Locked in My House on the Way to Machu Picchu

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Doors in America can be locked and unlocked from either side. This is handy in the case of locking someone inside, needing to get out in the case of a fire, or because having locks any other way simply wouldn’t make sense. Any other method of padlocking from one side, or locking and not being able to unlock even when inside, would not only be a safety hazard, it flat-out wouldn’t make sense.

In much of Peru, as well as in many other crazy countries, doors can only be locked from one side. This is precisely how I got locked in the place where I was petsitting while on my way to Machu Picchu.

I was actually locked in the yard and not the house, but climbing a tree, then a shed, and then a high stone wall with my camera gear seemed like a bad idea. I had to give my keys up since a local friend was picking up the owner of the house, and I was going to be off in Machu Picchu land by the time she got back. But it was a Sunday, and no one was supposed to be around to disrupt that not-so-simple door. But alas, the local farmer decided to uncharacteristically visit on a Sunday and accidentally lock me in. After about 4 hours of waiting, Skype calls, and efforts to plan a trip I had not planned on taking, I reached my friend Nancy and was rescued. It was an inauspicious start to my trip to Machu Picchu, but to be fair, I hadn’t planned any trip at all. 

To say I don’t like tourist attractions, museums, and common sites is fairly obvious. But when you live an hour away from one of the most well-known sights in the world, and you have insider advice from locals, people–including locals–getting rather annoyed at you for not going, well, maybe you better just go. I had one day to make it happen, and that was Monday. I didn’t really feel I HAD to see Machu Picchu, and therefore hadn’t planned. I had no tickets for the train, bus, mountain, site, hostel, nuthin’. 

At 4:30, Nancy and her friends felt so bad about me being locked in that they ended up driving me to Ollantaytambo, the starting town for all things ruins, for a nice dinner. There were no train tickets left, so I got one for early in the morning and got a hostel. At 4:30 the next morning, I woke up, walked to the train depot, met my Canadian seat mates, and sat back to enjoy the most expensive train ride of my life. It involved a dancing clown, a fashion show, Inka Cola, and beautiful views somewhat marred by the poorly designed neon lighting inside the train. I would have loved to hike in the jungle, but alas–there was simply no time, as my flight to Lima was the very next morning. I ran to get my bus ticket, and then my Machu Picchu + Machu Picchu Mountain hiking ticket, and then back to the bus to take an awesome sidewinding ride up to the site. It was time to start!

From one anti-tourist traveler to all other one reader seeing this post, I can definitely say that walking up and looking down on Machu Picchu was beautiful indeed. Unlike Madonna, in person it looked exactly how it does in every photo. There were clouds hovering across the way on Huayna Picchu (also called Wayna Picchu), very few people on the site itself, green everywhere, and threatening clouds surrounding this tiny ruined town on a mountain. But there was little time to spend there, as I’d gotten a ticket to hike Machu Pichu Mountain/Montana. While most people stay on the ground site, or do a trek up to the ground site, or hike Huayna Picchu (the peak in the clouds that’s the background of every Machu Picchu photo ever), my local friend Saito had recommended the lesser-known Machu Picchu mountain. It’s also twice as tall (starting from Machu Picchu) as Huayna Picchu. Here’s what the peak looked like after I’d already been hiking a while.

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Hiking was beautiful but tough. Yes, the air is certainly thinner, and yes, there were a fair number of hikers. Most were from South America, several hadn’t brought water (I shared), and many thought I was crazy to be hiking “alone.” But I loved stopping when I wanted to take photos! We were all huffing and puffing, but the constantly evolving scenery was fascinating. It went through mountain moss fog zones, temperate rainforest, deciduous forest patches, greenery, spiderwebs, rocky bends, and more. Part of the hike had stone steps that, if you fell off (which I nearly did when I slipped in the rain while coming down the mountain), you just might die while falling down the whole mountain. It was awesome.

