Tuesday, May 15, 2012

My Peru Journal from 1987 (second post)

In the summer of 1987, I went to Peru to work on an archeology dig for 9 weeks. I kept a journal. It's sketchy, and I plan to publish it as a book later this year.

For now, enjoy this as I wrote it when I was twenty years old. I'll post a bit each day.
This is the second installment.
25 June -- Thursday
   Rained all morning. We couldn't go to work. 
   In the afternoon Wade, Karen and I (all Americans) walked to the train station. We had to cross a wooden suspension footbridge over the raging green and white waters of the Urabamba River. On the other side we saw about a hundred feet of Inca steps carved into the rock. They were rounded at the tops from centuries of rain and were really steep. We crawled up them for the hell of it.
   At the top there was a funny little man in a Volvo hat. He sold us beer and Cokes. The dark beer, by the way, is awful. It's sweet. But the white beer is like Miller beer minus the chemicals we so know and love. It's not bad.
   The little man, needless to say, was soon to become a very familiar face. From him and his son I learned a lot of Spanish. I could say: beer, cigarettes, matches, ashtray, another beer, more cigarettes, more matches, and I broke the ashtray. Everything I needed to know.
26 June -- Friday
   Actually got to go to work! Our site is called the Tableland, and it's the highest one. Damn long walk, all uphill. The Tableland was an hour walk up the mountains from our base camp. It was about 3,000 feet in elevation higher than where we started at breakfast, and the rise was about a mile of walking. in other words--it was a steep hike! We were handed buckets and trowels and got good and dirty scraping through the mud.
   We were all tired by the time we returned to camp. I read all afternoon. My hands had been bitten by something in the night and were swollen like hamburger patties. Couldn't write because I couldn't hold the pen.

27 June -- Saturday
   Worked until about 1:00 PM. I was helping Robert with a resitivity test. Electric current is pumped into the ground to test the resistance below the soil. We map out areas in a grid. Higher resistance means there's stone underneath and we were able to map any patterns we came across.
   Then all the Earthwatch crowd tried to catch the train to Aquas Callientes. It was incredibly crowded so Boy and I had to ride by grabbing hold of a door and hanging onto the outside of the train for 45 minutes. When the train stopped, someone came along and charged us  a fare. It seems that in Peru a first class ticket means you're in the train...and a second class ticket means you're on the train. Bob's and my tickets were second class. Thank God they didn't have third class.
   In Aquas Callientes, we got hot showers (clean again!), went to the hot pools built by the Incas, and soaked for an hour. Then we ate pizza and drank beer at a sidewalk cafe.
   Al still wasn't any brighter. In the hotel, Boy, Wade, and I asked him to take a shower. I told him he stank and really needed one. He refused to change his underwear until we left him alone in the room. He drank one beer at dinner and was so drunk we had to carry/drag him back to the hotel. Of course the beer comes in one-liter bottles and the kid had never had the stuff before, but is that an excuse for drunkenness? Probably.

28 June -- Sunday
   Took the bus up the twisting road to Machu Piccu. I think I was jaded from the ruins near camp because the ruins at Machu Piccu didn't particularly impress me. I thought the place was a bit of a tourist trap...although I did find a nice Italian girl who was so good looking I found myself following her around hoping to meet her. Didn't happen. Holy lookers, Batman!
   Wade, Al, and I walked up to Huanna Piccu (the sharp, peaked mountain they show in most photos of the ruins.) It only took me 30-45 minutes because a Peruvian about my age challenged me to a race. Al and Wade took an hour and a half to climb up. By the way, I beat the Peruvian by about a minute and a half.
   While I waited at the bottom for Wade and Al, a group of Americans wandered past. I was very tan, wearing a Peruvian poncho and hat, and sporting a goatee. The Americans thought I was a Spaniard or a Peruvian and started speaking to me in bad Spanish.
   They asked me to take pictures with them, and I did. After the pictures were taken I said, "By the way, I'm from Michigan. Would you please speak English?"
   God, were they pissed. Hee-hee-hee!

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