Tag Archives: Peru

Gentleman’s Club

(Post from Jan 28, 2015 – that i just found in my drafts. Somehow escaped my sight, so here it is)

Location: Tarapoto, Amazon Basin, Northern Peru.

Life after the jungle has been surprising. The rules are as follows. No spices, no citric, no fats, no coffee, no carbs, no meat, no tomatoes, no onions, no drugs, no sex, no weed. For at least 30 days.

When i got out of the retreat, i came straight to Colores, the same place i had spent 10 days the last time i was in Tarapoto. This time around, there were 3 men when i checked back in (with Juan Carlos). So it’s now officially a gentleman’s club. That’s an awesome strategy to keep all horny thoughts away, for a straight guy at least. We occupy hammocks in boxers all day and have farting contests. The one that makes everybody run for fresh air wins. Fernando is the current unbeaten champion. Dora the dog comes in a close second, but she doesn’t win any prizes cos she’s female. At other times, we play poker. I suck at it though.

We watch movies, from my collection of 10 flicks that i carry everywhere, on J-C’s big screen. I’ve even downloaded spanish subtitles so they can all understand, and i can learn spanish too. Sometimes J-C takes the tv into his room to skype. I bet skype sex is better on a 50 inch screen. But i sure hope he’s not cheating on the diet. He’s broken up and patched up with his girl 4 times in the last three weeks.

He, and every other fucker here has a bad habit of putting used matchsticks back in the matchbox, and if i berate them they just laugh and tell me to fuck off. ‘Hahahahah fuck off you indian guy’. So i spend my time reading Palahniuk, watching TV shows (just finished Homeland S04), my fave movies on repeat with Spanish subtitles, listening to amazonian music, playing the guitar, playing with Dora, and removing used matchsticks from matchboxes. Not the most exciting life i’ve led, but definitely the most peaceful and contented. Sex, drugs & rock n roll can take a vacation.

Last week, on 22nd Jan, we opened an Indian veg resto ‘Bambu’ as part of Colores. The place was mostly done up by Miro, the one-man-army from Halifax, Canada who came here to start a new-earth project in the jungle. For cycling down the Nevada desert naked in the early 90s, he deserves his own post on this blog. Our chef is Margie, who lives 10 blocks away. She spent 12 years in India, Poona to be specific, and she makes amazing chole-bhatura. My job was helping Fernando and Gabriel (from the Canary Islands) to paint the logos and signs outside, and playing bollywood music on opening night. Dished out my favourite tunes growing up, from Amitabh Bachchan movies to Aamir Khan flicks, to R D Burman and Kishor and even some Rahman thrown in for eclectic feels and all that. Bollywood night in an Indian veg restaurant in Peru. How we never cease to surprise ourselves…

The next day we were in the papers. There’s a pic of me hiding behind the laptop screen. I’m going to make a youtube playlist for Margie to play every night. Maybe i’ll share it with you.

This week i’m in San Roque de Cumbaza, where the town is gearing up for the carnaval, the biggest festival all over south america. Every nook and corner is going to be a massive party. And i’m headlining act on Sunday night. AND, i’m going to be playing sober. But there’s no other way than to nail it inside out. I’m living at this gorgeous place over the hills called San Roque Centro de Artes, where artists from all over the world come down to do a residency, teach kids, art instalments, etc. It’s run by Daniel, who was with me in Cumbaza for the ceremonies, and his wife. Daniel has literally shown me the light a couple of times in the last month, especially since i’m blind at night . There’s a gorgeous cat here, that Daniel brought with him from Cumbaza, and Arco, the white lab. I’ll be here till Monday. Then another 10 days at Colores, and back on the road post that. Can’t wait to climb some snow-capped mountains, or hit up an oasis, or just go surfing again.


Arkana 2015

I was lucky enough to be at Arkana this year. A music festival at 3000m, safely nestled in the sacred valley. Trekked an hour to get there. No rules, no bullshit, just good music, good food, hippies, tents and lovers.IMG_9077
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Chia magica.

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Anticuchos: Cow’s heart kababs.

Parrillas: Steak

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Desi Baba.

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This dude, big in the chicago scene, was kind enough to let me jam along for a while.

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Israeli boys prepping lunch.

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If you need hi-res of any of these, hit me up.

Cheers.


Jaywalker

The day after my Machu Picchu trek, instead of a $70 train ticket, I decided to walk the forty kilometres from Aguas Calientes to Ollantaytambo. All i had to do was stick to the rail tracks and step off them when the trains passed by. Which was easy, except for one occasion where i found myself halfway through a tunnel and a train coming at me from the opposite side.

