Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Automated Functions on the Cordillera Blancas

Zach W. Watson

Mike, Alex, Alaena, and I had made it to the base of the pass and were sitting on stones around our rented camp stove watching our oatmeal and apples pop as they neared readiness.  The sun was bright and warm, and we waited for every single oat and fruit morsel sitting in that steaming aluminum pot. 
A group of Israelis slowly began to gather nearby.  They took their small daypacks off, placing them on the ground in front of them, some removing water, some just chatting. It seemed everyone knew each other.  Their guides walked over to the donkeys and removed the sandwiches from the oversized saddle bags.  The guides then handed out the corpulent pre-made lunch, and the Israelis choked their food down.
After cleaning our plates and the pot of oatmeal in some flowing stream, we packed our plates and threw our thirty pound packs on our backs and barreled up the beginning of the upward climb to the high mountain pass, as we left the tour group on the flats.
I quickly fell behind, as was becoming the pattern of the day, staring up at the grey clouds that were beginning to form around the goliath peak to the left.  The shadows of the clouds gave an ominous look to the smooth grey rocks below the horned, snow-white glacier.  Suddenly as I caught my breath, the glacier cracked and crumbled, flowing down the smooth cliffs in large chunks of ice until they lost momentum and settled some ways down the grey steep. 
I imagined standing directly below it, ice blocks ripping me apart, burying me under ice debris for decades until they melted and some mountaineer discovered all the tattered pieces.
I imagined tattered pieces about the floor of my tent a week earlier, condom wrappers and dirty sheets, a brown leather backpack and a black camera case.
I imagined the poles of my tent and how I stretched them across the cloth of the tent as Marta slowly, sometimes drunkenly, snapped them into place.  Once the tent was erect, she would carefully covered the floor with her thin sleeping bag, then the white sheet, then the thick sleeping bag and finally the thick Mexican-style throw.
We were in Cajamarca when Marta put the thick Mexican throw in my bag when I wasn’t around.  After we checked out, she told me I had a present in my bag; which in turn, let me know that I had stolen the blanket from the hotel.  She had done the same in Loki Hostal with the white sheet.
I was happy though, on those cold nights, when we could sleep naked because we had an excess of stolen linens. Two helpless bodies, exposed, wrapped around each other for warmth while the light weight of the cold, sober desert confined the cloth walls of the red and beige tent.  
She woke me every morning with the click of her Canon and the non-stop prattle of a teenage girl. I hated her.  I buried my head deep inside those many blankets underneath the stillness of the morning, a time she craved.
One morning stands out among the rest in some coastal shithole outside Chiclayo.
It had all started in this fucked-up market in Chiclayo the day earlier.  We parked the bus outside the ridiculously sized mercado and dispersed.  The market was a deranged loose institution of fruit hawkers, booze swindlers, drug dealers, butchers, fish brokers, and just about any other vendor that even Charles Manson couldn´t imagine.  Anything we wanted was inside that market, buried deep in its flesh.
We walked around aimlessly while the vendors stared at us gringos, men shouting from the megaphones that sat atop their fruit carts, at Marta, asking what naranjas were in English.  She shouted back, “Oranges.”  This set off a domino effect, and soon every merchant in the market was shouting from their megaphones, asking for the names of different types of produce in English.
Marta made friends with just about every vendor in the whole place.  They just looked at me. Sometimes they shook my hand; sometimes they laughed.  But while this funny anecdote played out on the streets of Chiclayo, Seth from Milwaukee was in a dark place, rummaging through the underbelly of the market, for the medicine men, for the San Pedro.
We left with food and San Pedro to the coast where we figured we could find a place to camp.  The dreary coast was littered with dirty villages and trash dumps.  We began to fear that we would not find a campsite.  We learned of a little hostel somewhere down the beach.
 Multi-colored pyramids peaked through the shadowy distance and we knew that this hostel was a sanctuary for the Gypsy Train. It looked like somewhere that Luke Skywalker could have grown up, on some distant planet still stuck in the seventies.
We took San Pedro in that place hoping for a trip into another dimension.  The only trip we had was to the bathroom about seventeen times that night. 

