Monthly Archives: May 2010

Peru Part Deux: Riots and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

It’s taken me a while to write about the next part of my trip to Peru, mostly because I get winded just from thinking about it. But here goes, I’ll take breaks if necessary.

I intended to leave Huacachina on Sunday afternoon to catch an overnight bus to Arequipa. Unfortunately, when I tried to buy my ticket I was informed that there were no buses available. It was the end of Semana Santa, Peru’s holy week, and the buses were filled with Peruvians returning home from the holiday weekend. The man at the counter suggested I try going to Nazca and booking a ticket there.

“There will be bus available,” he promised. “10 PM.”

Stopping in Nazca was not part of my trip. I’m sure flying in a plane over the desert to see the famous Nazca Lines is fun but I wanted to spend more time out in Colca Canyon where I would see giant condors flying close enough to me to touch. Did you know that Colca Canyon is bigger than the Grand Canyon? And that’s not even the biggest canyon in Peru! Cotahuasi Canyon wins that award at 3535 meters. I have no idea what that means. A meter is 3 feet right? So… let’s see. 3535 multiplied by 3 is…10,605 feet! I think that’s right. Wow.

So yeah, compared to some lines in the desert, Colca Canyon is way cooler.

We arrived at Nazca late in the evening. And by we, I mean this french couple I tagged along with after meeting them at the bus station in Huacachina. Immediately we were informed by several Peruvians that the bus stations were closed because of  a strike and we should just stay the night at one of the many fine hotels in Nazca.

“They’re just trying to get a commission,” I said to Benjamin and Julie. “I read they do that here. Let’s go get our tickets.”

To be fair, I did read that once you step off the bus anywhere in Peru, you would be hit with offers promising deals for “the best hotel in town”. However, as we were turned away from almost every bus company in Nazca, it became apparent that a possible strike (something to do with the miners?) was happening at midnight.

“You should stay here tonight. It may not be safe to go on an overnight bus. The miners, they are upset. They will block the roads.” said Miguel, who worked at the tourist desk in Nazca and was very helpful in trying to get us to Arequipa. He called every bus station in town and his friends to see if anyone would drive us. None of his friends would make the eight hour drive but the gesture was nice. He made a few more calls and finally he said, “I hear, maybe Cruz Del Sur will be leaving to Arequipa at 10 PM.”

“Whoo-hoo!” I shouted in his office. “Let’s go!” I paid no attention to his wariness of traveling overnight. His concern sounded too vague and not real enough for me to take seriously. How would miners block the road anyhow? As I grabbed my bag he told me that I should grab a big jug of water and pack food, I may be stuck on a bus for a long time.

So instead of listening to him, I bought a small water bottle and a pack of peanut M&M’s. I won’t say this ranks as the biggest lapse of judgment I’ve had in my life but it’s pretty high up there.

Before I go on, I have to admit the news of this impending strike was exciting. No one knew if our bus would make it down from Lima (protests were scheduled to happen there too). Anything could happen. We could be stuck in Nazca for days or we could make it to Arequipa, just bypassing the midnight deadline for the strike.  Danger was in the air (in my mind at least).

When our bus finally showed up, people reacted like it was the last lifeboat on the Titanic.

“We’re getting out! Oh, thank god! We’re going to make it to Arequipa after all!”

Cruz Del Sur is a luxury bus company that prides itself on the safety of its passengers. The bus has a GPS system and they photograph and videotape every person that comes on board. Ain’t no hijacking happening on this bus! All you gotta do is buckle up and enjoy the ride.

We rolled out of the station and down the dirt roads of Nazca. I brushed my teeth, took out my contacts and settled in for a comfortable night. I had two bus seats all to myself!  Ahhh, I knew everything was going to be alright. See you in the morning Arequipa!

A little after midnight the bus jerked to a stop. The bus attendant’s voice came on overhead through the speakers.

“Uh, we are stopped here, un momentarily. A miners have blocked the road. The police are coming. We should be moving in 30 minutes. Thank you.”

Damn it. We didn’t make it out.

I went back to sleep fully aware we would be in the same spot in the morning. I didn’t wake up until I heard something that sounded bizarrely like Hell No, We Won’t Go! in Spanish.  I looked out my window and saw quite a spectacle. The Pan-American highway was blocked with boulders and burning tires and a group of about thirty miners and Peruvian police were facing each other down. Ay, dios mios!

Peruvian Riot

Peruvian Riot

It’s hard to see in this photo but this is before things turned crazy. Our bus is about the fifth bus back from the blockade, you can see we just missed making it through.

I asked the attendant when he thought we would be moving again. “First they fight, then we go through.”

Wait a minute. First they fight? What does that mean?!  Pleaaaase tell me it’s a West Side Story kind of fight and I’m about to see some very impressive jazz choreography. And let me guess, the miners are the Jets and the police are the Sharks.