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Eventually I made it to the top, and ate a few snacks while taking photos along with everyone else who was up there. The 360 views and feelings of superiority weren’t too shabby.

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After coming down, I had a lot of time to explore the site. I actually wrapped around and walked through it nearly 3 times, especially because it started to drizzle and scared many people off. Water. Seriously, folks. I didn’t mind getting Machu Picchu shots with practically nobody in them. The mountains reminded me of China if I’d ever been to China, and the views, chinchillas, and steep drops were pretty awesome. It ended up being a perfect day. I even caught some obligatory selfies! I caught my bus, got a snack, hopped on my train, and took a 50-cent ride back to my town. A few hours of sleep, a ride to the airport where my money was used to bribe our way out of a police stop, a flight, a sketchy hotel, a 3-day bus trip, an illness, and a border crossing later, and I was in Chile. But that’s for next time. 

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Dogs of Peru, Etc: Humans of New York for Pups

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In the spirit of the wildly popular Humans of New York, commonly known as HONY, I’ve assembled a similar mix for the millions of dogs who want to inspire others or make it big in Hollywood: Dogs of Peru (Etc.), commonly known nowhere as DOPE. Where better to start than right where I lived as of earlier this year: Peru? For all of the hundreds of dog-on-the-street interviews I did, I asked each dog a question–though they had the option to make a statement of their choosing. The puppy above didn’t feel comfortable commenting in English, but the others were all trilingual. Here’s what they had to say.



 

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Kathryn: “What’s your opinion on the presidential candidates? Do you think there will be any last-minute twist due to someone’s skeletons in the closet–or perhaps there will be a change once the vice president running mates are announced?”

Dog: “I gotta take a dump.”


 

 

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Kathryn: “Wow, you’re cute! I pretty much never say this, but your eyes are…like…kinda dreamy.”

Dog: “Is that a question? Because I’m pretty sure it’s not professional to flirt with your interviewee.”


 

 

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Kathryn: “I’m sorry, but I’ve gotta rehash this: If Trump is elected as the Republican representative, does Bernie or Hilary have a better chance?”

Dog: “Yawn. My vote doesn’t even matter, let alone my opinion. Time to whiz again.”


 

 

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Kathryn: “In this self-obsessed era, it seems that people have forgotten many virtues: Generosity, considering differing viewpoints, pausing before saying potentially harmful words, avoiding stereotyping…how can we get to a better place?

Dog: “Is my breath okay? For the interview. I want it to be good for when the interview lady gets here.”


 

 

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Kathryn: “Look at you, you adorable little nugget!”

Dog: “In dog years I’m way older than you, sweetie. Cut the baby talk.”

Kathryn: “Geesh, someone was born on the wrong side of bed this morning.”


 

 

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Kathryn: “What’s your world philosophy?”

Dog: “Why does everyone think we’re obsessed with all things poop?”

Kathryn: “Wait, is that your world philosophy or were you ju–”

Dog: “Ummmm do you have one of those plastic bags to pick up…my…?”

Kathryn: “Pick up what?”

Dog: “I just…the spot looked nice to mark, and so I…OH COME ON, DON’T MAKE ME SAY IT!”

 


 

 

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Kathryn: “You’re very needy. You’re supposed to be smart, but you can’t even control your own eating and exercise habits. Cats can. What do you have to say for your species?”

Dog: “I feel that slurping while licking my body makes for attractive sound effects.”


 

 

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Kathryn: “Should paternity leave be equal to the time off that mothers get? And shouldn’t we keep fighting for longer leave for mothers in the first place?”

Dog: “Look, it seems obvious tha–CUY!”


 

 

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Kathryn: “Do you think that beliefs in topics such as religion and politics aren’t inherently bad? That, for example, they only become dangerous once people or groups try to force their agendas on others?”

Dog: “Observing the Sabbath with joy is all I am doing.”