My tent, the next morning, stood under an elevated guest-room on a sand floor amongst a plethora of cooking utensils and dirty dishes that were caked with the greenish-mescaline based substance that entered our bodies the night before.  Only a picture can explain.

Most mornings were a rush to cook breakfast and pack up and leave, but because everyone kept shitting, no one wanted to leave or eat.  Marta and I had a chance to laze in our tent.
“I want to tell you, I felt that we really connected that night in Mancora, when we were talking about the photos and we were on Jingus, and we were really intense, and since that moment I wanted to tell you that I love you.”  Marta said.
Between shits and smiles, we confessed ourselves.  I knew it was odd, but it was us, two funny, good-looking weirdos finding each other in between bouts of diarrhea.  She was there again.  I was happy.
I wanted to be back there with the diarrhea.  I wanted to be on the mountain pass.  

When we reached the summit of the pass atop a nearly five thousand meter ridge, we discovered a meager fissure in the rock, only big enough for a walking body where the path passed through.  I stood with my three friends looking down  on both sides of the ridge, one side a happy valley with glacier capped peaks and silver lakes, the other an ashen snarl, something out of Mordor.  We had no choice and continued on, down the ashen path, as small pieces of hail gathered in the crevasses of our bags and on the dirt trail in front and behind us, turning it white. 
Thunder echoed against the granite walls, each time growing uncomfortably louder.  Mike and I raced down the trail as the hail turned to rain and flowed from the darkened clouds that stuck to the high mountains, hiding them, leaving only the wet valley below in view where our final campsite sat and, hopefully, a sanctuary from the freezing rain.
I found an overhanging piece of brown rock with enough room for two or three.  Mike and I squeezed in to wait for A&A, who had fallen behind.  The lightning struck all around us.  I heard A&A coming down the trail.
“Psst.  Over here” I whispered.  They squeezed into the crowded cave, and we discussed our options, Alex´s back pressed against the roof and my head against it.  We could have stayed where we were and wait out the rain or boogie down to our final campsite of our four day hike.  We chose to boogie.
After a few more hours of lightning terror and torrential soakings, we made it to the camp and there stood our sanctuary from the rain, a concrete bathroom structure.  In the center of each stall, a two-foot deep hole brimmed with all sorts of different garbage and shit, even the kind that splattered on the wall.  A&A huddled in one stall, and Mike and I huddled in another watching the rain fall, remembering warmth and ignoring the stench.  It was a miserable place to be, but in the stillness, I thought back.
To Huaraz, a few days before.
My hands were covered in black paint.  Marta and I traced the outline of the penciled “Werdafukawi” on the back of the bus in a car lot off a narrow street.  Our paintbrushes didn´t work, so we used little sticks with a bi of paint on the end like quill and ink.

Marta was leaving on a bus in a few hours, and we had to paint the bus before she left.  A light drizzle dampened us, but it didn´t wet us enough to stop us from finishing our final task.  She chatted to the little girls while she painted.  I focused as to not fuck up as I was prone to do with anything associated with visual arts.  Marta, flawlessly and carelessly, painted her letters perfect, and eventually, it met my unintelligible letters in the middle.
We decided we needed a cigarette break.  I placed a Caribe in my mouth.
“It sucks about these things.” I said. “If I didn´t live this way, going from place to place, I could have never met you, nor would you have probably even liked me.  The same for you.  If you just stayed there in Madrid, none of this could of have happened or could have ever even continued to happen.  But because it is like this, I can never think that it could ever develop in a domestic way, since what we find so endearing about each other is that we aren´t normal nor domestic.  Some day I would like to be domestic, but not now.  Maybe we could be domestic , but eventually you would hate the way I brushed my teeth or that I opened the shower curtain in the wrong direction.  It’s better this way, thinking of each other in a glow rather than an afterglow of disdain.
“And we just live so far away.  We both have no money.  It really makes me sad that it is an impossibility.  And even if it were not an impossibility, if either one of us would give up so much, your career or my gypsy train, to be together, it would inevitably put a heavy strain on the person who gave up these things.  
“The only possible light would be in the far future, in Buenos Aires.  But there would have to be so many uncontrollable factors that steered us there.  The Gypsy Train has no route; you do have a route.  We would both have to plan now to go there for ourselves, no matter whether we continue to keep such close connection.  We are far away and for a long time.  People and feelings fade.  Proximity is the crucial element to a continued romance.  I know you lay and dream of me in Madrid and I obsess on the days you were here.  It´s just so fucking sad.
“I would say don’t ever forget me, but that’s absurd.  Of course, you won’t forget me.  Maybe I should say don’t forget that we loved each other once and at one time you got funny feelings in your stomach when you thought of me.  But you will.  It will just fade away just like everything else.”
Some of these words came out on that Saturday afternoon under the drizzle.  Others still have yet to come out, and some came out, just now, in this very serious blog I just wrote.
 We stared at our artwork.  And we didn’t speak.  I thought about her leaving on a bus that wasn´t mine.  It didn´t really feel like she was leaving.  Everything had felt so natural.  She was still standing there.  I could still touch her.
And then after a few more hours of purgatory, I couldn´t touch her anymore.
I watched her get on the bus, and, like a corny movie, I said, “I will see you again.  I know it.”
I didn´t know it.
 I walked down the road and back to the hostel.
I watched a comedy with my friends and fell asleep.  The next day we prepared for the hike through the Santa Cruz valley, and Marta flew home.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Road Warriors

