On the Trail of Lara Croft


This blog entry about the events of Monday, December 22, 2003 was originally posted on December 24, 2003.

DAY 65: In 1996, the adventure video game Tomb Raider was born, starring the full-lipped, big-breasted virtual heroine Lara Croft.  The gun-toting Lara adventured around the world in search of artifacts like a modern, female Indiana Jones.  The popularity of the Tomb Raider video game spawned two movies in which the full-lipped, big-breasted virtual Lara Croft took the human form of Angelina Jolie.

Like the way the name “Indiana Jones” has become synonymous with adventurous men venturing around the world — some people call me by this name — “Lara Croft” has become synonymous with females doing the same sort of adventures on the independent travel circuit.  This is especially true when your given first name is “Lara” to begin with.

ORIGINALLY I HAD THE IDEA of spending Christmas in Arequipa, known as the “White City” due to its white buildings made of the white stone sillar, in order to have a “White Christmas.”  But the thought of having to “start over” with trying to find new friends in a new city in time for a decent Christmas seemed daunting.  Luckily Lara — whose email name is “Lara Croft” — sent me an email stating, “I’ll be in Cusco for Christmas and you are more than welcome to join me if you don’t fancy being on your own.”  Although I had already been in Cusco and was skeptical in seeing it again, the poetic alliteration “Christmas in Cusco” just had a nice ring to it.  And besides, what’s more poetic than saying I was “on the trail of Lara Croft”?

MY BUS RIDE TO CUSCO didn’t leave Nazca until about 11 p.m. the night before, and by sunrise we were only about half way there.  Around nine o’clock we stopped at a rest area on the outskirts of Abancay for a breakfast break, but half the people made a fuss because they were going to Abancay anyway and just wanted to get going.  The driver heeded their requests and pulled out to head for town.  There was construction on the main road and we took the designated detour — right into a deep patch of mud.  The bus tilted over so much that it might have tipped over, so everyone got off the bus.  The passengers to Abancay simply got taxis into the town center, leaving a small group of us to wait for a resolution — including me and the two Americans, originally from Ohio, that had luckily boarded the night before: Tony the consultant and Adam the law student at Georgetown University.

“Even if we survived a tip over, we would have been covered in shit,” Tony pointed out.  (The two of them had the back seats next to the bus’ smelly lavatory.)

The conductor, driver and some local guys attempted to dig out the bus, but we were in too deep and it wouldn’t budge.  Luckily a bulldozer from the construction site came to the rescue.  Using a steel cable, they tried to tow the bus out of the slop, but the cable fastener kept coming undone.  We waited and waited as they tried new nuts and bolts for the fasteners, but again and again it would just come undone.  After the third attempt, it was clear that third time wasn’t the charm in this case.

Finally they switched to good old fashioned rope — but then the bulldozer ran out of gas.  A guy went out to fetch a bucket of gasoline, which they siphoned into the tank.  Everything was all set to go, but then a herd of cow and goats walked by — leaving a lone baby goat hiding under the bulldozer for shade. 


The bulldozer almost ran over it until people signaled the driver that it was there.  The men were annoyed that they had gotten this far only to have a little goat get in the way, but all Tony, Adam and I could say is “Wow, that’s awesome.”

The bulldozer eventually pulled the bus out of the mud and we drove the two minutes into town for the designated stop.  Having missed our breakfast opportunity, Tony and I went out in Abancay for provisions, which we ate on the bus ride continuing onto Cusco.  The bus ascended into the mountains through off and on rain (picture above) as the TV monitors played a salsa concert that seemed to go on forever. 

AFTER A SIXTEEN AND A HALF HOUR BUS JOURNEY — my longest to date — we were in Cusco, the former-Incan-capital-turned-popular-traveler-stop-in-South-America.  The Americans and I split a taxi into the main square and as we rode through the streets, everything came back to me.  And with the colder weather due to Cusco’s high altitude (almost 11,000 ft above sea level), I felt like I was “coming home” to something — a perfect feeling for the holidays.

Tony and Adam had been in transit for two days straight and decided to splurge on a nice hotel right on the Plaza das Armas.  I checked my email and tracked down Lara Croft at a hostel two blocks away.  I got a room there and asked around for her, but she was nowhere to be found.

IN ALL MY TRAVELS AROUND THE GLOBE prior to this big trip, people have asked me what my favorite city was — the answer was always “Cusco, Peru.”  Walking through the Plaza das Armas, it was evident again why I said this.  A beautiful, red-roofed filled city in the valley of the mountains, Cusco had the perfect blend of Andean people and travelers that gave it an energetic pulse not found in other places.  Spanish colonial architecture flanked the main plaza with the cathedral and Iglesia de La Compañia and I took it all in again, breathing in the thin air.  It was then that the “tomb raider” had found me instead of the other way around.  “I thought I saw you there,” she said.

