September 26, 2020

A month in la Ciudad Blanca

Good morning folks

I trust all is grand with your goodselves.
Here is the weekly hashed-together round-up of news, happenngs and rambling from AQP.
I´ll be honest, I simply ran out of time this week.
No computer, nor internet, nor Etch-a-sketch at home, so I am relying on other resources.
Although this week may be short, next week should be better.
If you think Kim Kartrashian´s bottom nearly broke the internet, wait for the next blog!

Don´t be smug!

I saw a sign in a restaurant/cafe window saying “Every good day begins with a Bolivian Salteña”

I don´t like to argue but I do beg to differ…

Back in the days when I had to do a regular border hop to renew my Visa, Bolivia was the closest and generally most exciting (as in not having a clue what was going on and being completely unpredictable) place to get my passport stamped.
Bolivia is basically home of the World´s highest everything (bar Everest).

As Butch said to his sidekick, “Kid, the next time I say, Let’s go someplace like Bolivia,” let’s GO someplace like Bolivia”…

It was 2005. I had planned to travel from Lima, to La Paz, to Tupiza, to Tarija and ultimately to San Vicente. Alleged last resting place of the trigger-happy duo and scene of that legendary shootout. That was the plan.

Lima to La Paz = no problem. A quick hop, skip and a jump over the Andes, marvelling at the sheer size of Lake Titicaca and dropping down into the chaotic cauldron of La Paz. From there I simply had to find a bus to take me on the 24hr haul south to Tupiza, and another 12hrs to Tarija, where I arrived too late/too early to book into digs, so I shivered away the darkness-before-dawn trying to doss down in the bus station. First light is always a dramatic event in the Sierra and it was very welcome that morning.

Eventually found some digs where they would let me leave my kit and went in search of brekkie.
They do say to eat light when you first arrive (to altitude), a cheese toastie was safe enough. The waitress then brought a coffee with a comlimentary Salteña. A bit like a diddy cornish pastie (but nowhere near a Ginster´s or even a Gregg´s.)

– Leave it, and look ungrateful.
– Scoff it, and see what happens, and to honest 9 times out of 10, nothing would happen.
As I bit into it, I realised that I was the not-so-lucky 1-in-10.
A warm-ish mush of chicken and something, What harm could such a tiny, innocuous savoury do???

Cutting a long story short, I spent a day and night going to and from my dusty bedroom to a dusty bathroom. I´ll spare you the gruesome details, but the next day I had booked to go to San Vicente by 4×4.
Just me and a guide (who didn´t really speak).
On the altiplano, there is no place to hide, but with dramtically exploding intestines, I soon lost all self-respect/dignity and just kept saying “STOP” and diving out to empty my bowels, again and again, and again.

That was only the beginning.
After a 4hr there (a desolate winsdwept mining town), searching for the grave and then the joy of a 4hr back ride, I was still in the ar$e-end of nowhere and had to get back to Lima (for work).
“Sopa de Pollo” (chicken soup) is apparently the best bet, but I had thrown up 3 times before my sopa arrived.

Thence followed a 24hr bus ride north. A drunkard was in my reserved seat and wouldn´t move, bad start.
Then the driver cranked up the heating and a rancid overpowering smell triggered a Mr. Cresosote reaction.
I only had a tiny sandwich bag and overfilled that in one hurl :-/
Every time the bus stopped I had to run out into the street to find a baño, tree or wall to hide behind.
After 24hrs on the venga-bus, I had to wait 4hrs then catch a 12hr bus to La Paz. Repeat of above.
Arriving in La Paz, I had the pantomime of changing my flights, overcomplicatedly tricky and expensive.
A 12hr wait in La Paz, where I booked into some digs, but met a local lass who insisted on giving me a city tour (not what I needed/wanted but I was too polite to refuse/decline).

I eventually got my plane back to Lima and was straight back to work.
The institute only had one toilet!

I was crook for 2 weeks and lost about 2 stone. Never touched salteñas since!

Fast forward to 2019 and the temptation of fate bit my ar$e bigtime.

I´d just said “My tummy has been much better since I moved to Arequipa” on Saturday afternoon.
Cue for a Saturday night spent in “el baño”.
Anything I could keep down went rushing through me like quicksilver, within 30 minutes.
It made work and training a little bit spicier.
Currently looking for a toilet roll sponsor.

Don´t be lazy…

Last time I was back in Blighty I did a supermarket sweep of Asda (other supermarket chains are available) for a booty (food) stash of all things which one just cannot acquire in Peru.
The obvious treats that come to mind are; Yorkshire Tea, HP sauce and Colman´s mustard.
I also stocked up on Madras powder and other curry condiments/concoctions for making an effort to cook when I eventually got down to AQP.

Feeling quite smug (never a good move) when everything got through Customs from Blighty, I then bubblewrapped everything fragile to within an inch of its life and sent my tucker in boxes with the same ramshackle bunch of cowboys who masquerade as a removal company to ship my gubbins darn sarf

I´d had the boxes in my spare room for a few days but was increasingly distracted by an overpowering pong.

Upon opening my stash I discovered that the miracle ingredient of idle cooks everywhere, known as “Lazy Garlic” had lost its fight to stay intact and had joined forces with the Colman´s to form a kind of stinky biohazard mush.
RIP the pair of them. No mustard nor garlic for me then.

