Sunday, 30 October 2005

Rainy Day

If the number of today's entries in this weblog makes you wonder whether I am bored out of my head, the answer is an emphatic yes: I finished my book and it is raining heavily, like it can only do so in the rain forest. There is a reason why it is called rain forest. On the other hand, it has freshened the air that was becoming unbearably hot and stuffy.

Cheap Food

I had one of my best Peruvian meal today for lunch and it was the cheapest ever in a restaurant: 4 soles, that is 0.67 GBP or 1.18 USD for 2 courses and a large soft drink. There's nothing like the daily menu in a small local place.

Power To The City

The power grid in Iquitos seems to be slightly over used. Every night, when the sun sets and electric light is switched on everywhere, one part of the city or other suddenly loses power. Sometimes, the whole city. It usually comes back in a few minutes but in the meantime business might stop. You can therefore classify shops, restaurants or hotels according to their emergency lighting solution:

  • Places that have a full blown generator and keep doing business as normal;
  • Places that have emergency lighting where business can continue as normal although it might be difficult to read labels due to the weaker light;
  • Places that have a stock of candles, which can make it very romantic, so this is the preferred option for small restaurants and bars;
  • Places that don't even have a candle which makes it very difficult to do any business at all but somehow they manage.


Drivers in Peru are not particularly pedestrian friendly and a lot of intersections just don't have any signal meaning it's a free for all or rather it follows the common sense law that the biggest vehicle gets priority. It's a bit like a food chain with the 18 wheel articulated lorry at the top, the pedestrian at the bottom and buses, vans, cars, motocarros, cycles, donkeys and other types of transport in the middle. This order is not always fixed: a donkey might take precedence over a car on a moutain track.

As a result, crossing the street can sometimes feel like a military expedition where timing is crucial. Peruvian drivers are not that bad though. Contrary to Indian or Egyptain drivers, they do stop at red lights and tend to swerve or slow down ever so slightly when a pedestrian is in the way, although whether this is by respect to said pedestrian or to avoid the delay associated with running over him is debatable. Anyway, the jaywalking skills acquired in India, Egypt and at Paris's Place de l'Etoile are proving useful.

Messaging Privacy

In this age when privacy, identity theft and all sorts of other things involving your personal information is concerned, I am sometimes surprised by how careless people can be. I have just connected on the computer of an internet cafe to find an MSN Messenger session open on the machine. As I am a nice guy, I just signed off and closed Messenger. I could have talked to whatever contacts of the person were connected at the time, trying to pretend I was this person. Fair enough, not knowing anything about the owner of the account, I might have been discovered easily but then maybe not. There is always the chance that some of the contacts are fairly new or have always been internet only contacts and don't know the owner enough to realise the real person behind the machine is not the one they think.

This is typical of any public computer like the ones you have in an internet cafe, a library or even at work. They are all machines to which you do not have exclusive access. Someone else can use them, whether it is another user of the internet cafe, or your work system administrator. If that person wants to play a nasty trick, it is very easy if you have left a messenger or email session open, or if you have the messenger software configured to connect automatically without asking for the password. MSN Messenger is quite bad in this respect because once you've set it up to connect automatically, it is not easy to change that setting or manage your password.

Another thing I see quite often in internet cafes is people who have connected to hotmail with the default setting of remembering the email address. Even though having just the email address doesn't enable someone else to connect to your hotmail account, that email address could end up in a spammer's address book or could be used to send email that pretend to originate from this address.

The only solution to this is to always disconnect from any session and never save passwords on shared computers or let any software connect automatically. I know, it is a pain to have to type your password every time and MSN Messenger's automatic connect or IE's password saving feature make your life so much easier but passwords are here to protect your identity because noone else knows them, in theory. You wouldn't leave you credit card PIN number on a piece of paper next to the card would you, even though it is a pain to type this PIN number every time you want to draw cash out? Or would you?

Thoughts About Cusco

There were a few things I wanted to comment upon while I was in Cuzco but I never found the time to do it so here goes.