I started the day with a massive breakfast of yogurt and fruit from the local market, got back to my hotel and packed. The queues for Machu Picchu tickets and the trains were already bustling. Any place with a huge number of tourists gets me edgy so i was no mood to stay longer. Twenty four hours ago i had experienced one of the greatest trips of my life and was not going to kill that with selfie addicts around me.

Without any further delay, i started my walk towards Ollanta at 10 am, deciding to stop only every 3 hours for a bite. I had walked quite a bit this entire trip and was sure my legs would work the forty odd kilometres with no trouble. The weather was gorgeous too. The clouds were still weaving in and out at great speeds like waves mixed with clear white smoke. Either that or the LSD i took the previous day at Machu Picchu was still kicking*.

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About three hours in, i faced my first bunch of assholes on the path. Now Peruvian dogs are usually nice, but the ones that are not too used to people are a bit rough. Add to that a person with long hair and a backpack, the dogs think you’re out to harm their sweet old owners. Usually i hear these dogs from a distance and i’m prepared to scare them away. But this one time, it was Nine Inch Nails playing on the headphones. Hence, i didn’t hear the pack of dogs coming for me. By the time i realized, two of them had sunk their teeth into my right calf and ankle. The pain, intense. I have loved dogs all my life, and these bastards probably just gave me rabies. I kicked one in the face with my free leg, and then picked up two rocks and hurled with all my rage. Of course i missed completely. That’s usually what happens when you take a swing and you’re full of rage. I shouted a few abuses in English, Spanish, and Hindi, just to make sure they got the point, and hobbled away. I could feel the blood trickle down my leg. But at this point, there was nothing else to do but tie a knot, and keep walking. There were no docs for the next 6 hours. No train was going to stop for me here. And going back to town was out of question. So i shoved the headphones back into my ears, and kept walking. A few more packs of dogs did show interest in me during the rest of this trip, but i barked back even louder.

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Tunnels are funny. There’s no alternate path to bypass a tunnel, yet they always have boards saying ‘DO NOT WALK THROUGH THE TUNNEL’. I always wondered what the worst could be, every time i walked through a tunnel. This was the day i would see for myself. The longest tunnel i came across was around 100 m. And again, the headphones were on. Funny thing in a tunnel is, with the headphones on, if you have Rage Against The Machine playing, you don’t notice the rumbling under your feet ‘coz hey that’s how Morello kills it’, and you can barely hear anything else. Even the horn of the train coming from up ahead. I saw the headlights hit the walls at the curve about twenty metres ahead. I froze, and pulled my headphones out. I don’t want to call it fear but the kinda feeling that tightens your asshole, stomach, heart and jaws all at once hit me. Yup, this one was coming fast. I looked at the walls on either side, there was not enough space to tuck myself into, to let the train pass. I turned on my heels, and ran for my life. The honks got frantic cos now the train driver could see a maniac running on the tracks.

‘Look at this idiota. Came to commit suicide and now he’s changed his mind and I’ll be the one writing a report of why there’s blood under the train.’

I didn’t turn around to look how close it got, i just ran. Which is not easy when you have 15 kilos on your back. I could see a little spot to jump into, right where the tunnel started, and i knew that was the escape. By now the ground beneath my feet was shaking hard. And i just kept telling myself ‘PLEEEASE, don’t trip, PLEEEASE‘. The dog bite pain seemed so irrelevant at this point.

A last breath lunge got me off the tracks and i stuck myself to the wall, hands spread out like Jesus on the cross. Ten inches from my face, the train rushed by. Train driver gesticulating with his hand and probably shouting ‘PUTA MAAADRE’. Tourists looking out at me, sweaty and panting and wide eyed and thanking my stars and posing like the Saviour.

I managed to take a pic while still stuck out on the wall. You can tell my hands are not very steady.

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You can also see how fancy these trains are. I’d have hated to be responsible for blood stains on that gold and blue upholstery.

Enough of adrenaline rushes, I packed the headphones into my bag, munched on a banana to renew the energy I’d spent on that life-saving sprint, and got on with the walk. This time just singing to myself.

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Between ten to fifteen more trains passed. Sometimes i got off the tracks and walked through the hills and the valley and the river bank, where i would keep re-filling my bottle of water. Barely met a soul the entire time except for an old lady tending to her cornfields. And the loco dogs.

By 5 pm I was walking like a zombie. My granola bars were over. Bananas were finito. My legs hurt like hell, but i still had a further 15 km to cover. I gave myself two hours for this. Knowing only later that the last 8 km was uphill. It was 7:30 pm when i finally got into Ollantaytambo, hobbling into town like an escaped convict. I finished my excursion just like i had started it 3 days earlier, with an amazing veggie Pizza and the Peruanisimo (a MUST) from Quinoa Pizzeria. Content with my own fitness levels that day, I hit a local town party and then slept through the next twenty four hours. When I woke up, my legs were screaming ‘bitchface you should’ve just taken the train’.

