Hijinks on the High Seas

The original plan was to pay $500 USD each for a 6 day luxury cruise from June 14-20 aboard the Victory, complete with comfortable accommodations, ample cold cervezas, forays into Caribbean islands for beach volleyball and snorkelling, and generally lots of relaxing. Our first hint that this wouldn’t work out as planned occurred 30 seconds after we departed, when the ship’s engine inexplicable stopped working and we began drifting towards other boats moored in the marina in Cartagena. El Capitan’s response to this (which we became used to over the next days), was to yell out a string of expletives, followed by yelling “Mariaaaaaaa!!!!” (his wife), followed by descending into the engine well of the boat for several hours of repairs during which we could hear the banging of metal against metal, hacksawing noises, and more expletives, followed by him returning to the cockpit covered in oil and sweat, and swearing that everything was better. The first time this happened on the first night, we gave the captain the benefit of the doubt and happily sailed off into the Caribbean a few hours behind schedule, assuming everything would be great from then on.

Unfortunately, it became increasingly clear over the following days that several issues with the boat were not random, one-off occurrences. The engine continued to fail several times while we were out on the open ocean, leaving us drifting for hours at a time. It turned out that the problem was a malfunctioning bilge pump, which meant that after the first night on the boat everything in the cabin (including the walls, our baggage, our clothes, our beds) were covered in a thin (at times thick) layer of oily seawater -bilge. Moreover, because the engine kept breaking, the captain permanently removed the cover to the engine, which meant that a boiling hot, extremely loud 500 horsepower Diesel engine was rumbling right next to our beds in the cabin. Needless to say, this made sleeping difficult from the noise and the heat. Another factor that made sleeping difficult was the fact that the cabin (ie: interior) of the boat was not, strictly speaking, waterproof. Several metal rivets leaked rusty sea-water constantly onto my bed. Much worse, though, the main hatch (ie: window on the roof of the cabin) did not fully close, so whenever a large wave sloshed seawater onto the roof of the cabin, about a bucketful would be splashed onto my face through the hatch. Because of the periodic water boarding that became a nightly occurrence, I ended up sleeping in my rain jacket, Panama Hat, and covered in towels.

The engine difficulties and general wetness of the boat certainly made the trip uncomfortable, but in fact at times I felt outright unsafe. On the third night, about 100 nautical miles from land, a major storm hit, meaning we were rocking in 10 foot waves and gale-force winds. The captain didn’t seem to anticipate this and so the mainsail tore in half in the storm. The engine was also at the time not working, so we were literally adrift at sea in a tropical storm in that point on the corner of a map of the Americas where they would have drawn dragons a couple hundred years ago. That night, I checked the life jackets and was dismayed to count only 10 (there were 12 people on the boat, since the captain had oversold the voyage and had also brought his daughter along for a good time). We also had a 6 man life raft, so things were looking pretty grim. Fortunately, we survived the storm and eventually limped ashore at the San Blas islands on the third morning of the voyage.

In the end, the generally awful experience of the Victory itself was punctuated at times by truly wonderful experiences. The sunrise over the Caribbean, with no other boat or land in sight in any direction, is something that Ill always remember. And the San Blas islands themselves are breathtakingly beautiful. The lslands are really an archipelago of tiny white sand islets no larger than a football field at the largest (at smallest, we could see several small islands with only one palm tree on them). They are populated by the Kuna aboriginal people, who have land rights and are essentially independently sovereign from the Panamanian government, and who appear to be thriving along with the tourism industry. In the islands, there are beautiful coral reefs to snorkel around, rays to swim with, and white sand beaches to relax on. On one of the islands a beach volleyball net was set up and we managed to play several sets of extremely manly Top Gun-esque volleyball, complete with Kenny Loggins playing on a nearby iPhone. We also had several delicious fish feasts on the islands, which compared nicely with the otherwise fairly austere food on the Victory (eg weevil-infested fruit loops).

