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What is the value of memory? The things we experience keep living with us in our memories? Do the things that we live have value and importance even if we can’t remember them? Can we ever forfeit an experience we had — and can we ever remember what was with even a small fraction of the vividness the moment had?

Fearing and desiring both the yeses and the noes to all those questions, i put forward some memories, i try to embody into words the fleeting moments of my big trip of 2009, my journey through south-south america.

“But the spirit of the depths said: ‘No one can or should halt sacrifice. Sacrifice is not destruction, sacrifice is the foundation stone of what is to come. Have you not had monasteries? Have not countless thousands gone into the desert? You should carry the monastery in yourself. The desert is within you. The desert calls you and draws you back, and if you were fettered to the world of this time with iron, the call of the desert would break all chains. Truly, i prepare you for solitude.” — Liber Novus, or The Red Book, C. G. Jung

From September 28th to December 26th of 2009 i did travel through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Bolivia. My travel through South America, and maybe in another sense the travel that i am trying to turn my “real” life into, was filled with coincidences. Filled to the brink. So i will try to tell the story of my trip through its coincidences — my records are sparse and intertwined, so those will be like fractal fragments…

"this means this book can never be swapped, sold or made electronic --- an original, unique paper edition" by Fin In a way, it all began even before my trip, when i decided to go i went buying travel guides (which turned out to be pretty useless, the only one that is worth a dime is called MoonGuide, which a fellow traveller had, but that is also kinda hard to find) and in the same shelf as the guides there was a book that was not at all a travel guide, it is a philosophy book. It’s called The Art of Travel, a title that kind of makes the mistake understandable. But i had recently read something good about the author and had actually browsed another of his books in the previous bookshop, so i bought it. But i was planning on NOT carrying no book, for they are heavy and i was supposed to be able to live with the small library i had in my Palm. So i decided to read this book a section a day to force it to last all the way to the end of the trip, a method which soon turned into making the margins my travel diary, and from that the book became a kind of guestbook — i asked the cool people i met to write me something and…

Anyway, my travel began in…

Buenos Aires:: 28/09

I took a plane Curitiba → Buenos Aires. Getting there, i didn’t want to pay the extortive taxi, so i went to pick a regular bus that takes 2 hours to the centre. When asking about the bus i met a girl who works as security in the airport and she was unbelievably helpful, and we ended up talking for the whole bus ride, and what she told me were many things i had just read or heard or figured in the previous months, things that i already almost knew, but that i needed to hear exactly there and then, about how you have to stand for yourself (like my Krav-Maga teacher taught me), and how her sister had this big, difficult disease but she never let it put her down, that even though she knew that she was sick and everyone around was expecting her to be sad she still found reason to be cheerful, and how she thought that all her doctors were cute, and how she was always smiling and that, if she can do it, everyone can.

I never thanked Sonya enough (so, if anyone reads this AND goes to the Buenos Aires international airport, please look for the her, she is short and has brown hair, and tell her that she is right!).

The whole reason for going to Buenos Aires was that Cuducos was presenting something at RAM (Reunión de Antropologia del Mercosur). Needless to say, there were countless anthropology people all around, and just as i was checking in to HI i met this other brasilian, and we went walking around BsAs, he found a great shoddy lawless exchange with the best rates, and in conversation he declared himself to be an extreme relativist! Lovely.

Coincidently, the day i arrived my sister was in Buenos Aires, and she spent the day with some boys from RAM too, but we would only find that out months after.

So after awhile i met Cuducos, and RAM was awesome — even though i was more into it than Cuducos — we walked a lot through BsAs, met his friend there, went to plenty bookshops, you know, standard BsAs stuff. One of those nights we were drinking beer at Dorrego Square and we randomly met a girl from the Event, exactly like we had, 2 years prior, in UP.