Sexy Woman, Inca Style

The day before starting the Inca Trail, I did a short training session by walking up to the walls of . Those walls formed an integral part of Cuzco in Inca times and are located 2 kilometres from the city centre and 200 metres above it. So walking to them involves a good climb. Although Sacsayhuamán was a complex that comprised religious temples and storage areas, it also acted as a defensive wall to the city. It is believed it was intentionally shaped so that it would resemble a jaguar head, with Cusco as the body. This same shape must have also made it impossible to attack without heavy losses. In addition, Sacsayhuamán is one of the best examples of magalithic Inca construction, with individual stones weighing in at more than 100 tons, so little chance of breaching the wall for would be invaders.

Beyond all this, the one thing English speakers remember about the place is that its name sounds very much like Sexy Woman.

Offer And Demand

I was in Cuzco at a time slightly outside the high season. In fact, the majority of tourists were Peruvian school children on holidays and the rest of them were mostly backpackers on a budget. All the restaurants and bars in Cuzco were open for business as in the high season but the number of tourists likely to become customers was small. As a result most places were finding it difficult to attract customers to the point that sometimes the staff would outnumber customers 5 to 1. This state of affairs engendered stiff competition between places. And considering most restaurants and bars were around the Plaza de Armas, this central square was the site of fierce battles between staff armed with the menu of one restaurant or another, the ultimate prize being to convince you to dine at their place rather then the neighbour's. On a few occasions I ended up with 3 or 4 different people thrusting a menu in my face, trying to speak louder than the others and telling me that I'd be making a huge mistake if I were to go to any other place. What didn't help is that they all have very similar tourist oriented menus. But it was fun to listen to the arguments and counter arguments.

Sexy Woman, English Style

Peru is a fairly traditional country, at least on the surface, machism is ripe and men are not shy in showing women their appreciation. Peruvians, especially the people of Cuzco, typically have dark hair and dark skin. Cuzco is very high in altitude and as such nights are fresh, even if days can be very hot. As a result, people who prefer Western dress to traditional Andean dress usually wear long trousers, especially in the evening.

So, when you are a young English girl of 18 or 20 years of age, with very blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin, wearing a very short mini-skirt and skimpy top, in the dress-to-kill Newcastle style, what can possibly happen the second you set foot on the Plaza de Armas at night? Cat calls. Persistent and loud to the point that every single male in the square forgets they have a job trying to attract tourists to their restaurant, bar or diso and converge to the same point, adding their own cat calls until the whole square reverberates with the sound.


By going to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, I think I now know what the Nazca lines were about: giant advertising for pre-Inca businesses. They are using the same technique today to draw huge logos and slogans on the sides of mountains near Cuzco, especially one that can be seen from all over town and that reads ¡Viva el Peru! ¡Glorioso Cusco! Talk about national pride.

Sexy Coffee

In a completely non-PC style, Cuzco has a great coffee shop where all staff are cute young women wearing mini-skirts. Their motto is Sabor y Sensualidad, Flavour and Sensuality. The coffee is nice too and they have a big screen showing music videos, mostly J-Lo while I was there, to add to the theme.

Saturday, 29 October 2005

Law Of The Jungle

I met Guido in the hotel lobby. He is a friend of the hotel owner and is an independant jungle tour organiser. He had a red eye from having riden his motorcycle too close to a lorry on a gravel road. I wasn't too sure about booking a jungle tour with him as the Lonely Planet guide had warned against using independant services as they vary greatly in quality. But Guido had been recommended by the hotel and his price was quite cheap for a few days in a small jungle village, hosted in the guide's house. So I decided to take the offer. We would meet on the following day, Wednesday, at 4pm to cach a boat that was leaving at 5.

I checked out Wednesday afternoon, left my big bag at the hotel, hoping to come back on the Saturday afternoon, and kept my small day bag with a few changes of clothes, the camera and some basic toilettries. I still wasn't sure whether I'd see Guido or if he would disappear with my money but he was here, 10 minutes before time. We took a motocarro, the equivalent of the Indian tuk-tuk, to the harbour and boarded the boat where Guido had already set up two hammocks and loaded enough food and water for 4 days. This wasn't a private boat, it was the standard public transport barge that locals take when they want to go somewhere. There is no road here, the river is the road. Hopefully it wasn't too crowded so we had space to breathe. We had one hour before departure, during which a crowd of street sellers passed from person to person selling everything from batteries to full meals, via peanuts, hammocks, fizzy drinks, etc. The boat had to do a fairly complicated manoeuvre to extract itself from its part of the harbour but we were finally on our way. It wasn't the Amazon yet, it was a small affluent that was wider than the Thames, even though it was the dry season. We got to the Amazon itself a few minutes later, where the waters changed from a dark brown to a milky brown: cafe solo, cafe con leche. Now we just had to wait and enjoy the sunset.