In my next post I’ll tell you about Kinsakocha, a series of pristine isolated lakes at 4000m, where i eventually threw my phone into the water.

*I’m writing a book about that story, out soon.

If you like my posts, you can show some love over at johnnybizzle.bandcamp.com – pay what you want and pick up my remixes/tunes.


Gracias

I’m finally home. And while I sit and figure out what to do with life next, i thought i’d first send across my love and gratitude to the people who’ve come my way during the last one year. People who made me feel at home at every step of the way. Sisters and Brothers across South America, i love you and i can’t thank you enough for the food, the homes, the music, the love, the warmth, the humility, the magical ceremonies, the new tattoos… Whenever you come to my country, you will always have a home, a tour guide, and a funky new chef.

So starting with Rio de Janeiro, Ilha Grande, Paraty, Sao Paolo in Brazil, to Santa Cruz & La Paz in Bolivia, to Puno, The Sacred Valley, Cuzco, Ica, San Jose, Lima, Huaraz, Mancora, Tarapoto, San Antonio, Piura, Arequipa, Iquitos and San Roque in Peru, to Monta in Ecuador, and finally Medellin and Bogota in Colombia, I’d like to thank every soul i met and spent time with.

I’d take names but that would be way too long and unfair on the people whose names have slipped my mind at this particular moment. You already know about my memory blanks.

This is what my bro Rajat made to commemorate this entire chapter of my life. There’ll probably be some stickers out soon.

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#johnnybinsouthamerica   

Gracias South America. Gracias para todo.

If you’ve liked my posts, show me love with hugs and/or donations over at johnnybizzle.bandcamp.com; also pick up free tunes while you’re there.


Yungay Ruins

In the heart of the Cordillera Blanca (White Range) and the Cordillera Negra (Black Range) in the Andes is the quaint little town of Yungay (yoongaai), peaceful and quietly sat at around 2500 m above sea level, in Ancash province. It never used to be so quiet, till 3:23 pm on Sunday, 31 May 1970.

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That was the day an undersea earthquake with it’s epicenter in the Pacific Ocean triggered a landslide in Yungay. Now the Peruvians take their Sundays very seriously. The whole town is out, singing, dancing, drinking chicha (corn toddy), playing in the parks, barbecuing their meats to share with everybody. But on this certain Sunday, Mother Nature decided to play partypooper. Or maybe she just wanted to have her own big blast.

The landslide from the towering Huascaran mountain (6800 m), hit them at speeds ranging from 300 km/h to 800 km/h. That’s as fast as a boeing jet does. There were around sixty-five to seventy thousand people in town that day. And they were subjected to 80 million cubic meters of freezing water, mud, and rocks bigger than homes, hurtling at them at speeds faster than you can blink.

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Above: Many massive boulders still remain where they eventually came to rest after the devastation.

Anything in sight was demolished by the landslide. Below is an aerial view of the aftermath. That glacier is about four thousand feet wide at the widest, and this pic is still when it was only halfway through it’s ride.

The only survivors that day were a bunch of kids who’d gone to a fair the same Sunday, and another bunch of kids who were at the stadium, which happened to be at an elevation this landslide could not touch. Of course, when they got back home, some of them died of shock and heartache, or the resulting starvation killed them.

Here are some of the images of the five storey cemetery that now holds the remains of the 70000 that perished.

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^pic courtesy Parchis

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Above: This lucky baby beat the earthquake by almost two months.

Below: One of the survivors, 45 years later.

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Below: This used to be a bus, and two cars, until boulders coming in as fast as comets changed them.

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Mount Huascaran, where the landslide originated, despite being 15 km east of Yungay, managed to wipe out the whole town in 45 seconds.

You know what i did after? I went to the next town and had four ice creams – wine, beer, passionfruit and lemon flavours.

Our man Heysoos just hung around when all that was going down, by the way. 33

If you’ve liked my posts, show me love with hugs and/or donations over at johnnybizzle.bandcamp.com; also pick up free tunes while you’re there.


Huaraz, Heaven

We were at Huaraz, a town located between two ranges of mountains along the Andes (Cordillera Blanca & Cordillera Negra), and everyone’s hiking was being tested. I had already survived Llanganuco and Pastoruri, where i faced the first ever snowstorm of my life. The third and final one was Lake Churup, at nearly 5000m above sea level.