Coincidently, the RAM closing party was in my birthday. I got free beer. I got drunk. I had an Alfajor for a cake, compleat with a candle! The hotel had a gigantic second floor. I have no idea how i got back…

Kia OraThe following day, staying in bed till veeeery late, talking with this other guy from RAM, he tells me of a paper by Mauss that might be interesting design-wise. That same day i receive an e-mail from Su Cavi with this very piece in pdf!

So, a lot of other stuff happens, Cuducos goes away, on the same day Django arrives, we go drinking in the hostel with two australian girls. They had a photo of a wall written with “How to be an Artist” by Sark. Later i would write that into my book and underline all of the things that i happened to do during the travel. And i am skipping all kinds of details.

Anyways, then there was “Tha Day of Loss”, when on the same day a girl i was interested in told me she was married, my Palm fell into the loo, and i wasn’t allowed into this club. I guess there oughta be bad stuff too. But all in all i must say it wasn’t really too bad. I even asked the I-Ching and, well, you see, i tend to like the I-Ching for its cryptic vague and indirect sayings, but the I-Ching started being way too direct to me. This day, after everything, people were waiting for me at the club (i went back to change clothes, of all things) but i kinda guessed i could just go to sleep, but the I-Ching said something along the lines of “the wise old man, even if it would be easier for him to turn his back to the world, he must still go out and share his wisdom” — what i interpreted at the moment as “They NEED my moves on the dancefloor, man!”

love - breath - connect - grow - acceptAnd i think this is a good question: Is it about what the world tells you or about how you read the world? You could say that the whole «coincidences» thing is in my head. I don’t know. Earlier this day my book went on about how Baudelaire would sometimes get unhappy with home and daydream about going somewhere, anywhere, just going, getting a boat, or even a train to Lisbon. Then i get to the hostel and there is a girl reading a book, and i ask what is the book about — it is called “Train to Lisbon” and it is about some guy who gets unhappy with his life and gets a train to Lisbon just to, you know, change. Isn’t it too literal?

Anyway, BsAs is everything, but i had to go, so i took the first bus i could and off to Mendoza! Though i didn’t know it was a holiday and the “first bus” was actually had me spending the night at the bus station. So i went looking planes and boats near there. As i had no more Palm i bought some shoddy books in the street.

Mendoza:: 11/10

Lovelly Mendoza! Every corner in that city has got to be the most beautiful place you’ve seen. There was not enough Demian to seize all the places there that just made me want to sit and read. And just as Demian talks about Abraxas and how we must accept both our good and our evil i tell the girl at the hostel to bring up the dark side! (It was a drinking game, wow, long story…)

kiero seguir siendo akel hombre imposibleThe other day as i walked around this huge park in Mendoza a girl comes talk to me, and she is called Johana, but she looks a lot with Joana, and there is a play in the city called Juana (with posters everywhere, and this girl is so sweet and she says i am “buena onda” and talks about loosing a loved one (her father) and about beauty everywhere and, and… and she HUGS TREES!

(One more thing underlined in Sark’s).

Then i went to a bike ride through the vineyards with the Andes as scenery, i just figure that is ultimate bragging rights. No thing’s gonna top that. And perfect empanadas. And the french guy was reading a book about travelling.

And Mendoza was literally full of enlightening stuff written all over it. A pig with wings in one graffitti. And “kiero seguir siendo akel hombre imposible, ya ke los que son posibles hoy no cambiarón” at the abandoned train station (¡What a place! — i was inside a wreck wagon and two people passed by me, just like a scene from Waking Life). And finally, in my last bus in town, there was a shop called “Kneuth” — and Kneuth is the youngling that Hesse has to teach in Demian.