(All over the World & all over my stuff!)

The flat smelt lived in after no time at all.

Asi es Peru…

Next week.

Taking the p!$$.

Next week.

The ladies.

The girls came down to Arequipa but are now back up in Lima.
The Nipper is a bit confused about the whole geography of Arequipa, which is in itself sometimes referred to as “El pais de Arequipa” due to the firerce pride of local Arequipeños.

Having previously only flown to Leeds Bradford from Lima, via Amsterdam, anything less than a 20hr flight seemed small fry, but having had to catch the 17hr bus down here (no thanks to Peruvian Airlines) and then having flown back, it is no wonder that a 5yr old is puzzled about where her old man actually lives!

It´s all about the bass (part II)

1988: Bought cheap second hand bass and amp, pretended I could play.
1989: Bought a second hand double bass, which I definitely couldn´t play (bar one Frantic Flintstones number, which was very easy).
07/07/19: Day after Teacher´s day party. An early start after a very late finish, traipsing acros town to my old work haunt called Comas, where I had arranged to meet a guy called Juan Carlos who was selling a rather smart steel stringed acoustic guitar (a Jumbo copy) on a website called “Mercado Libre“.

He wasn´t at the meeting point, I was dying a death and it wasn´t the best area of town to be in.
I didn´t know what he was called or what he looked like, nor vice-versa. It was a bit like a meeting between two French revolutionaries at a railway station during WWII.
He turned up 30mins late(r) and we got a mototaxi to somewhere, I don´t think it was his house. He got out the Jumbo and also produced another dusty old guitar case from which he produced a 5-string bass guitar, (until that moment I had no idea that 5-strings existed, but they do as do 6-stringed basses).

From what I could glean he had been in a band, I don´t know who the bass belonged to. I didn´t ask, he didn´t tell.

That awkward moment after he had blasted out half a dozen flawless numbers (singing too) when he passed me the guitar and said “Your turn”. A small crowd had gathered round to see this tall, hairy, hungover bearded gringo making his Comas guitar debut. I fumbled my way through the first 2 bars of “My Favourite Dress“, then said that I was better at bass. The 5-string weighed an absolute ton. At least I would be able to beat off anybody who tried to steal it off me on the way home!
The beauty of an unamplified bass is that it is very hard to hear, which suited me fine as it was out of tune as I was out of my depth. We struck a (bargain) deal and following a bumpy mototaxi ride I got the bus home.

Being an expert at changing strings, I did that and then wondered how I was going to learn how to play these two new toys.

(To be continued).


The crack-of-dawn Sunday morning meet-up this Sunday with Voluntad de Acero took us out to the beautiful town of Characato. It started at a frantic pace, as always, then the pack was strung out by two lads I didn´t know, who upped the rhythm as we risked our lives with the unpredictable Taxistas and even more unpredictable Saturday night-Sunday morning revellers. It was 7am and the clubs were just emptying on the nightclub/discotheque strip known as “Av. Dolores” (the avenue of Pains, probably of the head, heart and wallet).

As we got out of the main city the pace kept going up and up until we realised we were lost. We´d gone way off route and ended up finishing 2 miles short, so I did a loop and awaited the rest.
We all went for Chicha Guiñapo (!) and then I went home to sit on the khazi all day!

This weekend there is a 5 mile road race, which is not really on my Misti Sky Race training plan, but it starts and finishes 2 blocks from my house, so why not.

I have been re-reading the late, great Emil Zatopek´s book, so although I am not fit (and a long way from healthy), I am psyched!

Just ask me how psyched I am in 3 weeks when I am gurning up the endless slopes of El Misti at 3am…

Parque Lambramani 7.5km marathon!

Next week.

The dreaded Tramites.


Best described as any kind of paperwork wrapped up in infinitely complex red tape.

Full story next week!


Next week!

Melgar FC.

Next week!

And finally…

On the back of my head I have a medium free range egg sized/shape lump.
Whenever I shave my mullet off, I have a bald patch there.


The Stray Cats – Leeds University, 1989 and a leaky tap, that´s why!

After witnessing an eye-openingly incredible amount of energy that was a Stray Cats performance, I was walking out of the dark, sweaty hole that was the Refectory. They used to have taps on the walls, to quench your thirst after sweating cobs for 90 minutes. It was dark (and I hadn´t actually been tippling) but all I remember was doing a comedy feet first fall up in the air, landing on the back of my head. Out cold.

My mate Jez was ahead and wondering why I was taking so long, came back in and found me sparko on my back. I was in the process of swallowing my tongue. Breaking all first aid rules, he put his hand in my mouth (which must have been gruesome) and pulled out my tongue. In effect, potentially saving my life. Thanks Jez!

Anyway, I was doing some admin stuff in a dark office, so was listening to some tunes and heard this.
Video of the week is Brian Setzer, Lee Rocker and Slim Jim 🙂

Check it out HERE…

That´s all for now folks.
Have an outstanding week.


2 thoughts on “A month in la Ciudad Blanca

  1. How do you fit all of this in a week!? You are maximising your days for the best mate and let’s hope the song you write about it will play well on the new strings 🤘
    At least with all the time on the dunny you’ve got plenty of room to think of some great lyrics 🤣

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