Lara and I caught up on our adventures.  Her bus to Cusco didn’t get stuck in mud, but she had to deflect the questions and come ons of a young Peruvian lad who, we later found out that night, had already emailed her twice asking for a kiss.  I’m still not sure who had the more arduous journey — baby goat vs. annoying guy, tough call.

We went out for dinner at a nice restaurant with a Christmas tree and — more importantly — complimentary pisco sour cocktails.  Lara filled me in on the travelers of Cusco she had encountered thus far, including the guys determined to have a “White Christmas” with lots of cocaine and the “stuffy English girls” who didn’t even attempt to try to speak Spanish.  Determined not to be one of these girls, Lara had studied her Spanish all afternoon, picking up more phrases here and there.  She ordered her meal in Spanish.

Afterwards, Lara and I went bar hopping in Cusco’s formidable nightlife scene, first to the popular bar Norton Rat’s where we sat on the balcony overlooking the plaza with a bottle of wine, watching the villagers set up for a big Christmas Eve market for the next day.  The Plaza das Armas lit up with figures of reindeer and wise men as people scrambled around for the Christmas rush.

As the night progressed, we checked out the street performers by the cathedral, played a couple roads of pool and had a lot more booze.  Although it wouldn’t be a “White Christmas,” I was surely glad that I had made the decision to have “Christmas in Cusco.”

Next entry: Horses for Hangovers

Previous entry: Where They Drew The Line

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Comments for “On the Trail of Lara Croft”

  • MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!  Thanks for your holiday greetings, they mean a lot—and this goes for all of you!

    It’s Christmas day and I am AGAIN in a computer lab pleasing “Blog,” but I will be out for Christmas dinner soon with Lara, Tony and Adam.  I know I am behind a day, but I’ll be playing catch up in the next few days.


    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/24  at  06:30 PM

  • FELIZ NAVIDAD a tu tambien!!(i hope that was right) i am glad you are having a good xmas. i am glad you tracked down lara for xmas. she seems pretty cool. you should get to know her more. wink love, alice

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/24  at  06:57 PM

  • it isn’t a white christmas here either…

    enjoy dinner! lara does seem cool. here’s to you, tomb raider & many more adventures….feliz navidad!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/24  at  07:29 PM

    Looks like you’re having a great holiday on the road - I was worried about you for a while. Liza and I are stuck in Ohio with no car for a week and nothing to do but drink, sleep and live vicariously through your blog. Don’t stop posting!

    Posted by dunlavey  on  12/24  at  10:28 PM

  • Plaza das Armas lit up is very tranquilo, tranquilo….

    Be sure to drink lots more pisco sour cocktails….

    Festivus for the rest of us…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/24  at  11:43 PM

  • your blog kicks ass and gives me something to do as i look for a job.  i am drunk in wisconsin.  adios!!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  12:20 AM

  • drunk in wisconsin!  woohoo!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  05:18 AM

  • Hey e!

    I was recently on the trail of Lara Croft as well, though in Cambodia.  Seems she (well, Angelina Jolie’s version) is pretty popular and I must have overheard her name 4-5 times in the course of visiting Angkor Wat (where they filmed some scenes of one of the movies). 

    Hope you are having a great time.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  07:38 AM

  • hey erik! hope you had a great holiday.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  02:13 PM

  • merry wheatmas and feliz festivus!!! those peruvians really know how to party. 




    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  02:55 PM

  • I’m glad you got to go to Cusco for Christmas.  I was there last month and LOVED it, it seems like an appropriate place for Christmas.  Go to the bar/restaurant “Los Perros” off the Plaza das Armas.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  04:58 PM

  • I still felt covered by shit even though the bus didn’t go over… after 16+ hours sitting next to the ba?o, the smell had permeated into my very soul.

    It was a great Navidad dinner yesterday.  Adam and I consumed many Oreos while watching The Matrix on TNT Platinum afterwards.  Now *that’s* adventure travel!

    Posted by Tony  on  12/25  at  05:44 PM

  • i think that’s the funniest christmas story that i’ve heard yet! perhaps the networks can run YOUR story instead of “the Chirstmast Story” for 24 hours… “you’ll shoot your eye out just isn’t as funny as goats!”

    glad to hear you had a merry christmast… you didn’t miss anything white on the east coast, just 16 snow flakes N smile

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/30  at  03:01 AM

  • I know you’re going to kill me but I’m playing catch up with the BLOG.  I’m glad your Christmas in Cuzco was fun!  The pics look great!

    Maligayang pasko!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/04  at  09:44 PM

  • I know I’m way behind, but apparently Granada in Nicaragua is similar to how Cusco sounds with the travelers and such! Glad your Christmas was great!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/01  at  11:26 PM

  • NOELLE:  A very belated Feliz Navidad to you!  Question:  How sick are you of “First Noelle” jokes during the holidays? wink

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  02/02  at  11:06 AM

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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 BootsnAll.com. 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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Next entry:
Horses for Hangovers

Previous entry:
Where They Drew The Line


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