We got to our destination in the middle of the night. The barge stopped along the river bank just a few minutes to let us disembark. No quay here, just mud. A friend of Guido was waiting to help us carry our stuff. A few hundred metres along the bank and over a small wooden bridge took us to the house where we would spend the night. After installing mattresses and mosquito nets on the beds, we could finish the night.

The following day started early. I was introduced to Enrique, whose house it was and who was to be my guide for the next few days. So after breakfast, we set off for the jungle around the village. I didn't wait long to see my first jungle animal: one of the village guys had a very tired anaconda in his wash basin just outside his house. We did quite a long walk through the forest, with Enrique explaining the usage of different plants and trees, showing me some notable species like the sequoia which the locals are not allowed to cut as they are in a protected reserve. We also spotted quite a few birds and even a paca, a big rodent like an outsized beaver without the tail. We stopped at Enrique's papaya field for a papaya and to retrieve his fishing equipment. Among the papaya were some remnants of banana trees. Tree is not the right word. Inside, it looks more like a huge leek than a tree. We then stopped at a small river where we set about fishing piranha. We had the visit of a big hawk but no piranhas. They would eat the bait and go away too quickly for us to actually catch any of them. So we decided to go back to the house for lunch. On the way back, we met Enrique's wife in a panic: her father had been bitten by a venomous snake the day before, while deep in the jungle, and was being brought to the house. He needed immediate treatment but nobody had a vaccine, they were too poor to have health services and anyway it would have to come from too far away. The only solution was the local shaman who knew how to deal with a snake bite using local plants. I felt completely inadequate. In hindsight, knowing I was going to the jungle, I should have carried a vaccine with me but I didn't. The only contribution I could make that day was translate the English manual of the emergency suction based venom extraction kit but even that was useless as it needs to be used a few minutes after the bite, not the day after. The old man was in excruciating pain. There was nothing we could do but let the local healer work so, after having luch, Enrique took me for a boat trip on the river to go see some dolphins. The Amazon has two species of fresh water dolphins, a grey one and a pink one. Of course the ones all tourists want to see are the pink ones but we only saw a few greay ones, as well as quite a few birds: cormorans, herons, etc. Back at the house, the shaman was at work and his remedy seemed to work, as the pain in the old man's leg was easing. We finished the day with a game of volleyball on the communal ground, during which I showed how crap I am at this game.

We got up early on the Friday. Enrique's father in law had had a quiet night, the venom cure seemed to have worked very well. Enrique, Guido and I were to go on a canoo trip on some of the small rivers deeper in the jungle and Enrique would take me to the real jungle, not the semi wild thing around the village. While making our way up river, we saw a lot of birds again and a few bats that were spending the day asleep under tree branches. We got to the small house of a friend of Enrique, where Guido would prepare lunch while we would go into the forest.

The jungle in that part was very thick and we had to cut our way through some of it with a machete. Or rather, Enrique did the cutting, I did the following trying not to trip over. There was a lot to see, especially more of the huge sequoia trees and more birds and insects, in particular the huge electric blue Morpho butterfly, that is considered by locals an evil spirit that leads people deep in the forest for them never to return. Then suddenly Enrique turns round, stops and tells me to move slowly. Just there, spiralling around a dangling branch is a bright green bushmaster snake, the largest venomous snake in this part of the world. It is more than two metre long and doesn't move at all while we circle it. It is absolutely beautiful but also deadly. After this adrenalin rush, we slowly head back towards the river, the house and lunch. After lunch, we canoo back down the river and stop for some more piranha fishing. We manage to catch two, a red one and a white one, where I learn there are different species of piranha, but they are both too small and we have to let them go. Not before Enrique shows me how they can cut a leaf in pieces with their teeth though.