Nope. By fight he meant fight with the intent to kill.  By now, the police were over the protest so they decided to pull out the big guns. Literally. The snap crackle pop of machine gun fire echoed off the desert hills.  Tear gas grenades were being thrown and the miners were running up the hills and retaliating by throwing boulders down at the police. Three people died.

But like he said, first they fight, then we go through. And after ten minutes of intense fighting, the blockade was cleared and we moved on.

I wish I could say that was it, that the rest my trip was smooth sailing and I only lost half a day in Arequipa. But it gets crazier. Believe it or not.

And with that said, I’m taking a break.  I’ll be back with more.

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Girl Power

It’s just this kind of a day.

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My Week in Photos

Trash Treasure Day didn’t yield any exciting finds.

That’s okay. Because later in the week, I ran into this dinosaur.

And no, he did not sign any autographs.

I was riding the L train and saw this next to me.

Jenna. Me. Amie. Bronx Zoo.

And because we’re emotionally stunted, we found lots of stuff to play with in the Gift Shop.

The wild card event of the week was attending the SNL after-after party, located somewhere downtown in a basement. Since it’s an after hours party, you had to know the password to get in. And the password was (kids close your eyes!)  Alligator Fuckhouse.  <—That’s real.

So here’s the story.  We got the password at 3AM. Me and Amie hop in a cab to ensure we get to the party quickly, as we didn’t want to miss a minute of debauchery. Legendary stuff happens at these things, or so I read. On the internet. Where anybody can say anything. Whatever, I was pretty sure Betty White would be there going wild and flashing everyone her Golden Girls. In fact, I fully expected the party to be like this scene in Wet Hot American summer, starting at 1:30.

But instead, me and Amie walked into a party that no one, I repeat, no one was at. The bartender hadn’t even started to set up yet.

Hey, that’s cool. We came early on purpose. Insert awkward laugh. Uh, so we could lean against the wall? We’s got some sick leaning skills.

Eventually the party did start to pick up and we stepped off the wall and onto the dance floor. I have to say, the party was a lot of fun and I’m glad I stayed awake long enough to participate.

Yeah, the after party starts to stick to you after being there for a couple of hours.

Here’s Amie with  Daniel Franzese who played Damian in Mean Girls.

He was really nice and fun on the dance floor. We left at 6 am, when the DJ started playing Sean Paul.  Shake that Thing is always my closing time song.

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Open Letter to Miley Cyrus

Dear Miley,

Hey girl, what’s up? Congrats on your new video launch, I just watched the world premiere on E! I’ve been trying to get a hold of you to tell you what I think but you haven’t returned any of my high fives on Facebook. I guess you’re busy hanging with your new best friend Demi Lovato. That’s cool, I have a new best friend too. Her name is Amie and she looks like Demi but, like, an even prettier Demi…see?

But it’s not like we’re keeping score on whose best friend is prettier. That’s silly stuff. What I really want to talk about is your new video and what I liked about it as well as some advice you should consider. You know me, I love giving unsolicited advice to Disney starlets.  https://thatsnotreal.wordpress.com/2010/03/15/open-letter-to-lindsay-lohan/

I’ll start with the positive.

-I like the metaphor of you being a rare bird trapped in a “gilded” cage. I thought it was really original and it illuminated how hard it is to be “A Cyrus”. Although, it made me wonder if “A Cyrus” was at all related to “A Dodo” and if you will one day face a similar fate: extinction by human intervention.

-I know you can’t be tamed but can your auto tune? Hahaha, just joshing. I’m not a fan of auto tune but for you it’s a good thing! That way people won’t recognize that your lyrics like…

I‘m like a puzzle but all of my pieces are jagged
If you can understand this, we can make some magic
I’m on like that

…is what gave them their ear cancer. By the by, isn’t what makes a puzzle a puzzle is its jagged pieces? You can correct me if I’m wrong but I think I’m right. Speaking of puzzles, I love the word puzzle. Puzzle, puzzle, puzzle. Puuuuzzzle.

Now. I have some advice for you now that you may not want to hear. But I promise you in about 10 years you’ll thank me.

Stop trying to be sexy.

I know, I know. You told Ryan Seacrest that’s not what you were going for and that you want people to pay attention to the meaning of the song first, blah blah blah. Britney Spears said she just wanted to wear something pretty and sparkly during her famous 2000 VMA performance and what did she end up wearing?!?!

This.

[picapp align=”center” wrap=”false” link=”term=britney+spears&iid=5874382″ src=”6/2/c/7/2000_MTV_VIDEO_c478.jpg?adImageId=12753868&imageId=5874382″ width=”236″ height=”354″ /]

So we all know what you’re doing. You’re going Britney.

However.

You’re not Britney. When Britney was 17 she was actually sexy. It may be wrong to say that considering her age but she was. You’re not. That’s not to say that you never will be but at the moment you’re not.

AND THAT’S OKAY.

