the long road home

This was my original itinerary:

This is what I ended up doing:

Here are the stats:

hours of travel:

bus: 275 hours
train: 63 hours
hitchhiking: 32 hours
boat: 8 hours
plane: 1 hour (+ 21 hours to and from lima)

total: 400 hours

total kilometres:

19 290 kilometres

countries visited:

Peru, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil.

diseases contracted:

1: strange skin eruption. possibly dengue.

number of freak accidents:

1. Carmen de Patagones, stupidly walking through low tide while playing accordeon
2. Buenos Aires, stupidly waltzing on flat surface.
3. Isla del Sol, stupidly slipping on gravel surface, but miraculosly unscathed.

No young marginalized white chicks were harmed during this trip.

Involuntarily, at least.

(Buenos Aires, I'm looking at you.)

Many bottles of beer, however, lost their contents.

I'm back in Montreal now after two weeks and it's hard. It's really hard. But, in keeping with the joyous, uplifting spirit of this blog, I would rather not talk about the hell that was Atlanta, or getting Tiago on the plane. Let's keep it happy.

My bag is officially dead - the zippers are busted, the ties are gone, and I found the contents exploded all over the plastic bag that it was held in when I went to retreive it on the belt at PET. I'm sad, but el Monstro lasted 12 years, which is an honorable lapse of time for a backpack. Although I'm not retiring him completely, he has indeed made his last long scale trip, but for short periods and small loads he should handle it fine.

Bookmark this blog, and check back in the fall, for the new installment of the adventures of a girl and her (new and improved) backpack.

Thanks for reading.


jungle fever - the shaman and la madre

we left lima last saturday direction tingo maria, after one of my "brilliant" last minute ideas about going onto yurimaguas instead of iquitos, thinking we could get there from tingo maria. turns out that while tingo maria is really beautful, in the high jungle in the cordillera azul, the roads out of there are terrible and to get to yurimaguas you need to take a taxi to toroche (35 soles) and then a 4 x 4 to tarapoto (25 soles) and then a micro to yurimaguas. um, no.
so we hopped on a bus for pucallpa and upon arriving tried to figure out how to get to iquitos, do we boat it (3 days), oops no boats leaving today, or do we fly it (45 minutes), shit we missed the plane. we wandered back out to town figuring we´d sleep on it when we met a basque who told us about a community he knew some 5 hours by boat where he´d been before. we figured well why the hell not? so the next morning at 8 am we hopped on a crowded boat down the ucayali river towards massisea.

the shipibo who live in the jungle seem more southeast asian than peruvian, they look filipino or indonesian, with fine, graceful features and beautiful smiles. they are a bueatiful people, living with their traditions, without electricity or running water, living off of exchanges and sharing the wealth with the community.

we were not to stay in massisea, though, and walked the 3 kilometres separating massisea from the small community of nuevo ceylan further down the river. when we got to the last bend some 10 children came running out towards us, all sñiles, hola, hola! and led us down the dirt path towards the house of the shaman.

he was not there, though, but his wife was, and she fed us a delightful plate of spaghetti, rice, plantain and chicken, with the most delicious glass of lemonade my taste buds have ever experienced.

teo arrived and greeted us all warmly, with a kind smile, ustedes son muy especiales para mi, como mi niños, and told us we would go see la madre ayahuasca the following day, eat a bit, and then do our first ceremony, relax the next day, do another ceremony on thursday and on friday we would leave.


we walked around the village greeting the locals, children following us and running around, playing with tiago, beautiful smiles and ragged clothes leading the way down a muddy path lined with papaya trees and plantain, all the way to the chocolate coloured river.

we slept in the adjoining room in teo´s house, before going to sleep drinking coca and yerba maté, exchanging our stories.. a 20 year old american boy named riley was there with us an ex intravenous heroin and cocaine user now afflicted with hepatits c, he had been there for 2 months on a cleanse, he told us his story and i felt bad for this young boy with so many demons.

the next morning we woke up and drank our "medecine" before trekking some 12 kilometres to see la madre, a vine about 15 metres high that grows from the ground to the sky, an impressive tressed bark that seemed hundreds of years old, the energy emanating from this plant was amazing. we sat in the clearing for an hour or so, butterflies swirling all around us, coming to rest on our bodies, fluttering off to explore another body, probably thinking we were some sort of malformed flower.

the night arrived and we prepared ourselves for the ceremony, drinking this brick red karkadet tasting liquid - the minute i drank it i could feel it rushing troughmy body, shivering, wrapping myself in blankets to warm myself up. i sat there listening to the sounds of the jungle (at night it really comes alive out there) and thechants of the shipibo who were assisting in the ceremony, trying to concentrate on the plant working inside me.. but nothing. no visions. just the impression that i was covered in filth, scraping a my arms and my face trying to clean myself.

i took the huasca three times over two ceremonies and always the same - sleepy, filthy, sad.

after 5 days spent in the jungle living peacefully with this jungle tribe, teo lent us his boat and we sped back towards pucallpa where we met... a phenomenon. a fabulous maricon, a drag queen not in drag, with the most obvious cocaine addiction i ve seen in a long time, who dragged us from bar to bar begging us to dance with him, us laughing at this force of nature before us.

i jumped on a plane back to lima where i ve been for 2 days, hanging out with my juggler friends and fighting with the artisan who lives in the dorm i m sleeping in ' the asshole was feeding my dog HALF A BURGER this morning wen i woke up and couldnt understand why i was mad. i dont want strangers feeding my dog, even less human food, case then he learns to beg and wont eat his food, and the asshole started insulting me, assuming things about me, and as i was packing my bag all i could say was, dude you dont know me, so what you think means nothing, because you ae a judgemental prick. and hes going on saying shit to me and all i want is for him to STFU and leave me alone so i grabbed my dog and walked out, and here i am.

i leave tonight and i dont want to, im not ready, i cant leave yet. i ve spent 4 months with stars in my eyes and hope and this life i ve been living means so much more, the people ive met and the things ive seen are incredible, and to think that tonight it all comes to an end breaks my heart.

argentina, i miss you, you are my heart and soul. (and my libido. HOHO!)
peru, you made me angry and scared, but now i ve started to get to know you, and you are magical.
chile, i barely know you, but what i know is that you have a huge heart.
bolivia, you are the heart of south america, but you need to cherish your ressources.
brasil, you are expensive as fuck.

when i get back to montreal i will write the wrap up: kilometres done, hours of transportation, yadda yadda.