The best part of the voyage had to be the other travellers. We were accompanied by 3 German women, 1 French woman, and an Argentinian man. Everyone was extremely friendly, and with little else to do, we all got to know each other and share stories. It was really neat to relax on the boat and to hear the sounds of four different languages (english, french, german, and spanish) wafting around me. Then, in the islands, we randomly bumped into 2 German doctors, who were in the same stage of training (residency) as I am! They managed to guess that I am in paediatrics because, as they said “you are, what do you say…silly!”. It was the first time I wasn’t outnumbered by lawyers…

In the end, we pulled into Portobello on the Panamanian coast in the wee hours of the morning of June 20th. All experiences can be funny in retrospect, and its valid to criticize a bunch of privileged Canadians for complaining about conditions that are akin to much of the world’s living conditions, but really a lot of the voyage on the Victory was uncomfortable or downright terrifying. I would highly recommend going to the San Blas islands to anyone, but I would suggest flying to Panama City and then taking a ferry boat to the islands. I wouldn’t recommend the Victory, if for no other reason than that “bilge” shouldn’t be a word used in a literal sense in everyday parlance more than maybe once every few years.

Anyways, we did survive in the end, and after a series of buses and taxis through Panama, we ended up catching a 15 hour bus from Panama City to San Jose, Costa Rica. We rented a car in San Jose and drove to the home of Jim and Pat Maxwell, Josh’s family friends from Calgary who are now retired in Costa Rica. They have a lovely home with a guest house, and generously welcomed us in despite the fact that we hadn’t showered in 6 days. Their floor appears not to have any bilge on it at all, and while I slept the first night, I wasn’t water boarded once. It’s the little things.


Vamos a la Playa!

Hello! This blog post is the first one by me, Tom McLaughlin, a graduating medical student about to start my specialty training in paediatrics at the hospital for sick children in toronto. Before diving headlong into the diapers, lollipops, and wailing children/parents that will await me for the next 30-40 years of my career, I figured I’d have a nice long holiday through South and Central America with the lovely Alastair, Josh, and Peter. I joined up in Bogota and will be staying until San Jose, Costa Rica.

After a couple of wonderful days in Bogota, involving awesome views, excellent coffee, and a national World Cup qualifier soccer match that totally shut the city down in celebration (Gooooooooo-(breath)-oooooooooooal!!!!), we flew to Cartagena on June 12. Cartagena is a port city of almost a million people on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, just about due south from Jamaica on the rounded Northern top part of South America. Originally founded in 1533 by the Spanish in order to act as a trading port and base from which to plunder the gold of the local Sinu culture, it’s had a storied colonial history, including invasions by Sir Francis Drake, the British, the Americans, and the Spanish. It’s the setting for “Love in the time of Cholera”. It’s now a thriving modern port town that divides its time and economy between shipping and tourism. There’s an old town that includes a lot of historical sites, as well as a newer area that includes lots of modern condo buildings. We never actually went to the newer area, but as far as I can tell it supports lots of super nice hotels and expats.

Since it was the first time on the trip that we’d made it to the coast, we quickly made our way to the beach after settling in at the hostel. We had heard that the beaches near the downtown/oldtown were dirty and crime-ridden, so we made our way by taxi out to the Boquilla beach area. Our taxi driver drove us out of town and then, unexpectedly, right onto a beach. To the sound of blaring latin dance music from the taxi’s sound system (it always seems like the craziness of the situation is directly correlated with the loudness of the salsa music), we were then surrounded by a group of locals running beside/in front of the cab, banging on the windows/hood, yelling at us to stop. This was the only time on the trip so far when I genuinely thought we were going to be robbed. The cab driver didn’t seem to be too concerned, and indeed stopped the car to allow us to be swarmed by a group of what seemed like brigands. It turned out that they were just aggressive fish salesmen, and so we spent the next 20 minutes bartering over an appropriate price for a fish lunch for the four of us. Eschewing menus, the salesmen preferred to wave actual fish in front of us with their bare hands. In the end we didn’t get robbed and instead enjoyed delicious pescado fresco.

