for thousands of years and value it for its curative powers. The water is about 30 degrees (88F) and it all natural with grass all around and a fine mud at the bottom. It is cone shaped and although it is only a half hectare wide it is 60 meters (300feet)deep at the center. It is dangerous to dive too deep in the center because the water is really hot.A couple ñof gringos kill themselves there every year or so we were warned. Also it is a little dangerouse because at this altitude (4400meters) it is hard to get your breath and easy to become out of breath and exhausted. We stayed up there and swam and played in the hot waters and had mud fights and picnicked and sun bathed for about 4 hours it is just beautiful up there. There are all multicolored mountain peaks all around us. Finally we left and hitched a ride back to Potosi with a couple of Army troop guys in a nice American S.U.V. who were super friendly and gave us Johnny Walkere Red to drink with them in the car while we drove along!!! They had been to Ft Benning in Georgia at La Escuela de los Americas. The School of the Americas. So I talked to them about Georgia and Americas whcih they described as "Muy Lindo"
It is a little weird for me because the school has such a horrible reputation in USA as a place the CIA trains torturers and assassins. But these guys were totally cool and friendly, so I dont know what to think. Potosi is a nice city too but it is more poor and less modern than Sucre.
Sucre is a Unesco world heritage site and the buildings are all painted white. There are a great many old colonial buildings and Thomas, Laurence and I are in a little hostel which is a 17th century restored building with two really nice courtyards. The big attraction here is Dinosaurs.
Yeah Man!!! The most important Paleontogical site in the world. There are literally thousands of fossils and huge dinosaur footprints just 7 kilometers out of town. We went out there and checked it all out. It is really freaky to be right next to these HUGE dinosaur footprints that are like 120 million years old!!! Incredible. I was glad I went. Dinosaurs have always been kind of fascinating to me ever since I was a little kid.
So today is a kind of do-nothing day just gonna hang out and read and check out the bus for Cochabamba on Monday and maybe go to an art museum. Tonight we are going to hear a Bolivian Folklore music show and eat Traditional foods. Tomorrow we have bus tickets to a huge out door indian market about 60 kilometers away that all the guide books say is "Da Kine Man". Well thats me. I hope you all are enjoying your lives as much as I am mine. Ciao for Now.
Rambling Robert