You don’t have to rush it. Take it from me, an older and wiser international superstar. It’s much more fun to be sexy later on in life. I understand your eagerness though. I used to be just like you, trying to be sexy before my time. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.

Take a look at this photo. This was me at fourteen taking a DIY glamour shot.

Even though my superstar potential is obvious, I wasn’t ready to be in front of a camera yet. And because no one told me I wasn’t ready, the photo suffers. It ends up looking forced and awkward. Which is what I see when I watch your video for Can’t be Tamed.

Don’t be upset. I’m only trying to help you. The good news is that just because you’re not sexy now doesn’t mean you won’t learn later on in life what it is that truly makes you sexy. Hint: It’s not what those crones at your label say it is. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it.

Take a look at this photo, taken years after my first attempt at sexiness.

Now, as you can see, I’ve become almost too sexy for my own good. This post-adolescent animorph of  me coming into my sexy appears effortless but it took a long time to learn how to carry myself so I no longer look like a baby giraffe trying to take its first steps. And because it took so long my mental health remains intact. That means no rehab for me!

So take it down a notch kid.* Show us sexy when you’ve learned what it means.

XOXO!

Sarah

*I’m not using kid as a cute nickname, I’m using it literally.

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Que Pasa Peru!

No seriously, I want to know. What is happening, Peru?!?! My trip is not going as planned! And I don’t want to point fingers buuuuuut……I think it’s sorta your fault.

Peru and I started off fabulously. In fact, as I was sitting in my taxi to Huacachina, I was thinking how easy traveling in South America was and— oooh! Look! There’s a desert over there!

I decided to make the first stop on my trip Huacachina, a resort town built around a real oasis in the desert.

This sounds super chic and luxurious but instead of movie stars and wealthy Peruvians cavorting in the healing waters of the oasis imagine a bunch of drunk backpackers and Peruvian families on holiday. A tad overwhelming for the traveler looking for a peaceful night in the desert. Know this. If you go to Huacachina be ready to party.

My taxi driver dropped me off at the Casa De Arena hostel. According to Scary Planet, excuse me, I mean Lonely Planet, women should avoid this place entirely. I would say to stay away only if you don’t like cheap beer, loud music that sounds good after drinking that cheap beer and hate fun.

As soon as the temperature cooled, I signed up for a dune buggy/sandboarding tour of the desert.

I love roller coasters, cliff jumping, fire-baton twirling… anything that increases my adrenaline flow. However, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced something this stomach churning. The dune buggy ride was insaaaane. The dunes are enormous so when you come flying over one, it feels exactly like being on a roller coaster. Except that the security of knowing this will all be over in 90 seconds is replaced with pleaseletthisbeoverwe’vebeenonthisthingfor30minutesI’mgoingtohurl tears.

After we climbed up what seemed like the Everest of sand dunes, the entire buggy begged the driver to stop. I was certain if we went down this dune the buggy would flip all the way back to Huacachina. The driver laughed and said something in Spanish. Everyone on the buggy laughed and cheered, except me, the girl in remedial Spanish class. Repeat-o mas slowly por favor??

It was time to sandboard. Since I was the only one who spoke english, therefore making me the most dispensable, I was pushed to go first. I decided boarding on my stomach would be the way to go.

The driver gave me the best instructions that he could. The only thing I could understand was, “Rapido! Rapido!” I tried to ask if there was a smaller dune I could have a practice run on but as I was asking he pushed me down the dune. So much for that.

To be honest, I’m glad he pushed me. I’m embarrased I was lame enough to ask for a smaller dune. Boarding down the big dune was a rush but it wasn’t scary. I immediately wanted to go again. Some spanish and finger pointing informed me that I could go as far I as I wanted.

Adios suckers!

Three dunes later, I stood completely alone in the desert. I had sandboarded so far I could no longer hear the screams from my group as they took their turns down the dunes. The only thing I could hear was… silence. Pure silence. The kind of silence you hear when you are dead.

This got me thinking.

Is God about to speak to me a la Eat Pray Love style?

I mean, really. If there was any time and place for God to give me some divine insight this should be it right? I’m alone in a desert, the sun is setting, the dunes are rolling forever into the horizon and the first stars of the night are coming out. Come on God! Speak. The setting is perfect. Hello??? Did you not hear me?

Talk to me, SARAH WALKER. Right now. I dare you.

Double-dog!

Helloooooo?

Geez, not even a cough or a sneeze?

Fiiiine. I didn’t want to talk to you either.

Later that night, I met a fun group of people from all over. We went out to dinner and when the restaurant couldn’t accommodate us inside with a table, the owner came out placed a spare one on the sidewalk.

The party continued back at Casa De Arena’s disco. The memory of the night is hazy but I do remember shouting on the dance floor, “I’m having so much fun I could die!” I know, obnoxious. But if it makes you feel any better, I would really regret saying that in the next couple of days.

TBC…..

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