By Alex Mehlin

The peaceful sounds of water dripping off the dense amazonian mountain scape were suddenly terrorized, as two A-37Bs engaged each other in air-to-air combat. .50 caliber shells littered the canopy while the dog fight ripped the air currents around the disputed Cordillera del Cóndor.

Dating back to 1941 Peru and Ecuador have been fighting over the head waters of the Cenepa River.  East of the Cordillera del Condor was claimed by the Ecuadorians as their own, Peru´s government meanwhile claimed that the territorial boundary lay on the ridge of the mountains. In 1998, after 57 years of border disputes, it was resolved that  Peru would give up a square kilometer of land to Ecuador in the Amazon and the official boarder would rest on the ridge of the Cordillera del Condor.

As Alaena and I drove down the post apocalyptic road into Peru we had no idea that one of the longest boarder disputes in the western hemisphere this century, over uninhabitable land deep in the jungle, would ever affect our life on the Gypsy Train.

In Ecuador we were seldom pulled over. When we were the National Police were only curious as to what we were doing with a bus, filled with Gringos. Once we were pulled over as the sun lay low on the horizon.  After 30 minuets of dispute over the legality of my driving eligibility, an obvious ploy to elicit bribe money, we were let go under the caution, “you know they are going to rob you in Peru?” We chuckled at the irony of the comment as we pulled away. 

We were later warned once again of the criminal nature of all Peruvians. As Alaena and I sat watching or mechanic sing karaoke in a posh Santo Domingo bar, the men next to us informed us how once while visiting Peru he fell victim to an attempted pickpocket. On another none-the- less-startling experience, this same man while visiting a market was also short changed. It was clear to us we were in for a world of trouble when we entered Peru.

Crossing the boarder was easy. We simply drove into the shacks that consisted of the Peruvian Boarder Patrol offices, parked, presented all our documents, signed a few pieces of paper and were rewarded a 90 day driving visa for Peru.

Mancora lays about 2 hours south of the boarder. We were pulled over twice before reaching the electric beach town. We were unprepared for the battle. Alaena talked to the police man as I fumbled through my folder of important documents. After producing our array of freshly minted documents we were let go with the wave of the hand.

We have been pulled overa round 40 times. Most of these occurrences end as abruptly as they started once the road patrolee realizes we are not Ecuadorians. Others do not go so smoothly. For these occasions we send in our diplomat, Alaena. When we had Marta with us our diplomatic team was too much for the police to handle.

On one occurrence while the police officer was holding his ticket book, pen in hand delivering us a “small fine, so we have something to remember Peru with” Martha, convinced him that Alaena and her would rather remember Peru through a picture of the three of them next to his police truck.

