(Excerpted from Chapter 17: The Inca Trail: The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries)
Arequipa reeks of fish processing. It is nondescript at best, so despite a chronic lack of sleep over the past 48 hours, we quickly grab a bus for Lima. We pass through a vast desert, humongous sand dunes pocked occasionally with a copper or gold mine. It is surreal and feels like I think it must feel on the moon.
Soon after entering Lima city limits, I know that it will rate right up there with Manila as one of the biggest shitholes on the planet. Think Manila minus the whorehouses and double the amount of garbage haphazardly tossed about on filthy streets. It feels like all six million of the desperate Peruvians who call Lima home are now staring intensely at our money belts. In our sleep-deprived delirium, we see them licking their lips, ready to pounce. The bus station is in a part of town that can only be described as terrifying.
Many Lima residents say the revolutionary struggles of Tupac Amaru and Sendero Luminoso have given way to common thuggery, rampant now even within those two groups. It is what happens when the people are reduced to a once a week meal of beans and rice, while Fujimori and his multinational corporate pals are exporting tons of $350 an ounce gold every week to be stored under some London bank owned by the inbred Rothschild family.
We arrive in Lima at 5:30 AM and leave at 8:00 PM. We do not sleep. Our foreheads grimy with black soot, our shoes caked with sticky garbage, we board a night bus for Trujillo. Just north of Lima there is yet another police check point. This must be the 10th or 11th of the trip. Peru is turning into an Orwellian B-grade science fiction movie and is about to get worse. The police look over the bus and ask one person to get up and come with them. That person is me. They order me to bring my bag and usher me into a tiny concrete room, just as another gringo is leaving. This must have something to do with Jennifer Harbury – the American woman jailed for supporting the Tupac Amaru. The exiting gringo looks terrorized. I hear one cop say he had some ganja on him. Apparently they let it slide. I brace myself.
As the young soldier searches my bag I tell him in Espanol that it is the rich people and the CIA who run the drugs through Peru, so why are they messing with me – a nickel and dime job on a night bus out of Lima. None present disagree. Embarrassed, their eyes sink into the backs of their heads. I am sent packing in a hurry, after getting the feeling that more than one of these Catholic underlings had something he needed to tell a priest. On my way out I shout that there are way too many cops in Peru, more even than in the fascist United States.
At Huanchaco – where the Pan American Highway meets the Pacific Ocean – we finally stop. We meet two pony-tailed Peruvian surfer artisans named Antonio and Martin. They roll a fat joint and we talk under a palapa, watching cold waves crash and clouds roll in. They say they subscribe to High Times and that a recent issue featured an article detailing Bush and Clinton’s involvement in the CIA cocaine trade. We talk of the Peruvian roll in this scheme. They are from the mountains, here to peddle their hand-made jewelry, most all with pot motifs. We buy a bunch of it.
Jill and I go looking for a room, but the hotels are chock full of Peruvian tourists. We are offered a bed at a private residence for $2.50 a night. We gladly accept. We haven’t slept in seventy-two hours. Breakfast brings a new perspective. Coffee, avocado and bread are offered by our hosts for one sole ($.45). A late 2:30 lunch is two soles and consists of tuna steaks, salad, chunky chicken soup and papaya juice.
The beach scene is a nice break from the series of long bus rides. Still, I am glad we covered all this ground, since we had planned to spend most of our time in Bolivia and Ecuador. Judging from the mostly tense vibe here in Peru, I think we had it right. The sweltering heat here is welcome after too many cold Andean nights. There is a feeling of general animosity towards foreigners in Peru, which I can’t remember ever feeling in another country. I can almost feel the hunger here – intense poverty gnawing at people, testing their wills, allowing them to contemplate knocking over some gringo for dinner.
Refreshed – we head north through Chiclayo, Piura and Tumbles. We arrive at the Ecuadorian border early in the morning. The bus goes straight into Ecuador, where we are informed we must take a motorcycle taxi 2 km back to Peru to get an exit stamp. When we return to Ecuadorian customs, throngs of money changers grab at our shirts and yell at us in rapid-fire Spanish. Later we are told that this band of thieves runs on rigged calculators designed to rip off greenhorn travelers. We wait to change money in town. Changing at the border is always a bad idea.
The bus passes huge banana plantations and arrives at a quaint colonial settlement. Cuenca is an oasis after the mean streets of Peru. There is good coffee, good food, comfortable beds, clean linen and cleaner streets. We are out of the war zone and the difference in attitudes is palpable. I like both kinds of travel – the intense treacherous traverse and the tranquilo kicked-back being in the now. The latter after the former is perfect – a Kathmandu after a Bombay, a Bangkok after a Shanghai.
We decide we deserve to pig out and are craving lasagna. We walk into a restaurant whose entrance is marked by a smoldering barbecue spit, a rusty barrel over which small animals are skewered – head and all. They are cuy we are told – guinea pigs – a real delicacy in Ecuador. We think lasagna is still our best bet, so we ask the waiter if there is any available here. He’s not sure and runs to the kitchen to explain this dish to the cook. He returns smiling and says it is possible, then quickly leaves to buy the ingredients. We wait about an hour, smoking at a sunny window overlooking the Andean foothills. Finally, the waiter proudly sets our meals before us. The “lasagna” consists of fried eggs atop spaghetti noodles with chunks of roasted goat mixed in for good measure. He asks if it is right. We insist that it is the best lasagna we’ve ever had.
Dean is the author of six books: Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries, Stickin’ it to the Matrix, The Federal Reserve Cartel, Illuminati Agenda 21: The Luciferian Plan to Destroy Creation & Nephilim Crown 5G Apocalypse