Santiago:: 16/10

So i cross the Andes to Chile, and now i was reading “Doors of Perception”, and i walk around and it turns out Shima is coming to Santiago in just a few days. I swap hostels. I want to buy Dune, but everyone only has Chapterhouse: Dune, so i give in.

dulcesSo there was this Performance Arts congress thing, and my friend was one of the performers, and needless to say everyone was just brilliant and full of energy. One of the girls comments that to use San Pedro is just like reality, like if she was finally able to see reality how it really was — and she says that exactly in the same words as Huxley. Joaquín has a scene that ends with “POWER” written in small boxes, so i end up with a long discussion about whether powerlessness is the contrary to power, or merely another role in the cruelty game. By the way, i should write about this: What is the contrary to power?

And the whole performance thing has a dimension of ritual. And holiness — though maybe in an “anthropological” kind of way. And the whole faith thing is coming from all sides. And there was a girl. And she was all of 5 days younger than me. And it was the wrong moment, for her, actually, and i wanted to respect that, but she preferred to just live the moment.

And she and i and it’s…

Anyway, Santiago also had the absolutely gorgeous museum of Precolombian arts, and i saw my first Khipu, and the Palm came back to life, and La Feria, and i confused the subways, and i had to go!

La Serena y Cochiguaz:: 27/10

I went to La Serena where they make Chilean Pisco (a kind of liquor) and they have a Museum there with a real Moai (big face from Easter Island) and it is a shame that they took it out but anyway the thing is so fscking amazing, and then i further inland to Valle del Elqui and at the “Mausoleo de Gabriela Mistral” i read a passage in my book about how the individual goes beyond the limits of his own realities, how some handful of people had single-handedly changed whole societies, and Gabriela Mistral is from that minuscule villa and she went out to be Nobel-winner poet.

From there i wanted to go to a place called Cochiguaz which supposedly is a very “mystical” place. I met two french girls there and the 3 of us agreed that the place wasn’t really any magic at all. Coming back, Pauline says something about how life is simple and i have a postcard that says the same thing. I thought it was an awesome coincidence, but i guess she agreed just to be polite.

Anyway, latter i find the girl from Santiago online, and she is in Lima, Peru (which later i would find is something like 3 thousand Km away!) because she is actually from there, and i want to see her so much, and i was like “you should try to forget me” and she says no way, so i, well i just decide to take a plane to Lima!

Lima:: 29/10

when you get to the top of the mountain, keep on climbingI stay at the Pariwana, and it is the most awesome hostel. Lima is kinda too big a city to me, and the air kinda made me sick, but i could spend all day in the hostel doing nothing and just hanging around with the people there, and that place was awesome.

One of those guys at the hostel was called Joe (one of the people that i really wish had signed my book and didn’t) and he had this theory, his words were better than mine, but i totally did already think the same thing before, but he says that to travellers, if they can keep their head in the right tune, that simply bad things don’t happen to them. And another guy at the Mendoza-Santiago bus told me to “trata de vivir la vida como se fueran vacaciones“, that is, that you should live life as if it was a big travel. And anyway Joe was also the first guy i met that was (supposedly) going to UP.

And Lima is too big, but i had the best guide ever, right, my special girl, and the days with her were just perfect. Out of this world. Really, i can’t talk about it. The day she finally had to go (actually she is from Lima but lives in Barcelona) that day the book had this to say:

What though the radiance which was once so bright
Be now for ever taken from my sight,
Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind
— Wordsworth

So, anyway, back at the hostel, everyone was going over The Devil Wears Prada for some reason, and i went with some girls to an exhibit about what they call “terrorism in Peru”, which was the civil-war like insurrection of “Sendero Luminoso” and this exhibit totally exploded my head, and then after that a guy from the hostel gave me a Castañeda book, and that woman at the market offers me San Pedro, and she totally ripped the tourist but it is OK, and i met again a girl from Whales that was at my first hostel in Santiago, and at that time i was having my first biggest “tired of all the travelling” crisis (i guess they are around 1.5 months spread apart) and Sarah, the welsh girl, was just going the same way i was, so i just followed.