We avoided an expensive fine for not having a seat belt on the front passenger side of the cockpit. At the time of our alleged criminal activity there was no person riding in the illegal seat. This did not deter the speak impedimented slobbering road Nazi from feeling the need to deliver us a fine. As he began to write out a ticket, violation number 29A in the cheap paper back road handbook assigned to all police, Alaena stepped off the bus and after 20 minuets of confruntation smiled and jumped back on board as the cop put his fine book away. We peeled out of town with all our money.
After a particularly roaring night around a campfire, we drove into the city. A team of red barret National Police stopped the Gypsy Train to inform us that our rear trunk was open. As they waved us through one of the police yelled into the window asking us if we needed any marijuana. We drove off without taking the offer.  
Through these experiences we have put together a game plan for dealing with the police. Our first move is to wave and smile, second we ask for directions or simple tourist questions, this throws them off their game since we are in control asking the questions. They then always ask where we are comming from, we take this oppertunity to compliment Peru´s natural beauty. At this point we generally get waved on, but not always.

Some cops are after bribe money. They scrutinize every official document we present. Our driving visa is clean, we have the Matricula in my name, my California Commercial Drivers License is legal for 90 days. The only thing we don't have is insurance, the reason being it is stupidly expensive and worthless. We have stopped allowing people to ride shotgun because apparently it is illegal to have a navigator unseat-belted, however it is completely legal to smash 20 people into a 10 person van, as long as they are not navigators or co-pilots.    

In preperation  for these run-ins I have plastified and copied all of my documents, this prevents them from holding my identity hostage. We try to carry very little money with us, if we don't have any money we cant pay bribes or fines. Alaena is a master of rhetoric. She refuses to accept a ticket and will out smart any cop, she is our biggest asset in the daily fight against ticketing.

Our efforts to deter the police from finding anything worthy of costing us a night in jail or a hefty fine have worked. So far we have not given a single centimo to any badge totting, power hungry officer of the road.
We were pulled over a record setting 6 times on the drive between Huaraz and Lima. I’m sure that we will continue to do battle with the police on every and any road we choose to ride down in Peru. Our only hope is that Chile does not hold a grudge against Ecuador over a small piece of mountain tucked so far into the jungle it is only accessible by helicopter or fighter plane. 

 Photos by Marta Anglada

Friday, October 8, 2010

Scooby Doo be Doo, Where is Manuel Chu?

By Zach W. Watson

The road to Huaraz was closed from six a.m. to six p.m. due to extreme dynamiting on the four thousand meter pass. We found out, from a sweet construction girl who guarded the entrance to the pass, that the only way to get on that pass was written consent from the comidante, Manuel Chu, the foreman of the entire reconstruction of Via Huaraz.

We found the campamento, where we were told M.C. would be, at the bottom of the hill. The campamento seemed like an American construction operation center, with its brand new Volvo dump trucks, a series of small, clean, and uniform buildings, and a steel gate. The only thing that gave it a more Peruvian feel was the armed security personnel. It was very clear that Manuel Chu kept a clean kitchen.

The girls, being our diplomats as always, went to the gate and asked for Chu. The guards told the girls that Manuel Chu was unable to be located, and it would be roughly twenty minutes before he could be found. After two hours of sitting on the side of the road across from the campamento, the girls shook their way over and smiled big to pressure the guards into finding Chu.

Manuel Chu appeared, miraculously, out of the cluster of dump trucks and began conversing to them through the steel gate. He told them that we wouldn't be able to pass because we needed to ask for permission before noon. It was then two.

Marta told him that we were with an organization that, through photo and musical workshops, promoted environmental awareness at universities around South America. Manuel Chu was astounded because, it just so happened, that he needed someone to speak on behalf of the company since Queiro Golvao, the Brazilian contractor building the road, was not only a molder of the land but a protector. Marta brushed him off and said that she was leaving soon due to her studies back in Spain and that we really needed to get to Huaraz the following day because we had a meeting to attend. After twenty minutes of deliberation, Manuel Chu asked them back to his office with Alex and the title of the bus. Shortly after, they appeared with a white piece of paper granting us permission to drive on, what turned out to be, the Peruvian version of the Caminos del Muerte. Our allowed departure time was 3:30.

We waited by the road block until the time came, reading and eating candy. It was time. We gave the sweet construction girl our permission slip and followed down a single lane dirt road, passing dump trucks heading opposite directions, men on cables high on steeps clearing the excess rock, steam rollers pressing the newly formed gravel road, construction workers with orange hats and blue jump suits whistling at the girls and waving at us, newly dynamited rock piles, and isolated mountain towns. It seemed we were the only civilian car on this road. We soon learned why.