 

 

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Kathryn: “I was told you wanted to make a statement?”

Dog: “It was 1941, and my brother and I were just enjoying a lazy Sunday. We–“

Kathryn: “Sorry, but aren’t y–“

Dog: “–were doing the dishes when the door just caved in and smoke, yelling, and sirens filled the house. I couldn’t…I couldn’t see anything. I barked but ran in circles–I didn’t even know where I was. It could have been minutes or an hour… (pauses, takes a lick) When silence set upon us, I peeked out and found him across the room. My brother. He was still alive. His eyes welled up when he saw me, but I couldn’t tell if he was crying or just needed to take a dump in the yard. I’m sorry, I (sobs), I’m done. No more questions.


 

 

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Kathryn: “You just peed three times in the last mile, dude!”

Dog: “Instead of worrying about petty things, did it ever strike you to consider the fragility of the nuclear deal with Iran that everyone seems to have forgotten due to these clowns running for president? Don’t even get me started on what Putin has up his sleeve–that country has been stockpiling uranium for decades, and we don’t even know all the details. Then people concentrate so much on North Korea that they ignore the warning signs of Syria and the Assad regime. Meanwhile, we can’t logically deal with gun control on our own turf, so do we have the track record to poke our noses in other countries’ business? Don’t get me started, son.”

Kathryn: “Wanna play fetch?”

 



 

Travel Stories with Predictable Punchlines: Peru Edition

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To celebrate my first full week of being in Peru (I’m petsitting in an awesome area called Urubamba, about 75 minutes from Machu Picchu), I decided to put together some travel stories with the most predictable outcomes ever. These are all completely real, and all brought to you by this lovely country where they speak a language I do not. Well heck, it sure beats Blizzard Jonas, eh?

My view after hiking my local mountain

My view after hiking my local mountain

Travel Story #1

I was making a sandwich to take on my hike this morning. Because I’m in Peru, nothing is standard. Most notably, the [unrefrigerated and unwrapped when purchased–already a sign of things to come] cheese is blocks of eggshell-colored stuff that has very little taste or texture until grilled or fried. The huge block I bought yesterday was touched far too much by the vendor, then placed directly in a bag. It should come as no surprise, then, when I started cutting slicing into my pan and noticed a hair. Slightly disgusted but not all that shocked, I took it off and decided to go with my other block of cheese in the meantime. I took edible attempt #2 out of the fridge and started slicing.

It also had a hair.

Travel Story #2

Oh, that wasn’t the end of Travel Story #1, you fool. I then made the sandwich and tried to put the cheese ordeal out of my mind by switching to a sweet snack—these delightful popped cereals sold in bags on the street. But this one was different: my neighbor had given me this new type in a nice, fresh, Ziploc bag. I’d eaten 3/4 of the bag in a day because it was so tasty and new. Out with the cheese, in with the crunchy Peruvian street cereal!

The piece of cereal I reached for had dental floss baked into it.

Travel Story #3

Aren’t sheep cool? There are two here at the house. They’re so big, soft, and cuddly.

One of the sheep head-butted a dog, smack-on (and I laughed my head off after running away like a scaredy cat when it started to fluff stampede after me). This was payback to dogs all around the world, perhaps, for earlier in the week when I came home to find the pooch I was watching had ripped through all my bags of precious homemade snacks from America. But then the cat should have had something done, too, because she gifted me a huge dead rat in the bedroom. Isn’t that why I left the city?

 

Travel Story #4

I was speaking to one of my landlords when I heard a thump and saw something out of the corner of my eye. It was a bird! Not just any bird, but my favorite: a hummingbird! It was stomach-side-up and barely moving, and was about to be eaten by the cat for sure. I didn’t know what else to do but pick it up. It was beautiful, and emerald green, and very on the brink of life or death, if I can get way too dramatic. I held it in my hand and kind of petted it. Then, taking it into my kitchen, I got a big spoon and filled it with sugar water. Amazingly, the hummingbird started sipping with its cute little tongue! Within just a few minutes, it had definitely gotten stronger, and after some more feeding and petting, it flew off! What an awesome experience.