Here’s a few images from the Llanganuco valley, a place that’s breathtakingly gorgeous, even for a cynic like me.

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And here’s a few more from the glacier Pastoruri, where i was fortunate (?) enough to brave a snowstorm for a few minutes. I loved it.

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Our destination in the distance.

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Glorious, glorious valleys.

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Shaggadelic in my way. Check out the dreadlocks on the guy, thick as my wrist.

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That way to the glacier.

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Those were the easy treks. Now back to Lake Churup.

Now this is around the time my final wisdom tooth is popping out of my lower jaw, on the right side. As much as i’m used to the pain, it still hurts like a bitch every time. There’s five of us that undertake this trek, and we don’t need the help of any guide or expert. Parchis was in tears not even halfway up the climb, and only Bob Marley tunes could encourage her to keep walking. Now why they all say you need an expert for this trek, is because halfway up the 4800m peak, there’s a 40m straight face of the cliff, that you have to climb at 90 degrees. A straight face of a mountain. Imagine scaling up an apartment like spiderman. There are vines that you can hang on to, to help hike yourself up. And there are trees and shrubs you can use too. But if your hand slips, your bouncing down a rock face. Dead.

There was a point i almost said ‘fuck this, I’m going home’. But i was guiding two women, cos the other two guys had gone way up ahead. So i couldn’t chicken out. No way. So yeah, i climbed that rock face with my balls in my mouth, along with the brutal motherfucker wisdom tooth. Looking down was NOT an option because i recently discovered i have vertigo.

But eventually we made it, got to the top, and enjoyed the view that was Lake Churup. A mesmerizing water body so high up in the world from the rest of civilization. Once the necessary pics were taken, we climbed the way back down. And for all those who think the way up is hard, the way down is a ball-buster.

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Overlooking the rest of the town by now, but we’re only halfway up. Not even halfway up, actually.

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I’d bottle that water for all of you to taste. I would.

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2nd from left is Andrew. There’s a reason i’m introducing him to you. Also on the extreme left is an Israeli man who learned yoga in my hometown Poona.

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A good look of our summit.

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It’s raining all over town but up here we’re dry.

Now here’s what happened after we finally got back home, some 6 hours after we undertook this adventure. We noticed Andrew, the 24 year old Swiss boy limp a little bit. Asked him if he was ok, and that’s when he said he was born paralysed on the left side.

Just in case you were looking for inspiration in life…

There was a point during this climb, when i took a mis-step. Suddenly I’m lying on my back on a a 45 degree rock face, slipping inch-by-inch downwards. On my immediate left is a drop, about 800 meters. About five feet to my right, is a vine i can grab, but i must jump. If my hand slips the hold on the vine, free fall. I spent about 7 minutes on that surface, and almost called out to mom.

Eventually i made it out, to do what?

To update this blog, that’s what.

If you’ve liked my posts, show me love with hugs and/or donations over at johnnybizzle.bandcamp.com; also pick up free tunes while you’re there.


Photog, Bro

I got my first photoshoot assignment over a month ago. Like, i actually got paid to click someone. I almost laughed when they said they’d pay me for it. Till i saw the money and thought ‘oh ok, this is for real’. 

Fair bit of VIP treatment too. I got picked up in a swanky SUV and taken into some isolated parts outside Tarapoto for this. I’ve already told you about Percy in some older posts. He’s one helluva talented guitarist and he’s got some upcoming gigs back in Tarapoto. So this 19 year old wanted to get some shots done, you know, portfolio style. He wanted it to look ‘metal‘. Long hair, leather jacket, etc. I had already done a bunch of shots for the band earlier, all pro-bono. This time around, he was kind enough to pay for it. Contrary to popular belief, musicians with money do exist in some corners of the world. Told him to drop the leather jacket, since it was 40 degrees C.

So here are some of the shots from that day. If you need a photog to fool people and make you all sexy and cool, you know whom to call.

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My ride.

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‘You think i should leave the shirt open, or…’

‘NO.’

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When he first suggested a shoot in the middle of the highway, i wasn’t very enthusiastic about it at the beginning. Getting run over in South America was not on the bucket list. But he did find a great spot.

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He even got a change of clothes, that’s when i realized this was a serious job.

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Then the shoot changed location to an old dump yard. Of course, we were being driven around by his dad, and an assistant who carried his guitars and clothes.

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At one point, Percy spotted a massive rottweiler and dropped everything he had and ran.

Very metal.

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And here below, i present, THE BAND.

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I miss these two. I miss being the drummer.

If you’ve liked my posts, show me love with hugs and/or donations over at johnnybizzle.bandcamp.com; also pick up free tunes while you’re there.