An hour into the drive, we came upon a giant pile of rocks, a cluster of men, machines, and trucks. We were halted for about thirty minutes. After about thirty minutes and the workers letting us know we had a tire with low air, they let us pass. We crept through the demolition zone over a collection of small boulders that just an hour earlier were part of the mountain to our left. Ssscrappee. Bang Bang. Boom Boom. EEEEEwwwwwwww...fuck.

We pulled over and everything seemed fine. We continued down the one lane, ten-percent grade path, not even a road, higher and higher. On every sharp corner stood a sign on the edge of a three thousand foot cliff that read: honk your horn. It was there to avoid a head on collision that would surely end in mutilated metal and a few torn carcasses.

Dark was coming and rain from the east and a slow, increasing worry. I searched the landscape for campsites, but nothing exposed itself, just cliffs and farms and unsettling mountain communities full of drunk Quechuans that didn't seem too welcoming to a bus full of Gringos. Mike wanted to push on. I clearly stated my opinion, which was camping at the first site we could find. In time, our collective nervousness came to a boil and we stopped in the rain at a flat terrace that sat over cliffs made specifically for dumping rocks and dirt. We parked right next to the road in this small mud lot, our tire was low on air, and we couldn't cook because it was raining.

We sat quietly like a family holed-up during a hurricane with nothing but conversation and a few stale rolls to munch on. The rain slowly died and I set my tent up directly next to the bus and about twenty feet from the road, which was only open at night. Marta and I climbed in and quickly fell asleep. Within fifteen minutes, the first truck rounded the corner. His engine break screamed as his high brights lit up the inside of my tent.

"Ahhh!" I sat straight up thinking that the semi-truck was barreling toward me and the woman I loved.

"It's alright," she said. "Go back to sleep."

I laid my head on the jacket that I used as a pillow and drifted off to sleep.

Ee aah. Ee ahhh. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee. I could smell the heat of the female ass from where I laid, and from where I laid, I could here the sweet sounds of donkey's fucking all night long between the panic attacks caused by encroaching semi-trucks. I painfully checked my watch, hoping for morning, every time I was awoken by air or engine breaks and the sporadic increase of light in my tent due to on-coming big wheels.

At daybreak, I popped my head out to sunshine. I checked the tire. It had retained air throughout the night. The bus started fine, and we continued up the dirt road for another hour until it finally became paved again. As we summitted the pass, bright white glaciated peaks reined over the morning valley as our mouths swooned and mountainous excitement charged and lightened us. We stopped, ran out of the car and just smiled and stared at the white goliaths. It made me forget, for a second, the two sleepless nights before, and that Marta was leaving the following day, for good.

Moonland, Chicken

By Zach W. Watson

A moon rock wedged itself between the tent floor and the square of my back while Marta lay naked beside me.  I kissed her with my sour breath and she kissed back, regardless of the stench, which didn't surprise me since I woke up every morning with shit breath and every morning she kissed me back.  I emerged from the tent with baggy sleepless eyes.  A desolate moonscape, devoid of life, appeared with the straining sun and a sleeping bus.  The dunes of sand rolled in the distance, sharp and dull rocks alike plained for as far as one could see, a shambled house of cinderblocks sat directly behind us, and all that emerged in the distance was a still, metal building full.  It looked like a place where nuclear waste would be disposed, and no one would be any of the wiser.

The night before Marta and I were in the process of beginning a session of love, when out of the still of a quiet desert night, we heard an engine and rubber rolling over the rocky road, and lights shone into our tent while horns honked and red lights flashed.  We quickly dressed and left the tent. 

The police greeted us with a smile and asked what we were doing there.  The three cops stood surrounding their police truck.  One cop stood behind the open passenger door, keeping one foot on the floor of the car, the other on the ground, while two hands in the car periodically cocked a pistol.

They told us camping there was highly dangerous and advised us to camp in town. The girls said that we camp all the time in places where there was no one around, so we didn't think it would be any sort of problem.  They said no one around equalled possible problems of safety.  I thought the cocked weapon in the Peruvian's hands was a possible problem of safety.

