|Out of Mexico I flew into Peru and landed in Lima, another vast metropolis and almost as polluted as Mexico City. My time with travelling with Stacey ended here; she headed off from the airport to meet her boyfriend who had come over to Australia. We met up a couple of times briefly in Peru, but this was basically the end of our time travelling together and I am a little scared and also excited about how I will go travelling on my own.
I headed of to a hostel in Lima, arrived at about midnight looking forward to getting to sleep after a long day travelling. However this wasn't to be, I barely managed to put my bag on the ground before about ten other people staying at the hostel grabbed me by the arm and dragged me out to some nightclub in the centre of Lima. The place was a hole, expensive drinks, bad 80s music from the US, and after about 10 minutes it became clear that the group of girls who had come with me from the hostel were the only girls in the place who weren't for sale. Actually almost all the younger guys in the place were prostitutes as well. It was a crappy place and I wanted to leave almost immediately, instead I stayed until 6 in the morning. I had no choice; I had exactly zero Peruvian money and less than no idea of where the hell I was. There was no hope in hell of me getting home on my own, so I had to want around until the others wanted to go. They had, I think, all been sampling some of Peru's finest export product, cocaine, and didn't look like they were gong to go to sleep for several days. Eventually they left, taking me with them, but they were not ready to go home yet. After leaving the club, we then spent a good two hours driving and walking around the streets of Lima playing lets get more cocaine and not get mugged while we do it. Eventually they gave up on trying to score and I finally got back to the hostel. I slept for about 12 hours, waking up just in time for dinner after a very strange first 24 hours in Peru.
After another day recovering from that first night, I headed off to Arequipa. This is a cool city in Southern Peru surrounded by great mountains, and a giant volcano. The great thing was that, unlike Mexico City. I could actually see this volcano. It was great to be in the mountains and get some comparatively fresh air. Nat and Ross, my two friends from Vietnam who you might remember from earlier in the online journal, met me in Arequipa. They had decided to come over and travel with me for a month, and Stacey and her boyfriend Nimrod also came along, so I wasn't going to have to travel own just yet. We spent our time in Arequipa staying with a guy called Angel and his family, who put all five of us up over Christmas. It is amazing that they let five strangers into their home and shared their Christmas with us. It was great to see how they celebrate Christmas in Peru, and spending Christmas with a family minimised some of the away form home from Christmas homesickness. They celebrate Christmas much the same way as in Australia, with a big roast dinner with all the family and plenty of drinking. The only major difference was that they like to let off fire works in the street during the night; they really like things that explode in this part of the world.
As I mentioned, Christmas day involved lots of alcohol. Mostly we were drinking pisco, the charming name for the local firewater (they mix it with lemon and egg white to make pisco sours, the most common way of drinking the stuff). We ran into a little pisco problem however. Ross ended up spending Christmas night in hospital and going under the knife! Ross, Nat, myself, Angel and a couple of his cousins, after about 20 shots of pisco during the day, all felt like partying and headed out on the town. We found a funky nightclub and after we had been there about 15 minutes someone grabbed Nat and me and dragged us up stairs where we found Ross on the floor and surrounded by paramedics. I was frantically trying to tell people that he was Australian and that we get really pissed and fall on the floor all the time (you could almost call it part of our culture). But eventually it became clear, when I managed to focus my eyes - which had become quite difficult at this point of the night, that it was a little more serious than that and he had managed to badly dislocate his knee. Ross had done it before, but it was more serious than last time, his knee was literally sitting next to his leg. The worst part was that he was too drunk to get an anaesthetic and had to wait around in pain for several hours to sober up before he could have the operation. It took the rest of us about 6 hours to sober up also and it was one crazy six hours. Luckily Angel was with us and, after he had calmed down, he helped out heaps by translating between the doctors and us. He then called his uncle, who was a doctor, even though it was four in the morning on Christmas night, and his uncle came in and helped out with the surgery to put the knee back into place. He then helped us get all the forms together and filled out, minus any mention of the amount of alcohol that had been consumed, for the insurance claim. It was a long night.
Angel and his family also let us hang around a few more days while Ross was recovering. None of us had much time to feel sorry for ourselves though, even Ross. The next day we woke up to news about the tsunami. Angel's family had cable TV and the Tsunami has been on CNN and BBC World 24 hours a day for the past couple of weeks (after Nat and Ross headed back to Vietnam, Nat ended up heading of to Thailand for a month to help with some of the rebuilding). I was very glad to be inland in South America when it all happened. It is amazing how many things have happened in the last few months to stop me from feeling sorry for myself and realise how damn lucky I am. Ross was in bed for about a week and had to spend the rest of the trip on crutches. He didn't complain much though, I would have.
I spent New Year in Cusco, the oldest continuously inhabited town in Peru and possibly South America. It was an Inca city and then an important colonial centre. Ross somehow managed to make it onto a plane only four days after his accident and manage to make it to Cusco late on New Years Eve, but was feeling crap from the altitude and too many drugs (prescription) and couldn't manage to hobble into town on his crutches. However, the rest of us headed into town for the festivities and what we saw was a little different to your standard Aussie New Year festivities. Everyone gathers in the town square and tries to blow each other up with giant firecrackers. Even the 4-year-old kids seemed to have sticks of dynamite. At midnight, no one snogs like back home. Instead, people start running in a circle around the square, there were literally about 8 thousand people running in a big circle. Those who weren't running were keeping with the spirit of the evening by trying to blow up the runners with firecrackers. All in all, good fun and I still have all my fingers and both my eyes. I also got into the spirit of things and did a couple of laps of the square myself, deftly managing to dodge most of the incoming fire works. It was great fun! Although it did make me appreciate at least a few of the laws we have in Australia. For example, four year olds are not allowed to have, or sell fire works and, I imagine, it is also illegal to throw fireworks at other people's heads.
Ross wasn't gong anywhere else for a few more days after getting to Cusco, but at least he didn't need people to carry him to the toilet anymore. So I left him and Nat to watch another 100 movies on cable TV and, the day after New Years, I headed off for a week on my own to Bolivia (which you can read about in the next entry).
When I got back from Bolivia, Ross was managing to hobble around the city a little bit and, after another couple of days checking out Cusco, we decided to try and get to Maccu Picchu, the 'Lost City of the Incas'. It is possible to trek out to these ruins but this was not gong to happen with Ross, it was a challenge even to get him on and off the train. It was a three or so hour train ride out to the Maccu Picchu and it was well and truly worth it, even for Ross I think. It was the most impressive of the Incan, Aztec and Mayan ruins I have seen on this trip by a long way. It is imposing, majestic, breathtaking and many other excessively used adjectives. It was completely overrun by foreign tourists and it wasn't even high season. However you can't complain, especially when you are one of the tourists yourself. The train ride back from Maccu Picchu was interesting. The staff put on a fashion parade, featuring local Alpaca fashion, to try and sell clothes to the stupid tourists. Apparently one of the male staff members was alway sick, so they dragged me out of my seat and I spent half an hour walking up and down the aisles of the train wearing the latest in fashion made from Alpaca wool and doing my best Zoolander impressions. I loved it of course, probably the only chance to live out my, so far unfulfilled, dream of being a male model (I know, I have no idea why it is still unfulfilled ether. It just makes no sense). To make it even better, they gave me free beer for my trouble.
After Maccu Picchu, Ross and Nat jumped on a flight to Ecuador and I jumped on three buses to meet up with them. It took me about 70 hours in buses to get from Cusco to Quito in Ecuador while Nat and Ross did it in about 3 hours (the stupid things that a stupid backpacker will do to save money). Anyway, a few days later I was in Quito Ecuador.