Back at Enrique's house, we decide to wash the grime of the day in the big river. It is not the Amazon anymore here, we are too far upriver, it is one of the two rivers that become the Amazon at Nauta. While having a swim within easy reach of the bank, I ask Enrique what fish live in the river. Piranhas; caneros, a fish that smells human urine and attacks you so don't piss in the river; caimans; dolphins; electric eels that can kill a man; and all sorts of other inoffensive creatures. Just on cue, I feel small teeth gnawing at my leg. It is a small fish of the inoffensive sort that thought it would have a go at this big pink thing. We are in water that is too shallow for the more offensive residents. After diner and a quick game of cards with Enrique's young children and brother in law, I decide to go to bed early as the following day's plan is to get up at first light, take a boat to Nauta to see where the Amazon starts and then a bus back to Iquitos. Indeed, Iquitos can now be reached by road from Nauta. The road has been open a few months and has cost the Peruvian government a huge amount of cash as it goes straight through the jungle but it makes communication much easier.

Suddenly, a couple of hours after dark, Enrique's father in law, who had been feeling well all day, starts crying in pain. The pain of the venom is not in the leg anymore, it is in the stomach. His family assemble around him, pray, cry, try the shaman's remedy that had worked so well and everything they can think of, to no avail. The old man dies an hour later in excruciating pain. There has been no time to call any doctor or shaman. As is the custom here, the mourning starts with the wailing, taken to histerical levels. And because he was the oldest man in the village, it will happen in the communal house. Guido and I feel completely out of place. We decide to go immediately and leave the family and village to privately mourn the old man. The barge is meant to stop here at 10pm to load more than 800 bags of rice, the surplus production of the village that is one of their main source of incoming cash.

We arrived back in Iquitos at 9am this morning. I checked back at the hotel and had a shower. Guido and I will meet later on for lunch. Then tonight I will meet other people I met on Tuesday, when I arrived, so that they can show me the night life of Iquitos. The feeling is very strange though.

Wednesday, 26 October 2005

Iquitos, Loreto

Welcome to Iquitos, the outside temperature is 84 degrees Fahrenheit. Or 29 degrees Celsius. I arrived here yesterday. In about 1 hour's time, I am leaving for a 3 day jungle tour. The program includes lots of different animals: pink dolphins, snakes, tarentulas, mosquitoes, etc. Possibly monkeys too. And sleeping in hammocks. I'll be back here on Saturday afternoon.

Monday, 24 October 2005

The Inca Trail

From Cusco, the centre of the Inca world, several trails used to start, linking different Inca sites. What is today known as is a small portion of the trail from Cusco to Machu Picchu, namely the part that starts 82 kilometres from Cusco and finishes at the citadel of Machu Picchu. The trek is done over 4 days, covers a distance of approximately 40 kilometres, its lowest point is Machu Picchu itself at 2400 metres above sea level, its highest point is the Dead Woman's pass at 4200 metres. When I booked this trek, I was only vaguely aware of those statistics but knew it would be challenging, especially considering I've never really done any trekking and I am not the fittest person in the world. So here's how it went.

Day 1, acclimatisation

It all started in a bit of a panic as the tour agency forgot to pick me up, thinking I was in Urubamba rather than Cusco. When I didn't see them come well after the agreed time, I called them, they organised a pick up and I joined the group in Ollaytaytambo.

There were 6 of us in the group: a couple of Brits from Brighton, Kai and Tom; an Australian from Melbourne, John; a couple of Argentinians on their honeymoon, Florencia and Ezekiel; and me. Our guide for the trek was a local guy named Angel. In addition, we had 6 porters and a cook. It meant that we had warm meals every day and the heavy gear was dealt with by the porters. Some will consider it cheating but it is what makes this trek accessible to the majority of people, especially unfit people like me.

The first day was a relaxed trek going from 2800 metres to 3000 metres above sea level in 4 hours or so. This was all meant to warm us up and did so beautifully. It was also a great way to get to know each other and as we were a small group all of a similar age we got on very well.

Day 2, challenge

The second day was the really challenging one. It started by a long climb over 10 kilometres taking us from 3000 metres to the Dead Woman's pass at 4200 metres. This part was absolutely excruciating but we managed to make it in the expected time of 4 hours. I thought I'd never see the end of it. The views along the way were stunning though and the feeling when arriving on top of the pass was amazing. The weather was mostly good with a few spells of light rain, which helped as it was not too hot while being mainly dry and sunny.

