The gates open at 6am, it’s still dark, roosters crowing, vendors getting ready for the day, mist rolls off the river behind, and it’s cold, in that humid, deep in the bones cold. You make your way through a series of gardens and pools, being careful not to fall in, and in the first pink tint of dawn, unveiling itself of the river mist, sitting surreally elevated, as if it were floating in your mind. Shoes off, climb the marble steps, and you and your buddy Joe are the first inside the Taj Mahal, it’s December 1988, in a different century, a different world. Joe has brought his flute from home, we give the guard a few Rupees, and the Taj is transformed into an echo chamber, the notes spiraling around the engravings and inlaid gemstones. A cat starts meowing along, and you realize it’s a one-per-lifetime experience, there on the banks of the river in Agra, inside the Most Beautiful Building in the World. I’ll never forget it.
Wherever you go in the world, there are these guys, standing in front of doorways. During waking hours, they are usually standing, with maybe a prominent length of bamboo, good for crowd dispersal, or maybe a big fat hunting knife, on display on the little table in front of the “post”. These are the knives available for $8.99 at truck stops everywhere, lots of shiny parts, blade guards, maybe a fake button on the side. In the evenings, if the climate is warm, a small place to lie down, while watching, will be created. In India, it’s a simple wooden frame with rope strung across, the ubiquitous charpoy. I love night shots of these guys, as long as they don’t mind, the streetlights, and fluorescents make for interesting effects, and the nighttime adds more mystery to whatever it is that these guys are doing. It’s probably a powerful world-wide union, and we may never know their secrets, but they are generally friendly, will answer questions, (even the ones with the guns), and help you on your way, AWAY from their doorway. Last winter, with my friend Sam in Colombia, we were forced to go on a cigarette hunt (for Sam) at about 3 in the morning, quite near our hostal. Everything for blocks and blocks around was shut tight, but 2 guys with short shotguns walked with us to a corner, to point out where they thought there might be a store open. Sam even asked if it would be possible to shoot one of the shotguns. I explained the degree of sam’s inebriation, and we headed in the direction of the tienda, which of course, was closed. Heres to the guys who stand in front of doorways, world-wide.
Looks nice, but it was one of those situations where you realize you’re in the wrong spot, at the wrong time. Coming down the mountainside from a village festival, The White Rasta and I found ourselves in one of the high neighborhoods that ring Cuzco, Peru. A security guy, some tienda people, and various others told us to basically get the fuck out of the neighborhood, it was very dangerous at this time of night. We got down to the closest store, the Senora hid us inside, until a taxi wandered by. She wrote down the plate number of the taxi as we left. Hmmm, sometimes things are not as they seem. Lesson learned.
Getting ready for a big evening out, the “Noche de Muertos” in Cuzco, Peru, young (9 yrs old) vampire Raquel enjoys the evening, the only night of the year she can dress normally, and not raise the eyebrows of her friends and neighbors. Raquel participates in style competitions, and loves fruit pizza, with sweet condensed milk poured over the top. A devotee of Michael Jackson, she practices dance steps in her room, away from the scorching sun of the High Andes, in Cuzco Peru.
In the endless search for a cold beer, many times one encounters what seems to be a cooler, but they are rarely plugged in, instead serving as a nice glass-fronted display case. Only the foreigners care if the beer is cold, so why bother? In a hillside neighborhood in Cuzco. on a very warm afternoon, a beer was necessary. Finding a mom and pop tienda with an ice cream freezer, good sign, one can purchase one’s warm beers from the glass-front, cooler-like display case, and put them into the ice cream case, then buy a bag of salty chips, and watch the world out the door of the tienda, while the beer reaches drinkable temperature. This worked in Peru, but not in Bolivia, where they didn’t even plug in the ice cream freezers.
Ursus Americanus, the Black Bear, giving his opinion of tourism, and people in general. This was last week, about 10 feet from my little tourbus. People actually ask questions like “Is that a WILD bear?” Yes, it is a wild bear, eating dandelions, posing for photos, along the Klondike Highway, about 12 miles (18km) north of my humble home. He never comes over.
Nice view of the Sacred Valley, from the ancient sitio de Pisac, near Cuzco, Peru.
Hard to describe these places, there is a palpable energy, without a doubt. Came here on the
little bus, had a couple of empanadas, una chela fria, and this was the reward at the top of the mountain.
Peru, outside of Cuzco