Over the same beach excursion, we were also approached by roaming masseuses, boys selling luke-warm ceviche, and men selling us chairs/umbrellas. This highlighted for me the ever-present entrepreneurial salespeople we found throughout the trip. At any given point, from the beach to the plaza to the street corner to the interior of the hostel, there was always someone trying to sell us something. The positive of this is that any time we felt like we needed something (eg at the beach “we forgot water!”), there would be someone selling you exactly what you needed. The negative is that we were constantly negotiating in broken Spanish, often for things we didn’t really want.

Aside from the beach, and going for Latin karaoke one night (highlights: los hombres de Backstreet, Enrique Iglesias’ “Hero”, and Alastair’s rendition of “Butterfly Kisses”), we spent a lot of our time planning the next phase of our trip. The Eastern part Panama and the adjacent part of Colombia are malaria zones, and are also areas where drug cartels are active, so we decided to avoid a bus through this region and instead take a boat from Cartagena to Panama. We had also heard that the San Blas Islands on the Caribbean side of Panama are beautiful. We had left booking boats to the last minute, so our choices were fairly limited. Ultimately, we decided to book a 5-day adventure with El Capitan Hernando, owner of the “Victory”. Hernando somewhat resembled a middle-aged Colombian version of the sea-god Neptune, and promised us a trip filled with fun and sun.

We set sail with Hernando on Friday, June 14, for a 6-day voyage thought the high seas that can only be described as unforgettable (see next blog post)…

Adventures in Quito

Dearest universe,

The next stop of the (juris) doctors was Quito, Ecuador. Twas but a brief sojourn on our way to Colombia, and yet, another epic stage of our journey.

We arrived in Quito with little knowledge of what to expect and were immediately taken in by its astonishing beauty. Quito is surrounded by large forested mountains and hills and contains brilliant bright colours and colonial architecture in the city centre. I was quite surprised to find so much beauty in a city I so rarely hear of people visiting. Unlike Lima, which though it had it´s charm, was lacking in aesthetic appeal, every corner in Quito revealed either a beautifully manicured park, amazing architecture, or fascinating views. I highly suggest a visit to anyone venturing to the north of South America.

Our first night was spent in Plaza Fech where we took in a World Cup qualifying soccer (or football… as they call it down here) match between Peru and Ecuador. Naturally we cheered for Ecuador, due to a fear for our livelihood. We entertained cheering for Peru, having recently traveled from Lima where we befriended an adorable Peruvian family, but our better judgment and concern for our own well-being prevented such a poor decision.

Das Peter, ever loyal to his German roots, led us to a German pub ¨Brau Platz¨ just off the hectic square full of Ecuador fans. Here, in fine German style, we were reminded of their love of beer and took part in one of the best promotions I have ever encountered: unlimited beer paid by the hour. Needless to say we had a fantastic night cheering “Si Se Puede!!!” in favour of Ecuador who, unfortunately, were eventually bested by their Peruvian rivals. Though we felt quite macho chugging our multiple beers at great value, we were no match for the table of four South Americans to the right of us who went through TWO bottles of Tequila. Mad respect.

The following morning we indulged Peter´s love of driving in foreign countries. We were only in Quito for three days and the Amazonian jungle that we were desperate to encounter required at least 3 nights for the excursions provided by tour companies. We therefore embarked on our own tour (with some advice from our lovely hostel owner) and drove to Tena to experience at least a small taste of Ecuadorian jungle before we left South America.

The three Caballeros were situated across a spectrum of interest when it came to renting a car and driving in a foreign country, which, in our experience, resembled more a game of chicken between all cars and pedestrians than it did a regulated mode of transit. Peter, strongly in favour, and sensing no potential problems with such an adventure; myself, in the middle, keen on exploring the Ecuadorian countryside, but cognizant of the difficulties and frustrations that often accompany international driving, and our dear Alastair, petrified of the certain danger that awaited us on the highways of Quito.