Anyway, i copied this from some canadian’s notebook:

You have brains in your head
You have feet in your shoes
You can steer yourself in any direction you choose
You’re in your own and yuo know what you know
You are the one who’ll decide where to go
Dr. Seuss, from yeat another Amanda’s notebook

Huacachina:: 06/11

Huacachina is a small puddle of water close to Ica, a modest city (with a loco museum where they have all those crazy pointed skulls and trepanated skulls and everything), and surrounded by big, big dunes. Sarah did all the heavy lifting and we found a fscking crazy driver in the buggy ride, awesome.

va, corre, busca... sin duda ese hombre viajando a travéz del gran desierto de los hombres, tiene un fin mas elevadoI was finally in the desert. In a way i was travelling to go to the desert, to finally know a desert, to be there, to fulfil my adolescent Dune-fuelled dreams. It so happened that i decided to well fly over the whole Atacama to meet my sweetheart. It was worth it, no doubt, but looking in the direction of the bled and seeing nothing but sand everywhere was… inspirational.

Not only that, somehow all the books i was reading (i had finished a small trashy Foucault in Lima and was starting to go through Chapterhouse {actually making a study of it with markings and thematic analyses and all}) the books seemed to be having a conversation amongst themselves, around the theme that it is not only going to the desert, that you gotta create the desert — within.

Nazca:: 08/11

Next step was Nazca. I love Nazca. Even though i am pretty convinced the city is bad juju. But it is a good bad juju. By what i mean that… Well, actually i have no idea. We did fly and after that needed hours for the nausea to pass. I did San Pedro. And the sun rose purple. And there were all those parts of my mind going on and off like if a hyperactive child was running over the switches on my brain. And there were all those coincidences about religion — ending up with my swapping the Foucault for a Pagels, a book about Gnostic Christianity that completely blew my mind. In the end Sarah continued the trip to Cuzco and Machu-Pichu and i went further south.

Arequipa:: 11/11

Keeping with the coincidences about religion theme, Eli Sheva asks me if i am catholic, which gets me into this long messy story of everything that i was in and out through my life, and then i ask but why she wanted to know, and she just looks at a painting of one of those saints with the blood and gore and stuff, she looks at that and says: “Man, catholicism is just gross”. I guess she has a point, a better one than all my stories. Apparently she was into Judaism. No radical or anything. By the way, we were at a monastery and they had a lot of gross things like some immolation equipment and some ancient priest’s heart kept on a glass or something.

There was a girl who told me she was “agnostic, a convict fence sitter” or something to that effect. She also had a birthday in the same day as the girl from Lima.

Yet again one random guy tells me that i must not only see the “beautiful part” of the city, but also the bad one. And i was like “is this a challenge?” — for i had been trying to do that always! And i did go walk around to find some shabbiness, and well, i guess i saw some, i was even chased by some beggar’s dogs, but after i escaped i couldn’t help but notice that the beggar happened to be living in the margins of a most gorgeous river, so… Whatever. There was also an installation event happening with a show by a wonderful band. And i ate those weird fruits at the city market.

Tacna → Arica:: 14/09

So, once more on the road, south again, into Chile again, but to go to Chile you first have to go to Tacna, and the buses are… let me just say, weird. Anyway, I had to sleep in Tacna, also walked around the city, i really like it, in the top of a dune-like hill there was a small monument written 1933. I took the time to draw it. The view was awesome. The train to Chile was not working that day, so i crossed the border by bus, and i got a key-chain for answering a questionnaire about tourism in Peru. And i had really thought Peru had a lot to learn about tourism, but the key-chain was so lovely that i changed my mind.

Iquique:: 16/09

I spend a day in Arica, and then took a bus very very late because i had not noticed that crossing to Chile there is a 2 hour difference, and then Iquique, and… I just love Iquique. I walked all around town, i found a V graffitti, the hostess at the hostel was called Isabel, and there’s this place called Zofri that well you can spend hours and hours there, and i went into the freezing Pacific waters, and just generally hanged around.

