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Mike's Around-The-World Trip Update #24 - 2.14.2006
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"hey man, it's this ridiculous altitude."

"really?" i questioned back. "wow, i think you are right."

tripping over my own feet in villazon, bolivia and wandering around with strange thoughts. and dreaming like a maniac on crack. explained by some mysterious voice.

was that ben affleck on the t.v.? maybe i will feel better in the morning.

i did. then i got on a train and went higher. why are those kids throwing rocks at us? this is my first train in south america. my god, the entire town is here at the train station, the girls dressed up in their best clothes, walking up and down the windows staring in at us. this must be the biggest social event in town - it happens twice a week. those are some crazy hats the women are wearing. is that a baby wrapped in a blanket around her back?

a day later i was bouncing along on a lake of salt in a four-wheel drive, chatting with tatyana and lisa from germany, memeth from switzerland, paul from new zealand, and jan from the netherlands. at one point memeth asked the driver to pull over so he could take a shit. we respectfully waited on the non-shitting side of the van while memeth did his business. i couldn't help it though and took a look around the gray toyota van as he squatted plainly visible on the world's highest and largest salt flat.

he left behind a giant pile. he handed me his camera and i took a picture of him with it. fun times on the salt. we stayed in a hotel made of salt. we threw the aerobie, trying not to fall onto the razor sharp surface.

"what is wrong with me though?" i wondered as i lay half-dead in the truck while everyone else explored.

"it's me," said the altitude.

"leave me alone," i pleaded.

"ok, but i'm going to get your sister in cuzco, peru. and i'm going to talk to a sidewalk i know in la paz, going to tell him to eat something of yours."

"what in hell does that mean? and why are you such an ass?"

he left though. didn't hear that. i looked over at a geyser, spewing foul air into the gray sky. jan puked but i held strong. i saw a lake colored red, green, blue, white, and yellow. wow, that's amazing.

don't ride the bus from uyuni, bolivia to la paz. i would avoid it if i were you. you have always been smarter than me, so i don't expect you to get on that horrible smelling red bus with the broken seats hauling the poorest bolivians over a bell-shaped dirt road, swaying like an airplane, meowing with boxes of kittens, hosting an air ripe with the stench of theft and unease. don't ride, oh smart one.

"that smells like....mustard?" i thought as i was hit with mustard in la paz, bolivia. i was waiting to ride a mountain bike down the death road, but that was about to be canceled.

that bastard altitude did indeed talk with his pal the sidewalk - his little surprise for me was telling his friend to swallow my backpack. he ate the whole thing while the mustard flew. damn. dobja, sister, i am afraid for you in cuzco, peru.

screw this: i'm going home. no, first to the embassy to get my fifth passport. i am going to sing megadeth songs while i wipe the mustard off me. i don't know why. yes i do. it's the inspiration of the shirt.

MEGADETH RULES!!!!! here i come! homeward bound humming "symphony of destruction."

no. that doesn't even make sense. no way that the bowels of that sidewalk reach to the united states. my backpack isn't there. why go home? gotta meet sis in cuzco for christmas, new year's. not going home.

screw this: i'm going to copacabana, bolivia. to the isla del sol, the island of the sun.

tommi was waiting for me. he was taking a picture of a llama when i said "hello." we traveled together until cali, colombia after that.

tommi didn't see the tears in my eyes as the clouds cleared and machu picchu came into view, from high on the sun gate. we were there together, chewing coca leaves and laughing. talking about women a lot.

i didn't discover the sacred university of the incas, machu picchu, but i found something else in cuzco: riding motorcycles. didn't know how to ride one when tommi and i were climbing onto them for a tour of the sacred valley of cuzco - a mountainous area loaded with incan ruins - but i learned quickly.

it's like all i think about now. that, and who is going to ride on the back of the bike i purchase in the united states.

who is she? have i met her? ahh, i'll think about that later. tommi and i have a bus to catch.

up the coast, to lima, to trujillo, to mancora. great white russians in mancora. tommi softened the blow of body boarding with a few of those.

wait, back to christmas. dobja was there with me - and so was the altitude....

"i went easy on her."

"no way," i said back to the altitude. "i thought i was going to have to push her around in a wheelchair. and by the way, fuck you for the sidewalk in la paz."

"i am huge," said altitude with a smirk.

he is too. bolivia is so high. peru too. altitude is a big, big dude, in bolivia, 5000 meters, or 16,500 feet in places. i was balancing precariously on altitude's head when i almost puked. jan did, remember? how do people live with a big asshole like that always around?

he makes you feel like dying. i was playing guitar for 160 people in a 450 year old mansion, the loki hostel, in cuzco on christmas day while dobja was suffering from his powerful embrace. i sang wonderwall, and so did the 160 people i was playing for. merry christmas.

"so this is christmas, and what have you done?"

"good question, john. shall i tell you more about it?" i asked. "huh? yeah, that's tommi. ok, no problem."

i never refuse the requests of rock legends so let me describe my traveling partner. the women love tommi in peru. he is from finland. he is a hundred feet tall, has blonde hair, and once fell over while cross country skiing in finland during his army duty. he had a 16 kilo missle on his back.

ok, so what did i do with this weapon-wielding clutz?

we crossed from peru to ecuador and the following shit happened:

cuenca, ecuador - we meet denise and erica from buenos aires and that's all i can remember. i refuse to talk about the rest. not even the friendly people, or beautiful churches and colonial buildings. why do they use the u.s. dollar there? i saw a dime for the first time in two years. i cried i think. or it was the rip in my contacts, the cheap ones i bought in lima, which is nicer than they say, but they still can't sell you a decent contact. i'm getting laser surgery in colombia like karen did, the half-jamaican, half-english vegetarian i would later meet in cali.

but we are not there yet. let's go to the capital of ecuador.

ok. quito. the secret garden hostel was amazing. we went mountain biking down a really cold mountain. we ate the best food i'd had since argentine steaks. we straddled the equator.

then we went to colombia. we were on the streets of cali when some swedish guy asked me if i had read the u.s. travel page, warning me - specifically me - not to be where i was standing. i ignored that. colombia is fine. actually really quite nice. i felt safe there. no gringos in colombia. a few at the hostel and that's it - and those are cool, those people. this one guy lived in iraq and took pictures of scary, crazy things. his hotel blew up while he was in it. his girlfriend was an assassin, until someone crushed her skull, which ended their realtionship.

what else? i danced a lot of salsa with julie, a colombian girl. i bought her some clothes between dances. one day i walked into a clinic and got a yellow fever shot. just for the hell of it. no, i needed it because of a trip-prolonging decision i had made.

i decided to come here. brasil. for a month. the rolling stones are playing here on saturday at copacabana beach. for free. then U2 is playing in sao paulo. got tickets for that show. carnaval is happening, some big party i guess. going to do all that with nicole, a brasilian woman i met in buenos aires last october. she's cool.

i wish i was.

keep on keepin' on,

p.s. photos will help you understand me: photos of all these places.

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