The second part of the day consisted in walking back down to 3600 metres to the camp. This was easily done and we were there by 2pm. It might sound like a short day but it is calculated so that even people who need significantly more time can finish in daylight. The valley in which the camp was was surrounded by huge peaks which submits were lost in the clouds. The place was extremely scenic. Bird watchers also had the oportunity to see quite a few specimens, in particular bright green humming birds.

Day 3, from one Inca site to another

The third day started with a hard climb to the second pass pf the trek at 3900 metres, with a break midway at a small Inca site. It then went from one Inca site to another. Those fortresses and temples hanging from the slopes of moutains are a marvel of civil engineering. Although the morning was beautifully sunny, the afternoon was spent in a thick mist that made the whole scene very atmospheric, especially because at that point, the trail started going through denser and denser forest that eventually becomes full blown tropical rain forest after Machu Picchu. Seeing an Inca fortress coming out of the mist in the forest on the slope of a mountain around 3000 metres above sea level is an impressive sight. We finished at the last camp at 2600 metres after a very long knee wrecking climb down.

Day 4, the lost city

The last day was very short but started very early. We were up at 4am to be on the trail at 5:30. One hour and a number of very steep Inca steps later, we were at the Sun Gate of Machu Picchu. The gate overlooks the citadel from the last mountain pass on the trek. It had been raining all night and the mist was very thick so when we got there all we could see was a sea of white. But the weather decided to tempt us and the mist parted to reveal the lost city below. It only lasted a few seconds and it all became white again. We walked down the remainder of the trek to arrive just above Machu Picchu shortly after 7am, as the city was still in the mist. Then in a magic 30 minutes, the white curtain slowly parted to be replaced by glorious sunshine and we could enjoy the most amazing Inca city visible today.

It was hard, my legs will be painful for days but it was worth every second. This trek is simply amazing. I will post the photographs that will hopefully say in pictures everything I didn't say in words when I am back.

Tuesday, 18 October 2005

Cuzco, 3400m

I arrived in this morning. The night bus was ok although I didn't sleep much, my iPod decided to pack up (more on that later) and the films they were showing were the most awful I've had so far on a Peruvian bus, which on average rank as abysmal to start with.

Cuzco is a nice place though. The town's arquitecture is mostly Spanish colonial, although you can still see some Inca fortifications and temple ruins. The people are as colourful as in any TV documentary on the Andes and are very friendly.

The one aspect that takes patience to adapt to is the altitude. I had never been above 2500 metres above sea level before so the immediate effect of being at 3400 metres is that I feel quite tired. Luckily, the staff from with whom I booked the Inca Trail strongly suggested I arrive in Cuzco 3 days before to acclimatise. They were absolutely right and anyway there is a lot to see here so three days will be well spent. Interestingly, , the Inca citadel which is the reason most tourists come to Cuzco and which is at the end of the Inca Trail, is at an altitude of (only) 2400 metres.

On a different note, as you would expect in a place where there is any remote possibility to sell alcohol, there is an Irish pub next to the internet cafe where I am writing this from. Is it the highest Irish pub in the world? Probably not: I trust the Irish to have found a way to establish a pub higher than that.

Sunday, 16 October 2005

Photographer's First Rule

When doing photography, there are simple rules you can follow that make your life easier and ensure you take good pictures. Some only apply to certain types of photography, such as film vs digital or landscape vs portrait. Some of them make a good mental checklist when taking a picture; others make a good written checklist before you set off. When I think of a useful rule, I'll try to share it here, with an example of how it can help or hinder if you don't follow it. Here is the first one.

Photographer's First Rule: Camera Power

Never leave home without a spare set of batteries.

This is especially true if your camera requires an unusual battery. Take my SLR camera: it requires a 2CR5 battery, which is a 6 volt double battery that is quite difficult to find. To avoid being caught out, I recently bought an extended battery pack that takes standard AA batteries and allows faster film wind, as well as longer battery life. Unfortunately, this pack makes the body significantly bulkier and heavier so I decided no to take it to Peru. You will easily guess what happens next. Yesterday, as I had just arrived in Arequipa and was about to go see the Monasterio de Santa Catalina that the Lonely Planet on Peru describes as a paradise for photographers, I realised my camera's battery was empty. Panic! Where could I find a 2CR5 battery in Arequipa? Luckily, Arequipa is the second largest city in Peru, has hundreds of camera shops and the second one I visited had what I wanted. It was a close call though. What if it had happened on the Inca Trail and I had been unable to take pictures of Macchu Pichu? Now that I have a brand new battery it shouldn't happen but having another spare one would be better so I'm going to buy one straight away.