I’m a hero.

The incredible hummingbird, up close

The incredible hummingbird, up close

Travel Story #5

The internet worked here for 1 day. The next day there was an 8-hour power outage, followed by a there-will-never-again-be-internet outage. I was “stealing” the landlord’s in order to do work and waste time on Facebook. No one could figure out why the internet just disappeared, so two days ago, out of curiosity (and with permission), I decided to follow the cord that went from my house to the master modem. I followed it out of my room, onto the porch, through the yard, and into my neighbor’s living room. It ended just hanging in a corner, attached to nothing at all. I told the landlords this was most likely definitely are you nuts? the problem.

No, that’s not the problem,” they said. “The owner of your house only uses wireless, so we unplugged the wire.” (Update: They got someone to come over, rip it out of that house, re-string it, and plug it into the modem in their house, and thus I now have internet.)

 

Travel Story #6

One of my neighbors here is an older Peruvian gentlemen who is obviously intelligent and speaks English perfectly. He is into the outdoors, having mysterious client meeting, and possibly voiceover work and/or torturing kittens. Seriously, he has a most booming voice.

Anyhow, the other night he stopped by my porch and said, “Kathryn, have you ever tried plant medicine?” Now I don’t know about you, but my mind went directly to Herbalife or a similar pyramid schemed. Seriously, I had to work this spring with a bunch of reps from that company, and the brainwashing was very, very noticeable. If you’re a member, just unfriend me now, I beg you. Anyhow, this dapper Peruvian went on to tell me that it’s actually a hallucinogenic drug from the Peruvian mountains—except he refused to use that simple descriptor and instead kept using words like “mind-altering” and “conscious-awakening” and “safe and regulated medicine.” It’s a drug, dude. “Google it and let’s talk tomorrow. I think it’s a sign from above that you’re awake! I’d be delighted if you joined me.” Anyhow, I looked it up. It involves a Peruvian cactus, a shaman, and all that goodness. The effects last 12-14 hours. If you know me, you know I’m just not into these sorts of things. I’d much rather stay home and do heroin. But it would be neat to document this Peruvian ceremony, no?

Kathryn, let’s talk this morning—you’ve had a chance to read up on the plant medicine?” He asked eagerly the next day. I said I’d chat with him.

Is it true the effects last 12-14 hours?” I asked him. “Oh, well, that depends on how much you drink. But this won’t be like that. I plan to be there only from 3pm until midnight, so you could bring your camera and a book or something.”

I mulled it over but decided that with 4 deadlines in the next few days, I just couldn’t afford 9 hours of watching people do…that. I thanked him anyway and he left at 2:47pm yesterday, on Saturday.


At the time of me publishing this, at 8:39pm on Sunday, January 24, 2016, he still has not returned home.

 

Travel Story #7

Today I went to the famous terraced salt pans called Selinas de Maras. I left early to avoid the hot afternoon sun, and wore pants, boots, a hat, a sunproof long-sleeve shirt, and lots of suncream on my face. I was really careful the whole day to re-apply, and felt that despite being quite hot, I wasn’t going to have sunburned arms, legs, or facial features. Here’s to being responsible and covering up!

My hands got very burned, and I now have my normal pale exterior and lobster claws.

The Selinas de Maras. I was the first there and arrived from the non-touristy end (or less touristy), so it was great having the whole place to myself! Just for size, those little huts down there can fit about 6 people. These salt pans go on for quite a while.

The Selinas de Maras. I was the first there and arrived from the non-touristy end (or less touristy), so it was great having the whole place to myself! Just for size, those little huts down there can fit about 6 people. These salt pans go on for quite a while.

Until next week’s installment, which will interest Humans of New York fans, stay warm!