New Year, New Adventure


This blog entry about the events of Wednesday, December 31, 2003 was originally posted on January 02, 2004.

DAY 74: Usually I wake up on New Year’s Day hungover, with a feeling like I am at the bottom of the deepest canyon in the world.  When I woke up at 4 a.m. feeling that same way, I realized, “Holy crap man, I am at the bottom of the deepest canyon in the world!”

BY THE EIGHTH HOUR OF 2004 (in our current timezone), Heidi and I had already accomplished a great task — trekking up and out of Colca Canyon.  It was a long three and a half hour trek that made me never want to ever consider buying a Stairmaster.  Morning birds chirped as our early morning hike progressed, while the sun rose and burned off the morning canyon mist.  We noticed cactus flowers on the edge of the trail — I had to hold Heidi’s bag as she leaned over for a photo so she wouldn’t fall over.  As we got closer back to the town of Cabanaconde, a local woman in traditional clothes greeting us in Quechua — I assume she wished us a Happy New Year, but then again she could have been trying to say, “Fuck off pig, you’re in my way.”

On the outskirts of town, Roy said again “[There is no breakfast,” but we knew he was joking.  We followed him through a cornfield, like two Hobbits returning to The Shire, back through town where some Spanish-speaking villagers wished us a “Feliz Nuevo Año.”  We walked to the restaurant where we had breakfast the day before.  Rudy the Belgian caught up with us, and we had our meal of eggs, bread and coca tea.

Meanwhile, Roy went to the bus station to get our tickets — one for the 9 a.m. bus to Cruz del Condor, the popular condor viewing area 30 minutes on the way back; and one for a 10:30 a.m. bus from there back to Arequipa.  Roy informed us, “[There is no bus,]” but this time he wasn’t joking.  Apparently, every tourist that had been told there would be transportation back to Arequipa on New Year’s Day had been misinformed — there weren’t enough passengers to warrant the trip.  Although there was empty bus parked on the street, it wouldn’t depart until at least at 8 p.m., if not the next morning.

Including us, there were about a dozen tourists stranded in Cabanaconde without a way to get anywhere.  Rudy checked into a hostel while three Frenchmen with a lot of camping gear simply started walking back.  Jorge and Anna The Puerto Ricans finally arrived into town, only to discover the news that everyone else had received.  It was worse for them because they had to attend a wedding in Lima the next day, and needed to be in Arequipa by night by any means. 

“It’s like something out of a movie,” Anna said.

“Oh, that Ben Affleck movie with Sandra Bullock,” I said.

“Yeah, but we’re not trying to break up the wedding, we just want to get there.”

Heidi and I asked Roy if there was a way we could get a car to at least the touristy canyon town of Chivay in hopes there would be more facilities there, or better, a bus back to Arequipa.  He went off to see what he could find, while I asked The Puerto Ricans if they were willing to go four-way on a ride — they jumped at the opportunity.

HOURS WENT BY.  Heidi and I sat in the plaza with the condor in the center, on a bench where a dog took a nap underneath to avoid the intensity of the sun.  Across the street from us was the only telephone in town, and it was funny to just sit there and watch the behavior of people with the solitary pay phone.  At times, people had to wait for one person just having a normal chit chat — sometimes the waiting line would just grow.  Heidi got a kick out of women in traditional clothes talk on the modern telephone, or when the phone would suddenly ring and everyone would look confused as to whether or not to pick it up.  Usually there was one designated woman who would answer the phone, and yell down the street to get whoever it was for. 

“I could watch this all day,” she said.

We sat on the bench and watched Cabanaconde life go by, from when cows passed through, to when there was no line for the telephone, to when a dog walked by, to when another group waited for the phone, to when kids playing with a tire ran by, to when a guy ran to the phone from across the plaza after the “town secretary” called him over from far away.  The last scene from the bench we saw was when a clunky old muscle car rolled in.  Roy had managed to comandeer what seemed to be the only automobile in town to drive us to Chivay for ninety soles total.  Of course a town with only one telephone would only have one car.

The Puerto Ricans, Roy, Heidi and I loaded the trunk with our bags, and filled the big back bench seat, with no room for another group of tourists who didn’t take any initiative to get out of town.  We were driven by a kind man who, probably not wanting to spend New Year’s without his family, brought them along for the ride.  He, his wife, son and baby daughter sat in the front with Roy, and we rode up the bumpy dirt road, passed villagers and mules, for the two hours back to Chivay.  Along the way, we picked up a hitchhiker at a gas station, who sat in the trunk with the hood over him.  The ride was monotonous and with our exhaustion from the morning trek, we all passed out — including the boy (picture above).  Sometimes we’d wake up embarrassingly leaned over on someone else’s shoulder.

