Horses for Hangovers


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, December 23, 2003 was originally posted on December 25, 2003.

DAY 66:  It’s one thing to be hungover after a night of boozing, but it’s another to be hungover when you haven’t yet acclimatized to the thin oxygen 11,000 ft. above sea level.  I woke up feeling just awful (but with no regrets) and laid in bed questioning why I was alive — Lara felt the same way.  We weren’t sure if it was the pisco or the altitude, but perhaps it was a little from Column A and a little from Column B.

At noon we knew just why we were alive: to go horseback riding through the Andean countryside.  I met up with Lara in a nearby travel agency and in less than ten minutes we hired a couple of horses and a guide for the afternoon to take us to the nearby Incan ruins just outside of Cusco.  A taxi took us up the mountain to the first site Saqsaywaman — when pronounced, sounds like “sexy woman” — where we wandered around the walls and boulders that overlooked the city before catching our horses at the ranch next door.

I mounted Apanico, a fairly docile white horse that kept on leaning down for a bite of grass every so often.  Lara got on the back of Apache, a black, somewhat fiestier horse that laughed after it farted.  With our horse guide Ronald walking alongside, Apanico and Apache took us up the road to the Incan ruins of Q’enqo, where ceremonies were performed in a cave.  A loitering local guy tried to sell me on a lecture of the site, while another local guy tried to take a photo of Lara.  Both were denied.

THE ONE THING WE DISCOVERED about horseback riding is that, contrary to what you may think, it actually alleviates the nausea of a hangover.  Riding the horses was a bouncy experience, but for some reason, it kept our stomachs sane — whenever we dismounted and started walking around again, we’d start to feel sick with waves of nausea.  “That’s it, when I go home, instead of buying a car, I’m getting a horse,” I said.

The horses walked, trotted and galloped — sometimes unexpectedly — through the countryside, along trails up and down the hills and valleys where sheep grazed.  The bouncing of our bodies with our backpacks behind made us, as Lara put it, “constantly giggle like twelve-year-old schoolchildren.”  I had to hold onto the saddle and keep seated in tightly to keep my testicles from smacking down on every bounce — otherwise I would giggle like a twelve-year-old schoolboy permanently, if you know what I mean.

Apache and Apanico, smart horses with keen senses of direction, brought us to the Temple of the Moon, the site of lunar Incan ceremonies, and then up the mountain to the ruins of Pukapukara, a former Incan fort overlooking the valley, and Tambomachay, which was used by the Incas for ceremonial baths — the water coming from the mountains still flows through it today.  We discovered that Tambomachay is a popular nearby site for tourists, because it gave people the opportunity to pose in the four window frames on the upper tier.  Inspired by the others, Lara and I posed in the two middle frames, wishing we had two other people with us so we could spell out “YMCA.”

THE DAY WAS COMING TO AN END, so we mounted our horses (picture above) and head over the hills and through a forest back to the ranch.  In the distance we saw a storm brewing, but our trail made a turn for the better — instead of riding into the storm, we rode off into the sunset.  “I can’t get this grin off my face,” Lara said, it being her first time horseback riding.  “We’re riding horses, in Peru, and on Christmas Eve.” 

Sometimes you just have to say it out loud for it to sink in.

AFTER A COUPLE OF GREASY CHICKEN BURGERS from a street stand and a short siesta, Lara and I were back for a night on the town, despite the fact that we were still feeling pretty crummy from the night before, without the help of the horses.  The Plaza das Armas came alive with people, particularly with local kids setting off Christmas firecrackers left and right — sometimes throwing them at the gringos — making it somewhat of a war zone.  The Christmas Eve markets were in full-swing, filling the streets near the plaza with vendors selling chotskies, cakes, wine and more firecrackers to arm the little bastards in the plaza.  On every sidewalk surrounding the vendor stands were hundreds poor peasants from the villages, hoping to get any spare change from buyers.

Lara and I escaped the crowded chaos in an Italian restaurant, where Lara couldn’t help by eavesdrop on other people’s conversations to try and figure out their situations.  We ordered two big plates of pasta, but with our queasy stomachs and exhaustion, we couldn’t finish it.  Whenever I am in this situation, I usually feel bad and swirl my food around into a pile to make it look like I at least made an attempt.  The waitress took the food back, and we hoped she would give it to any of the poor hungry kids staring inside through the window instead of throwing it out.

ALTHOUGH WE WERE BOTH EITHER SICK or exhausted from “the altitude” (our constant scapegoat), we went out for a drink in the spirit of Christmas Eve.  En route to our usual bar Cross Keys, we bumped into the Americans Tony and Adam who joined us for a round.  We sat and talked about travel and old Commodore 64 games — two of my favorite topics when drinking in a bar in the middle of the Andes — until the early last call at 11 p.m.  The staff closed earlier than usual to be home at the stroke of Christmas, leaving us with a easy night — no need for horseriding the following morning, which was great news for my testicles.

Next entry: Christmas in Cusco

Previous entry: On the Trail of Lara Croft

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Comments for “Horses for Hangovers”

  • First!!  Eat your heart out Love Penny!

    I should get a horse… It would beat the hell outta my OLDSCHOOL honda!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  11:08 PM

  • Dear Erik,

    Happy Boxing Day. I know a lot of people send Christmas and Hannukah wishes, but I personally think we should all throw down like mad on Boxing Day.

    Following your trip and it sounds fantastic. Best of luck.

    Nick Fox
    Dayton, OH

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  11:08 PM

  • Nick:  Thanks!  and Welcome to The Fellowship of The Blog.  I assume you are friends with the Ohio boys?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  11:15 PM

  • Saqsaywaman looks like it can be part of a Tomb Raider game… so is Lara packing heat in that backpack of hers?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/26  at  12:04 AM

  • riding horses in peru on xmas eve… hmm…not as exciting as plalying CRANIUM in new jersey on xmas eve…spell “saqsaywaman” backwards!  hum “over the river and through the woods”! this is what you are missing out on. it’s the latest johnson ave addiction, esp. roz. haha:) 

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/26  at  01:44 AM

  • Hey Erik,

    This particular entry was especially enjoyable. Not a conscious one on your part, but a great gift for xmas nonetheless. Thanks!

    I can’t believe how much we missed out on Cusco back then. I definitely have to go back one of these days. Lara looks like a find. smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/26  at  05:00 AM

  • wow, the fort is amazing. and i love the baths, i can’t believe they are intact and still running. the incas did such a good job building these structures. that was definitely a wonderful way to celebrate xmas. i am jealous. =P

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/26  at  02:46 PM

  • Tidbit after the fact:  The Christmas Eve markets are known as Santuranticuy, which means “saints for sale”, a traditional Andean fair.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/26  at  02:52 PM

  • oh man. horseback riding in peru….nice.

    great post!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/27  at  12:58 AM

  • colorado has similar weather patterns where you can just see the rain come and go! it gets me every time smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/30  at  03:07 AM

  • Ireland has those same weather patterns!
    The damn firecrackers - all over. SO OBNOXIOUS! Someone could lose an eye! wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/01  at  11:31 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Christmas in Cusco

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On the Trail of Lara Croft


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