If you have a camera that takes rechargeable batteries, don't be complacent. Recharging the battery takes several hours and the perfect picture usually can't wait that long, that is assuming you have access to a power source and you have your charger with you. Obviously dictates that it will not be the case when your battery fails.

To finish the little story above, I did go to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina and confirmed it is a paradise for photographers by taking nearly 4 rolls of film.

Friday, 14 October 2005

Lines in the Desert

I went flying in a 6 seater Cessna plane this morning to see the Nazca lines from above. This is the only way to see them. They are huge drawings made by a pre-Inca civilisation, the Nazca that span several kilometers on the desert's floor. They are amazing. Also amazing is the fact that we can still see them today thanks to the particular desertic climate of the region. Thats is assuming we don't go around destroying them by driving roads through them, which has been done already.

Now something like this, as usual, is the source of controversy. Why did the Nazca draw those lines and how did they do it? Do they have religious significance? Do they have something to do with water, which is scarce in the region? Are they related to halucinogenic cactii? Where they extra-terrestrial landing strips (the Nazca couldn't see their handy work as they didn't have the technology to fly)? I reckon the archeologists forgot about the KISS principle: the Nazca did it because they could and because it was fun.

2 Hours, 108 Photos

That's three 24 exposure films plus one 36 exposure one.

It all happened on Wednesday when visiting Islas Ballestas off the coast of Pisco, 4 hour by bus south of Lima. The islands are a nature reserve that is home to an amazing number of birds and sea lions, as well as fish, crabs and all sorts of marine animals.

The most amazing moment was the nursery, a beach on one of the islands that is called thus because it is where female sea lions come to gove birth. This is nearly the right season but not quite so the beach was full of pregnant females that are going to give birth in a few weeks. The noise they made was absolutely astounding!

Other beaches where more quiet but still full of sea lions quite curious about the boats and willing to investigate quite closely. Hopefully I'll have some nice close-ups.

Above all this, birds where everywhere: cormorans, seagulls, penguins, etc. They weren't quite as noisy as the sea lions but they were the source of the one unpleasant part of the trip: the acrid smell of guano, the islands are covered with it so we went quite quickly around the parts where we were downwind.

This one 2 hour boat trip more than justified carrying my big 100-400mm zoom lens around Peru.

IE, Floats and Negative Margins

A couple of months ago, I realised I had a problem with my floated figures when viewed on Internet Explorer. One of the aspects of travelling and using Internet cafes is that you invariably end up using IE. As a result, I have just realised why my figures disappear.

Because of the way I float out figures using a negative margin, they are positionned outside the main colum and thus outside the display box of that column. IE assumes that once you have a box everything is in the box unless positionned absolutely. As a result, everything that is out of the box for any reason is cropped along the limits of said box. This happens in situations like this one where you have figures that are floated left with a negative margin or italics or cursive fonts like Zapfino where characters intentionally take more space than their display box. Now the whole reason why I used this way of floating figures was because I wanted the margin of the main column to be simple, because of IE's weird behaviour with margins on floated elements and non-standard way of handling padding and margin together. So by trying to avoid an IE bug, I triggered another one.

So what is the solution then? Well, I'll think about it when I'm back from holidays. It will probably involve some CSS hacks to make IE see something while other standard compliant browsers see the style sheet as it is now. At this point in time, a phrase including Microsoft and a string of very rude words comes to mind.

More Comment Spam

I wish I didn't need to do it but I just re-configured this weblog to only accept comments from people registered with Blogger because I was getting too much comment spam. It won't solve the problem completely because some of the spammers are actually registered users. Sorry about that. Maybe you can report spam from registered users to Blogger. I'll have to check out.

Wednesday, 12 October 2005

London, Miami, Lima

I am in Peru! I flew American Airlines via Miami to get there.