Sark, How to be an artistAnd after some days there just happened an Encuentro de Poesia in Iquique, it’s like a bunch of young Spanish speaking poets that just found a reason to travel together and know each other, and they had those unbelievably cool happenings, like this one day they got an actual boxing ring and staged those poetry duels, i mean i’m not sure you can get any cooler than that.

But the thing is, i had to make a decision. The plan was to go to the fscking desert, and i was there, but the usual “Atacama” would have been more to the south, and definitely not on the coast, and i did want to go to the biggest mine in the world, but on the other hand i also had to go back to Brasil, so i was trying to decide, to create some kind of plan, but then i found the “fence-sitter” girl on Facebook and decided to go back into Peru to find her again. There was a german going to Arica that day and i invited myself, we ended up talking a lot about astrology. Finally, i got the train to Peru, it was actually a sole wagon, kinda crazy, but i loved it, even if it was so fast.

Back to Nazca, Circle of connection, Solo este circulo es nuestro (Varo), and more of the same places with different people, which was an interesting experience, and they had turtles. And the turtles were something completely alien to B. And then there was this guy Shoel with his idea of the Bible of the Traveller, and the 4 of us went all the way up the Dune by the moonlight, and only now almost 10 months later i realised this counts as a moonbath (which is one more of the things in Sark’s list), but we are talking like a very extremely lots high dune, like a 10 story building, and the light was so perfect, from up there we could see many city lights, and going down was… exhilarating.

Cuzco:: 01/12

From there i went to Cuzco, which is so damn close to Machu-Pichu so i figured i had to visit it, so i was like looking at the prices of the train tickets and it was like being robed blind so expensive, so i spent the 2 hours before the train left to decide to not go (and the train leaves at 6 in the morning), which ended up making me walk around Cuzco and its ruins, before i could find any i met two americans, and they just liked to walk, so we just went everywhere walking, and it was lovely. There was a dog that just followed us everywhere.

And there were millions of Brasilians everywhere, at Loki hostel loads, and then we played truco. Why not uh? And i had my last go at Bembo’s (love that so much!) and the hostel was very party-y, and i did go up and down the city too, which was kinda funny for the thin air makes you breathless all the time, and i found some very interesting facts about like inkas and such at unexpected places, but i didn’t want to stay long, i was trying to find time to do some stuff further down the road, so:

Bolívia. The border crossing was in itself an experience, a long slow line just in the middle of a messed up fair or something, and i had to photocopy my ID in the middle of the mess, and the bus disappeared, and, you know, anthropological experience.

La Paz:: 04/12

The thing is, i got to La Paz exactly when they were having elections to put Evo back again in office, so i couldn’t really zip through. I went to Tihuanaco, i really wanted to, the place is indeed as amazing as i expected.

geléia de mirtilosIn La Paz i drank a lot of coffee, i found a cinnamon ice-cream ♥, i went to a voting place, i’ve seen lots of art in the street, i found poetry written on the walls. I passed in front of the brasilian embassy, the guard told me “this is yours, you know”. The hostel was awesome too, i was in Loki again and this time everyone wanted party in that place, it was wild. There were some pretty amazing people, i’ve seen one australian guy change the mood in the room just singing, he had everyone in his hand, it was fscking umbelievable.

The elecetion day was really weird, everything was closed down, and then it was like there were more foreigners than Bolivians at the square where the president would make the winning speech, it was also weird that actually no one had any doubts what the result would be, it was like just a formality, and then i was there and a girl comes from nowhere selling the best fruit salad ever and the americans that where with me wanted it too, so i went searching for the girl but we couldn’t find her, so i ask some girl sitting on the stairs that seemed to be eating the same thing, and we end up spending the afternoon together, and at her hostel there was this guy that travelled with no less than 19 books on the backpack — i mean, i know how he feels, we end up spending the whole afternoon at this nice coffeeshop close to the Coca Museum, and i also found some time somewhen to make a fanzine, and the lan house i was trying to print it even had the font that i use for the “temporary referential”, it was like, done.

trata de vivir la vida como se fueran vacacionesThe text of the zine was “a place for blind faith“, and in many ways it was the coming together of dozens of ideas and coincidences about religion and belief and, you know, trying to find meaning in life.