Das Cross assured us that he had driven in Germany and was a master of international travel. While the road trip did end up in a fantastic adventure with no accidents (though we may have cut it close), the Ecuadorian roads proved to be more of a challenge then Peter anticipated. As he said several hours into the journey, “driving in Germany in no way prepared me for this.”

The hilarity that ensued requires a close examination. Google maps estimated that our trip to Tena would take around 2 hours. We took 6 and a half. During our journey, we did not successfully complete a SINGLE turn described in the directions provided by google maps since we never successfully found a single intersection that we were meant to cross. Alastair cackled from the back seat when Peter´s initial confidence was met with our becoming lost literally on the first street we turned on to. After a futile 40 minutes of several circles, the third of which led us back to our hostel, we altered our strategy and just attempted to head in the general direction of Tena. In fact, Peter and I engaged in a lengthy solar discussion about our current cardinal direction which resulted in the following exchange:

Alastair: Wait. Are you guys ACTUALLY trying to figure out what direction your driving by using the location of the SUN?

Peter: That´s how the explorers did it!

Needless to say, our journey led us all over Ecuador before finally reaching Tena. That being said, the drive was incredible, and was yet another epic adventure we have Das Peter to thank for. Driving (which I did on the way back) really is a fun and effective way to explore uncharted territory.When we finally got on track, the drive out to Tena led us through deep jungle with amazing views and flora that none of us had ever encountered.

Once in Tena we traveled to a nearby town called Misahuallí where I got to take in my highlight of the road trip: playing with ADORABLE Capuchin monkeys! They are all over the town square, take things out of your hands, and demonstrate tons personality. Other than that, I was the only one ecstatic to play with a boa constrictor a little boy let me take photos with for a dollar. Pure man. Finally, we went on a boat tour which took us to an “authentic” native Amazonian tribe. We declined the Shaman shaking and watching the village girls perform a native dance for us, but I again accepted to hold an even bigger boa for my fave activity: the candid photo-op.

We then returned to Quito much closer to the google estimated time with a full appreciation of the root we had to take and were left with the final task of returning the rental car. I phoned the man we rented from and he said he required 20 minutes, so we waited anxiously within our hostel. Initially we parked the car in a nearby parking lot, but as we left the car a man came up to me warning “tienes cuidado” (be careful). We weren’t entirely sure what to be concerned about, but after some minutes, we decided to move the car directly in front of the hostel and wait for the man who we rented from. Upon returning to the car, the man approached me again, and  assured me that HE was protecting my car from the harms that were sure to become of it. I thanked him, and entered the car. He then approached the side window, and caused the greatest tension we have yet to face in South America: he demanded a dollar for his troubles. Extortion, at the lowest possible cost. I handed him a dollar, and that was that. Success! Only once we were officially behind the three different locked doors leading to the reception of our hostel did Alastair consider the day a success.

Our final day in Quito took us on an excursion to Cotopaxi National Park, where we planned to hike up a small (and according to Peter, distinctly unmanly) portion of the volcano to the beginning of the glacier at its peak.  There were strong winds and rough terrain, but in the end we prevailed. It was quite a sight. The volcano was topped with a large glacier and featured all sorts of red, black, and brown rocks beneath its peak. The base od the Volcano also had a large band of wild horses, i didnt even know those existed!!! Once we returned to Quito we ventured into the Colonial quarter and took in amazing views beneath an epic angel statue. As I handed my camera to a frendly looking stranger at the top of the hill to take a photo of us his girlfriend jokingly whispered “you should steal it”. Upon realizing that I understood her, we all shared a laugh and got our photo taken. An interesting recognition from a local of at the least many tourists´ perceptions of Quito.