The truth finally came out when the little security guard from the corporate chicken farm, whose land we were squatting on, emerged from the darkness with an old radio around his neck.  He didn't know who we were, and with it being private property, he called the police because he was scared of us squatters.  After we were granted permission to sleep from the security guard, we were off to sleep and the cops left. 

Before the cops left they said, "If any thing bad happens, the chicken farm is over there."  The chicken farm was at least two miles away.

The wind blew the tent for hours and continued when the rain started and I scambled to put the rain-fly on my tent as Marta laid in the tent so it didn't blow away. 

"Alex, it's raining."  I said to their red tent.

"Why is it fucking raining in the desert?" Alex said.

After the rain died, Alex slept, occasionally walking around with his flashlight, with worry that the knife people that the police warned us about would arrive and slash us to pieces.  I wasn't so much worried about knife people as I was in-bred, nuclear wastoid-cannibals hell-bent on eating our faces and Matthias' parasitic rotten innards.

After emerging from my tent in the morning, Marta and I took it down.  The gypsies were ready for an early departure.  We hopped in, Alex turned the key, and nothing happened.  We were on the surface of the moon with what seemed to be a dead battery.

"Let's go."  I said as we mobilized and walked to the chicken farm to ask for jumper cables.  When we arrived, we discovered that there was no automobile, no jumper cables, only a few dirty Peruvian chicken farmers in jumpsuits who suggested we pushed the bus and pop the clutch to start the car.  They walked back with us.  The gypsies and three chicken farmers planted our feet and pushed.  Vrrrrrrrrrooooooooommmm.  It started and Alex drove off as the farmers admired the Gringo's driving skills.

We left the moon, on our bus, not a spaceship, headed high instead of low, to the high Andes, to Huaraz, to the high glaciated peaks and to say good-bye to Marta.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Day on The Gypsy Train

By Alaena

Four o'clock was approaching. The time when we start searching the roadside for turnoffs that may lead to appropriate camping sites. We were still at altitude, surrounded by planted pine forests and mist, on our way from Cajamarca down to the coast.

After grasping an opportunity to collect a mass of felled wood, we drove on through a heard of cows, donkeys, sheep and goats that appeared out of the clouds. We spotted a grassy turnoff and ventured down it. We parked bus in the middle of some sparcely scattered baby pines and went off in search of the owners to request camping permission. Marta and Alex found two teenagers that didn't seem opposed to the idea, so we settled in.

Fresh trout, rice and vegetables were on the menu, but dinner proved to be more of a challenge than usual when we realised the propane gas was running low. The trout would have to be flame grilled. After a painstaking effort from the boys to light and burn down the wet wood, the food was finally cooked. The fish was delicious and the rhum we had been sipping whilst we waited made it all the more so.

A man appeared at our fire and asked us not to set the forest alite and invited us to a party 2km further along the seemingly deserted grassy planes. We drove down there to find a stage complete with live band, free beer and lots of curious and friendly locals. As we danced in circles with the small children in front of the stage we became the main attraction of the night. We taught them the shake and move dance. Marta and I danced on the stage and I noticed the semi circle of bemused locals that had formed around Kate, Mike and Mathias dancing in the middle. After a little drunken arguing, the night was finished back around our campfire with rhum, marvelling at the halo around the moon and eating cheese and marshmallows.

Our hangovers were greeted by bursts of intense sunshine through the clouds. We had a big general clean of the inside of the bus whilst clutching our aching heads and breakfasted of yoghurt, fruit, and cerreal. An unusual break from our usual egg and leftover gypsy feast which meant we could save the propane for the chili we had planned for later.

By 12.00 we were on the road again, and at the first town we encountered, we got out in search of snacks and toilets. After wondering around the well manicured park, we noticed the flat tyre. A well meaning passer-by took it upon himself to help us change to the bald spare tyre and after about an hour he took us to the tyre maestro to get it fixed. We all sat in the bus and watched as the maestro diagnosed the problem. He removed the inner tube and patched it up with what looked to be a bicycle repair kit. We decided to start prepairing the chili as we waited. We sat in bus chopping up various vegetables and throwing them in the pot. The maestro gave us confused looks and his wife appeared saying 'Oh! you're helping gringos! Hello gringos!' . A couple of hours and 15 soles later we were patched up and on our way.