THE CAR DROPPED US OFF at Chivay’s Plaza das Armas, and we trekked again across town to the bus terminal.  There we snagged tickets for the last remaining seats for a 3 p.m. bus back to Arequipa and had a bite to eat.  Jorge called his bus company for his bus from Arequipa to Lima and sorted everything out so he and Anna could make it to the wedding in time.

While waiting for the bus, Heidi and I sat in the lounge area next to two little kids playing jacks.  One of them, a boy with dirty clothes and a runny nose, noticed I was eating M&M’s and crawled up on me to get one.  I gave him one, which turned out to be a mistake because he just kept on coming back for more.  “[No more,]” I told him, but he’d feel the packet and confirm that there indeed was more.  Finally I had to empty the packet into my pockets when he wasn’t looking.

THE PUERTO RICANS, ROY, HEIDI AND I hopped back on the last bus to Arequipa on New Year’s Day.  During the bumpy, five hour ride through mountains and vast plains where vicuñas grazed (small animals related to llamas and camels), we slept, we listened to the traditional music on the radio, and took turns sticking our digital cameras out the window to take a picture of the sunset.  By nightfall, we had arrived back in Arequipa’s bus terminal, and bid The Puerto Ricans goodbye and good luck.  Heidi and I split a taxi with Roy to our respective hostels.

“Gracias,” I told Roy.

“Vamos a la playa,” he joked one last time.  We each tipped him twenty soles for his tremendous efforts and bid him farewell.

HEIDI AND I FRESHENED UP and went looking for an internet cafe around 9 p.m., but the streets were dead and practically everything was closed for New Year’s.  We walked and walked for about an hour desperately looking for an open internet connection — Can you say addicts? — until we found one that would close in twenty minutes.  I checked out Blog comments and e-mails, while Heidi sent a Happy New Year’s greeting to her boyfriend Nick back in Perth and, I assume, an enthusiastic message to her sister saying how she spent New Year’s with illustrious Puerto Ricans.

We went out to a diner for a late dinner of hamburgers, milkshakes and hot chocolates, and then went our own ways.

“Thanks for helping me with my traveller’s depression, hey?” she said.

“Thanks to you too.”

Heidi continued her six-month South American journey northbound, while I continued mine southbound, but I’m sure we’ll never forget “that New Year’s I spent at the bottom of the deepest canyon in the world.”

Next entry: My First Stolen Item

Previous entry: Decisions

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Comments for “New Year, New Adventure”

  • Oooh! I’m first smile That car trip is kinda like how many people can you fit into a phone booth…  The kids in the car are absolutely adorable!  Too bad you missed the condors.

    Posted by Liz  on  01/02  at  05:56 PM

  • Man…the Cabanaconde part and phone photos just got me delirious again. Too funny…

    Posted by Heidi  on  01/02  at  07:02 PM

  • pictures from the bench remind me of that good ol Reading Rainbow episode with that book “...meanwhile back at the ranch…”

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/02  at  07:41 PM

  • wow, it is interesting how people come and go in your life while traveling around the world, and how close 2 people can bond in a short period of time. hopefully you get to see heidi again soon. and lara, where ever she is. she sounds really cool.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/02  at  09:14 PM

  • HEIDI:  Glad to see you’re on The Blog…  I gather you’re just as much an internet addict as I am… 

    Keep in touch—you can use this blog to do so—and hope to see you in Perth sometime later this year!

    BTW, that YMCA recording I told you about is on Day 70…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/02  at  11:40 PM

  • LIZ:  No need for condors, we had Puerto Ricans!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/02  at  11:40 PM

  • I wonder if it was so boring in that van and how it was. Who is Heidi and Ron? See you next year!


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  03:48 AM

  • Erik- true Puerto Ricans must be exciting smile Not to mention kids rolling tires and men running from far away to get the phone… that series of pics had me laughing.  I liked them - gave a good feel for the place.

    Posted by Liz  on  01/03  at  04:18 AM

  • One phone?!  I hope that town doesn’t have too many teenaged girls!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  09:55 PM

  • Happy New Year!!!

    weird how everyone is all about the Puerto Ricans… I went to Cali a couple of years ago and people I met were so enthralled by Puerto Ricans…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/03  at  10:01 PM

  • That is the BITCHINEST car I’ve ever seen.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  01/05  at  03:19 AM

  • Wait ? Ben Affleck and Sandra Bullock were in a movie together?! Yikes. Sounds like the kind of flick LOVE PENNY would buy on one of “unholy trinity” trips - and I would then make fun of him for the rest of the day.

    Posted by dunlavey  on  01/05  at  03:41 AM

  • Wow!

    You’re one amazingly talented dude!

    I checked out your other web pages as well,  the photos are magnificent.

    Look forward to following along on your trip as an ‘armchair traveller’ (or just another internet addict).

    Take care,


    Posted by annie  on  01/17  at  06:13 AM

  • ANNIE:  Thanks and welcome to The Fellowship of The Blog.  Happy armchair traveling!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/18  at  12:37 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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