We ended off our time in Quito with the best meal of our trip so far which included avocado and potato soup and a delicious drink called Canelazo (a mix of sugar cane alcohol and juice). The (juris doctors) enjoyed a delicious meal with live music to set the mood (“Guantanameeeera”). The walls of the restaurant also featured odd puppets, one of which we are fairly sure was meant to emulate Richard Nixon.

The following morning we departed for Bogota, Colombia. Unsure of the airports layout, I instructed our fourth (juris) doctor (Thomas) to meet us just past customs. However, there was no need as we met up waiting in the line at border security. At last, reunited with our fourth caballero, and embarking on the next stage of our journey in Colombia!

Hasta luego!


Cusco and Machu Picchu

Dear Blog!

I have so much to tell you, where should I begin? I think the natural starting point for this post is our arrival in Cusco.

As you know from previous posts we were fortunate to befriend a Peruvian family in Lima. As it turns out one of their cousins operates a travel agency in Cusco, so they they set us up with them when we arrived. So, after only a few minutes after getting off the plane in Cusco we found ourselves booking all of our excursions. It was at this moment (like an idiot) I sided with with Peter in deciding that we would walk up to Machu Picchu from the Aguas Calientes (aka Machu Picchu Town). I would live to regret this decision…but more on this later.

After leaving the travel agency we were taken by the Cousin to our hostel: Hostel Royal Frankenstein. This delightful little horror-themed hostel is operated by a quirky German man named Roth, who has been living at the hostel since 2006 while he waits for his house to be built (or so he claims). The astute observe will note the shrine to Roth´s belated golden retreiver that sits in the lobby. While this perhaps should have been a warning sign to us that this hostel was going to be…unsual…we checked-in into a private room with its own bathroom.

Our room was pretty nice, but very cold. It was called the Monster Ruum. There was a portrait of Frankenstein on the frosted glass panel inset into the door. Inside the room there were two plaster hands on the ceiling hold a small miror at an odd angle. Now I know what your thinking…but the size and angle of this mirror would not have been conducive to any sort of ¨romantic¨endeavours even if this wasn´t a boys´trip. The mirror was just weird. Other eccentric decorating features included a massive spider painted into the corner, and a few wires coming out of the wall with a sign next to them saying ¨warning high voltage¨and then another sign underneath that reading ¨just kidding.¨

Having checked into our Hostel it was time for our first excursion, a city tour of Cusco. We met the tour group a few blocks away in the main square near the From there we walked to the nearby cathedral befor getting on the bus to go an tour some ruins in and around the city. You can imagine the snickering grins and inmature giggles that burst from our lips when our tour guid told us that our first stop would be in a sexy woman. What he was really saying, in his accented english, was ¨our first stop will be in, eh, Saqsayhuaman.¨ Saqsayhuaman is the name of the giant stone fort that the Chechuan people built above the city of Cusco for both cermony and safety. One of the rocks in the fortress weighed over 100 tones and was moved from over 7 miles away. As we would come to see, the stone working abilities of the ancient Chechuan people (commonly referred to as Incans, though in truth the Inca was simily the name given to their leader, akin to a King) was simply amazing. Other cites we visited on our tour included the ruins of Tombomachay, Pukapukara, a cave where the Chechuan  used to mumify their elites, and a baby alpaca wool garment factory/store.

Later that night (i.e. June 2nd) we returned to the hostel, and Peter had to attend to an unfortunate incident. As a result of extreme negligence, Mr. Cross wantonly and recklessly failed to bring a functioning wallet to South America. Unfortunately, if unsurprisingly, Mr. Cross lost his debit card. So, after getting back to our cold, creepy room Peter calls the international service line of RBC. After being on hold for a few minutes a ring tone sounds, and a voice emerges on the other end: ¨Thank you for calling RBC this is Amanda, how can I help you?¨ Peter picks up the phone, takes it off speakerphone and replies: ¨Yes, hi Amanda, this is Peter, i like the department for getting a client card sent to Equador!¨ Needless to say, Josh and I burst our laughing; a frown crossed Peter´s face as we are sure Amanda was telling him that no such department exists. As I write this Peter continues to be without debit card and is relient upon the kind generousity of Josh and I who are lending him money.