One hour down the road a huge turquoise lake nestled in the surrounding mountains appeared around a corner. We found a turnoff, parked and set up our tents on the pebbly beach whilst admiring a spectacular sunset. The propane lasted whilst we cooked our gypsy chilli and potatoes and we sat full and satisfied in another breath-taking spot.

Photo by Marta Anglada

The Magic Corner

By Alex

We pulled into Trujillo. I swerved through traffic still buzzing from the trickery we had inflected on an unexpecting gas station attendent. Over the last three weeks, we have lamented over the fact that we were quickly running out of Ecuadorian propane. We sent the girls out, demanding they kept a straight face. The confused Peruvian propane expert scratched his head examining the Ecuadorian fuel lodge. On the bus the gentelmen struggled to keep our doubts in order. We watched as he opened the steel gate and traded the empty Ecuadorian tank, which no other Peruvian propane expert would take, for a full Peruvian tank. The girls ran back to the bus, I dropped the clutch, hit the gas and crawled forward. With our recently aquired Peruvian propane canister and a 20 liter water we scrermed out of the gas station.

As I dodged the kamakaze mototaxies, we pulled into an unexpecting magical corner. It was adorn with panaderias, bicicletas, ferreterias and most perdominantly a car audio shop.

Matthais and I casually strolled over the black and white square titles. All I really needed was six meters of wire, to be used to rewire the bus so I could install the stereo. We were quickly accomodated by the english speaking proprietor Miguel. As his technician ran over our bus with his amp meter, we discussed where we were from and what we were doing in South America.

Matthais and I began to salivate like childern in an ice cream parlor. Speakers, amps, subs, lights, decks and every car accessory known to man sat shimmering behind the glass. Curiosity soon got the best of us and we began to ask about prices. Price quoting soon led to comparison of watts and sound quality. My stomach fluttered as we speculated what it would be like to actually have music on the G-Train.

The technician came back to us with alarming news. The bus was wired for 24 amps, our stereo is only 12 amps. As we bent over the battery examining the options Miguel told us with the cost of the wire he would include installation. We gratefully accepted and went back into the shop to ponder what it would take to make the Gypsy Train sing.

Meanwhile the seemingly ordinary corner began to produce miracles.

Zach appeared from around the corner sipping a ginger ale and jingling a new set of keys. Alaena knelt down next to the stove maestro twisting and turning the fuel regulator gracefully applying tape until it stopped leaking. Marta played with different letterings in preperation to tattoo the Gypsy Train with our motto "Werdafukawi". Excitement buzzed through the air, Matthais and I grew drunk with it. We looked at each other knowing exactly what we needed to do. Without deliberation, we decided on a set of four mid-grade Pioneer speakers.

Miguel assured us the process would take only an hour, but we knew better. Over the course of our travels, we have learned not to waste any opportunity to charge our electronics. To the average Peruvians it must have looked like we were millionaires. My I-pod dangled from Alaena's laptop. Martas camera dangled from her neck like a rappers prized diamond necklace, not only did we own a bus but it was getting a new sound system and the Gypsies walked around, downing cold drinks, icecream, pastries just to kill the time. We generally always draw a crowd and this ordeal was no exception.

Before the speakers were out of their plastic wrap, two technicians were unscrewing the bus. They yelled back and forth while checking wire currents, the two front 6's were screwed in and soon we were listening to the technician's Outlaw Country cd. After some deliberation they decided that it was necessary to rewire the rear 6x9s. Miguel checked with us to make sure that 3 extra dollars for wire was okay and soon after our 6x9s were comforty home under the back seats.

The Gypsies grew overly excited and felt we needed to party. Kate, a Gypsy we picked up in Mancora, was leaving the Train in the morning. We now had music. Bottles of rum have been swilled around a warm campfire with far less to celebrate. Mike appeared carrying a crate of beer. Soon after, Marta and Alaena skipped up smilling, holding a bag filled with rum. We had all the ingredients for a party.

Overall it could have been one of the most productive days the Gypsies have had. We aquired a new water tank, now have spare keys, a Peruvian propane tank to power of now operating stove, the Train got a Tattoo and we now can listen to music as we cruise through South America.