The first leg was done on a Boeing 777 with a 2-5-2 sitting arrangement in economy. I drew the short straw and ended up getting seat 36E, that is right in the middle of the central five seats somewhere at the back. As a result I had to annoy two people every time I wanted to go to the toilet, which on a 9-hour flight I have to d at least twice. On the other hand, I was quite surprised by the leg room which was very good for an economy cabin so all in all the flight was nice. And congratualtions to the pilot who landed us very smoothly in Miami, by far the best landing I've ever had on a 777.

Then I was pleasantly surprised that Miami, as opposed to Houston or Newark, has a real international transfer facility meaning that they take care of your luggage and immigration checks are simplified.

The second leg of the trip was done on a Boeing 757 with the typical 3-3 sitting arrangement. I had an aisle seat and it was a quiet flight, with once again a nice landing. I reckon AA pilots have taken special landing courses recently. That or the automatic landing software on AA aircraft is better than average.

Monday, 3 October 2005


I gave in. I bought an . I went for the 60Gb one for two reasons:

  1. It is the only model that can store all of the 23Gb worth of music I own;
  2. With a camera connector, I can later use it as a backup for this new digital SLR camera I intend to buy.

I gave it a lot of thought before actually buying it and even after ordering it, I still wasn't sure whether it was a good move. Getting it delivered was a not simple either. I ordered it from the Apple store on Monday. On Wednesday I came back from work to find a card through the door telling me they had tried to deliver it to me while I was away. I thought wow, this is fast! So I called the delivery company, Lynx to see if they could deliver it at work rather than home. They told me to call their main number. Then the guys there told me to call Apple directly because Apple requires them not to change the delivery address, apparently to ensure that nobody would steal my stuff by calling pretending to be me and having the delivery address changed to their own. Indeed, when I called Apple, they confirmed the policy and told me that if I wanted to have the address changed, I needed to send them an email with a scan of my passport and a hand written signature. At that point, it was much easier to ask my project manager if I could work from home on the Friday so that I could receive my parcel. And so I did.

Now that I have been using my new toy for a whole week-end, I love it! Having all your music at your fingertips in a gadget that small is just amazing. When using my Palm as a music player, I always had to take the time to download a few albums to it and would end up listening to the same thing for weeks on end. Now, I've got everything in the iPod, all 5839 tracks, so I can decide what to play depending on the mood, wherever I am. Genius!

Now I just have to buy a few extra gadgets to go with it, such as a case to protect it, a second USB cable for the office, a dock for the living room, a camera connector, a microphone to use it as a recorder, speakers to share the music around...

Sunday, 2 October 2005

Comment Spam

This weblog had so far been free of comment spam. Unfortunately, the spammers have recently found it. I'll leave it as it is for the time being but if it becomes too much of a nuisance, I'll change the settings to only allow registered users to leave comments. As usual the rudeness of a minority is detrimental to the majority.

Peru Here I Come!

On Saturday I will be 1 year older. But more interestingly, that day, I will be on a plane to Lima, to spend a 5 week holiday in Peru. I haven't completely sorted the itenary yet but the rough plan is:

  • Lima for 3 days;
  • Nazca to see the famous lines, with maybe a stop in Pisco on the way to see the nature reserve of Islas Ballestas;
  • Road and train to Cuzco, probably via Arequipa and Puno, with a peek at Lake Titicaca;
  • 3 days in Cuzco to aclimatise to the altitude, followed by the 4 day Inca trail trek to Machu Picchu and return to Cuzco by train;
  • Iquitos, one of the few inland cities in the world that is not reachable by air road, only by plane and boat, because it is in the middle of the rain forest, on the Amazon river;
  • Tarapoto, still in the rain forest for less remote than Iquitos;
  • Chiclayo, on the coast, with possibly a couple of days in Piura near the border with Ecuador and where the beaches are supposed to be fantastic;
  • Trujillo, still on the coast, to see some more beaches and the ruins of Chan Chan;
  • Back to Lima, with possibly a stop in Chimbote on the way.

Of course, I'll have my camera with me, with enough film to last me the whole holidays*.* Yes I still use film. I am planning to replace my EOS 3 with a brand new digital EOS 5D but unfortunately Canon have decided to release that model next month, while I am away. So stay tuned for some Peruvian photos.