On June 3rd we went on another excursion. First we drove out to the Ruins of Moray. These are essentially several levels of concentric circle terraces built down into a mountain valley, which served as an ancient green-house of sorts. Apparently, so said the tour guide, the builders of Moray observed that different types of rocks conducted heat to differing degrees; thus they used the best heat conducting rocks to build their terrances to create a micro-climate several thousand meters above sea level.

The second main stop on this excursion were the salt mine or Maras. This is where Peruvian pink salt comes from. These mines, which are more aptly caled salt pools, are built into the side of a very narrow and steep valley. Apparently, at one time the area that now constitutes the salt mine was all under the sea (presumably this was several million years ago, because its now several kilometers above!). The pools are all fed by a stream that drains into the valley that this then divided over 600 times into over 600 pools, where the water is collected, and then the heat of the sun evaporates the liquid, leaving the salt to be harvested. How anyone ever figured out how to do this is beyond me!

The following day we began our adventure to Machu Picchu (MP). MP is about 300km from Cusco, so there was some travel invovled to get there. We had decided when we were booking our excursions upon arrival in Cusco that we would take the ¨Sacred Valley Tour¨to complete the first leg of the travel. This tour took us to the runis of Chinchero, and Ollantaytambo, and a delightful lunch in the town of Urubamba. I found the ruins at Ollantaytambo to be the most impressive of the lot. It is a massive set of terrances shapped as a llama. The stone work was incredible. This was also the site where the Chechuans split up while fleeing the Spanish, with some ultimately going on to MP: Simply amazing.

It was from Ollantaytambo that we got the train to Aguas Calientes (MP Town). We had previously arranged with out tour company to have a person meet us upon our arrival and take us to our hostel. We were told they would be holding a sign with out names on it. When we got there the sign said: ¨Peter / IIashua¨. This was consisent with the Sacred Valley tour guid having referred to us all day as ¨Mr. Peter Joshua, tres persone.¨ We called it an early night in anticipate of our ¨hike¨up to Machu Picchu in the morning.

We woke up at 5:00 on June 5th. The night before we had met with our tour guide and she told us that we were to meet at the top at 7:45 to start our tour. She told us that while most people take the bus (yes, there is a bus that we could / should have taken) it takes on average an hour and a half to ¨hike¨to the top. Now, I´ve been on hikes before, and they´ve been pleasant. This was no ¨hike.¨ It was a 400 meter stair case, with some of the steps being 2ft each! You should know, dear blog, that Peter and Josh are, shall we say, more athletically inclined than me, and Peter even more so that Josh. On my trek up this mountain I learned in a very painful, and exhuasting way that being smart isn´t everything. I can hardly exagerate how unpleasant I found this vertical march to be. Occassionally we would cross the road that the busses drove on, we´d waive to them, and I could all but hear the bus passengers lean over to the person next to them say ¨boy, I´m sure glad we´re not walking this!¨ Eventually, of course, we made it to the top. Its damn good thing one of the great wonders of the world was waiting up there, or I´d have been awfully disappointed with our hike.

Its hard to describe Machu Picchu and do it justice. It looks exactly like the post cards. Its mind boggling that hundreds of years ago people built this magnificient structure with hardly any tools or technology. Thankfully, for those who built MP the rock quarry that was used to build the city was located at the on site. But still! I think the best we can do is post some pictures and let you be the judge for yourself. It was simply incredible! Magnifique! Incroyable! (Editor´s note: internet problems are preventing pictures from being posted at this time)


Of course, since we walked up, we had to walk down. Turns out, when gravity is on your side the walk is a lot easier. We also had the delight of a cute brown puppy following us all the down the path from MP back to Aguas Calientes. We dubbed her our Machu Poochu!