Also, i found lots of people in La Paz, Eli Sheva (catholicism is gross) and people from Cuzco and it seems like after you met a lot of people the paths just begin to cross. I would say it takes approximately the same time that it takes for you to get your first “tired of travelling” slump.

Uyuni:: 08/12

Anyways, as soon as i could, for i was fastly running out of time, i got the bus to Uyuni. Lovely ride, the people i met on the bus i just went with them for the Salt Flats tour too. Best bus companion ever — i’ll probably just have fat ugly guys after that, to balance the karma. How does that ° character even sound?

And the Salt Flats… Just beyond words. And all those deserts (the highest in the world!), and at the end we were supposed to spend one hour in that hot waters but we just stayed. Forever. Who cares? And the day before the geysers there was that wild karaoke moment by candlelight.

Also, a few days before that i had written something like:

it’s not about feeling belittled
but instead about coming up
with this kind of gratitude
to everything and nothing
to the universe or to circumstances
or luck or whatever it is
(gratitude doesn’t even require the “other” to be precisely defined)

And then in the middle of the cacti island Janey just open her arms and says “Thank you universe” and i was like “i gotta show you something”.

giant ant eaterThere was this girl Erin who gave me that idea of making a “holiday special card” to keep in touch with everyone, just… She was just inspiring, the illustrations she made of her trip, damn, so amazing. She said she didn’t feel inspired enough to draw and paint, and i was all “i so much wish i could do something about that! for i am inspired, so many things have inspired me, you not the least!”. Anyway, Erin was the third “Dharma Bums” fan i met along the road (still couldn’t put my paws on that one, though…) and i was feeling my time was running out, that the trip was ending, and she writes in my book, quoting from Dharma: “when you get to the top of the mountain, just keep on climbing“.

And by the way, our driver was this crazy rally freak! And we came back from Uyuni in this crazy weird train.

Death Train & Pantanal:: 12/12

So the train leaves me in Oruro, from there i go to Cochabamba and then i get the worst bus ride of my life to Santa Cruz. I just wanted to hop into the “Death Train” to Brasil but it was sold out for the day and i had to spend the weekend there. It is a… weird town. Anyway, in the train i meet Mitch and Meredith from australia and Isaac and we end up going to a farm-hotel thing in Pantanal together. Plenty of fun, i seen an ant-eater all too close to my taste, though it was a little weird to be pretty much back home (you know, Pantanal is cerrado too) and having the foreigners find everything so unusual.

you may have come to the end of your book, but it is only to find a new begginingFrom there i went to Goiânia, then to Cocalzinho (and spent Christmas with my mom), and from there: Bahia.

Universo Paralello 2010 and afters:: 28/12

It is hard to say when travelling ends, really, but then i went to Universo Paralello 10, in Bahia, and it was mighty fine, found friends from long ago, made new friends, and just danced my feet away. My tent stack broke many times, and i fixed it many times, and it kept on breaking. I had some of the La Paz born zines to distribute around. I spent a little time, maybe 2 days, in Itaparica, and then i went south to Barra Grande (Camamu) and then Ilhéus and Porto Seguro (going through all the smallest towns) and there were lots of post-UP parties, and i learned to do that weird locks on my hair and slacked and just generally had a gorgeous time through and through near the beach. At some moment i took out a tarot card, as a sort of sigil for the year, and it was: 17, the Star. So i leave you with the star.

פ 80 XVII

2 Comments

  1. Talking about coincidences, I was in BsAs at the same time as you, a really wonderful city. It was my first travel abroad.

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