Once we got back to town we grabbed a bit to eat, I had a shower, and we sent some laundry to be done. We then walked up to the local hot springs, which were warm at best. Regrettably we didn´t have the foresight to bring towels, and it made for a chilly walk back to our hostel in wet bathing suits, but luckly the air was warm. After that we grabbed another bite to eat, grabbed a few beers, and went down to the square to drink them and reminesce about our day. At one point Josh remarked, I wonder where Machu Poochu is right now. Just then Peter glanced over his shoulder and said ¨is that her?¨ It was, and she sauntered over to us. Then as the clouds set in, Machu Poochu currled up under our bench as it startd to rain. A sensible fear of street / jungle dogs kept us from bringing her back to our hostel. It didn´t take long for us to fall asleep that night.

The following day, we took the train back to Cusco, and wondered around the town for the afternoon. We stayed at Hostel Frankenstein again. The Devil you know I suppose. Josh and Peter tried some guinea pig at the Corpu Christi festival that was going on in town, but I politely declined, given that ginea pigs looked liked they´d been flash cooked in a furnace. We also ventured into the local market, and for reasons that can´t be rationally explained we ventured down the innards aisle, which contained exactly what the sign promised.

Cusco was a very exciting time, and Machu Picchu was incredible. We are now in Quito, and will fly to Bogota in the morning. Stay tuned to hear about our time in Equador!



No hable Ingles

When we read history, we only read the victors history. This is the other side of the coin, the real story of what my companion Joshua neglected to mention. Our fun times in Lima were the result not of a gold medal accomplished over three years of academic study, or the publication of absolutely academic and useless directed research studies, but rather the byproduct of a cunning wit, an outrageously lax social filter and my street smarts. Street smarts, which have been continuously undervalued on this trip by the Dean and Dreadlocks.

For example, my travelling partners had insisted on exchanging money at the bank. I knew that a better exchange rate was to be had by the men with vests in Chinatown. Alas, another missed opportunity to have fun was snatched away from me by the academic bourgeousie. My travel partners epitomize naivity. They innocently explained to me that they had played a fair game of battleship on the screens in front of their neighbouring seats on the flight down to Lima. As I patiently later explained to them and with reference to the analogy of a urinal, they both likely stole glances at each others ¨battleship¨. 

Our excellent time in Lima was the direct result of the street smarts that only I bring to the table (Editors note: Peter has misplaced his debit card and an expensive multi entry archaeological ticket).  Our time in Lima was spent with the family of the boyfriend of an american girl who knew the polish girl that I had introduced myself to after blaming her Polish government for expropriating my German grandparents house. Old rivalries die hard. 

Our arrival into Cusco was uneventful, with the family from Peru sending a cousin of theirs to pick us up. Notably however, Alastair´s name recognition at U of C has evaporated in the thin andean air. Peruvian´s have struggled with the pronounciation of his scottish name and even the recognition of his existence. While Josh´s and my name have been pronounced without difficulty, Peruvian´s attempting to pronounce his name have only gotten as far as ¨oww¨, or have even stopped trying to acknowledge his presence. This was made particularly clear when we were met at the airport with a sign reading only ¨Joshua and Peter¨. While his name is on the dean´s list, more importantly it´s not in the Spanish vocabulary.

Our days of travelling through a variety of Incan ruins and learning about agricultural techniques, the general Incan history and their fascinating ruins has been punctuated with imprompto photo shoots directed by Josh. Apparently ¨ omg such a cute view¨ ¨eek get a pic of me with this silly stone¨, ¨pose you two¨ and ¨Incan Duckface SELFIE¨ are all more important than listening to the guide discuss this important world civilization. 

Our next entry will introduce the reader to more vapid instances of Joshua´s picture obsession in Machu Picchu where I am sure we will spend hours choreopographing his pictures and selecting filters for his instagrams. 

OMG, Peter out.