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Jour 1 :

Je commence par un lavage. J’accroche mon linge encore mouillé sur mon lit, et je souhaite que par un miracle, ça soit sec avant mon départ le lendemain. Le détergent que j’utilise est entièrement étiqueté en russe, donc si ce n’était du parfum accablant, j’aurais très bien pu versé une pochette de sel dans la laveuse (les surprises font partie des joies du voyage!). Je me décide de passer ma première journée à explorer le légendaire métro de Moscou, d’une part, car j’adore le transport en commun, de l’autre, car c’est une activité qui ne me permet aucune interaction avec des gens (revoilà ma timidité). Armé d’une carte avec les 12 plus belles stations selon plusieurs sites internet, j’ai passé plusieurs heures à visiter le souterrain moscovite. Facilement les plus belles stations que j’ai visitées à vie, ce sont de véritables musées. Malheureusement, je n’ai aucune photo, car je voulais maintenir mon identité de touriste secrète.

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Ma carte du métro de Moscou après avoir visité ses 12 plus belles stations (encerclées) selon l’internet, source infaillible.

 

En après-midi, j’ai visité un parc de sculptures soviétiques sous une pluie fine. Selon moi, ces sculptures sont particulièrement efficaces quand la météo est misérable et quand pour ton lunch tu n’as que des galettes avec du lait condensé d’une machine distributrice. Je pense que j’ai quand même vécu une expérience soviétique assez authentique!

Après le jardin de sculptures, j’ai “follow the Moskva down to Gorky Park“, comme dans le classique Winds of Change des Scorpions, en me chantonnant cet énorme succès des années 80. Véritablement un de mes moments préférés à Moscou.

En revenant à l’auberge, je me suis retrouvé dans une chapelle orthodoxe incrustée de joyaux lors d’une messe où j’ai passé un moment à admirer le chant du prêtre. Après quelques sandwichs vite faits dans la cuisine de l’auberge, je suis parti à la recherche d’un dictionnaire de voyage russe pour mon voyage en train. À ma grande surprise, je n’ai rien trouvé anglais-russe, mais j’en ai trouvé un français-russe qui était probablement à meilleur marché de toute façon (yey).

De retour à l’auberge, mon linge était encore humide et une dame (je devine) sexagénaire s’était installée dans un lit au fond dans la chambre. Je ne comprends pas trop cette auberge, mais je soupçonne que les loyers en ville sont trop dispendieux, donc les gens sont forcés à partager des logements (ou des chambres d’auberge) s’ils veulent vivre et travailler au centre-ville (ce qui permet aussi d’éviter le trafic cauchemardesque de Moscou).

Jour 2 :

 

À ma grande surprise, mon linge était sec à mon réveil. Après avoir rangé mes choses et fait mon sac, je suis parti à la découverte de la Place Rouge. Il faisait encore froid avec de la bruine, mais j’ai aimé ça. Dans ma tête, il fait toujours misérable à Moscou, une impression qui s’aligne parfaitement avec tout les films de James Bond qui avaient formé mes préjugés sur cette ville. J’ai visité la Cathédrale St. Basile, le mausolée de Lénine, puis le Kremlin sous ce ciel gris. Ensuite, j’ai visité un centre d’achat de haut de gamme à deux pas du bastion du communiste où j’ai « emprunté » le WiFi de chez Hermes. Moscou est une ville de contrastes.

Pour ma dernière soirée à Moscou, je m’étais dit que j’allais faire comme un grand et aller manger dans un restaurant qui avait de l’allure. J’ai trouvé un restaurant serbe ayant de bonnes recommandations et je me suis mis à sa recherche. Soit j’ai mal noté l’adresse soit il est déplacé, mais après 40 minutes, je me suis retrouvé devant un stationnement sans restaurant dans les alentours avec un estomac grondant. J’avais de nouveau très faim et je perdais patience. Je me suis dit qu’au moins j’avais essayé, puis j’ai trouvé un supermarché où j’ai acheté n’importe quoi pour combler mon appétit. J’en ai aussi profité pour acheter des provisions pour le train (fruits, pains, noix, viandes sèches, etc.).

De retour à l’auberge avec quelques heures avant le départ du transsibérien, j’ai eu ma première conversation avec un Russe. Avec l’aide de Google Translate, on a échangé quelques mots, mais rien trop compliqué. Peu importe, il m’a offert de sa nourriture, et moi de la mienne, et on a partagé un repas.

C’était maintenant le moment si attendu! J’ai pris mon sac à dos et mes sacs de nourriture, et j’ai replongé dans le souterrain de Moscou une dernière fois. Une fois à la gare, c’est l’excitation. Les gens se disent bonjour, on se présente, et l’on essayait de deviner ce qui nous attendait. Un peu avant minuit, le train se met finalement en mouvement. Je partage ma cabine avec une mère et ses deux fils de la Finlande. En se préparant pour notre première nuit, les gens du wagon se présentent l’un l’autre dans le corridor et le train roule lentement vers Pékin. Encore excité, je me couche sur mon banc/lit (raisonnablement à mon aise) et je m’endors au doux bercement du train.

MUC à DME

Depuis mon voyage de 26h en voiture de Chicago à Denver, je suis tombé amoureux du transport terrestre pour franchir des longues distances. J’adore l’impression d’avoir franchi une grande distance qu’offre ce type de voyage (et les paysages, et les conversations, et les moments de silence, etc.). De ces longs voyages, le train transsibérien, voyage de 5 jours et demi de Moscou à Pékin, est roi. Ce voyage légendaire a toujours été un rêve pour moi. Cet été, j’ai eu la chance de prendre ce train pour me rendre à un congrès en Chine. Bien entendu, prendre un train de Moscou à Pékin, puis un autre train de Pékin à Shanghai, puis un autre train de Shanghai à Suzhou n’est pas le moyen le plus rapide pour se rendre à sa destination, mais l’opportunité s’était présentée, donc je l’ai saisi.

Avant la Russie, j’avais passé une semaine à Munich pour visiter des amis. Je me suis dit que je n’étais pas souvent de l’autre côté de l’océan atlantique, donc pourquoi ne pas passer les voir? Quand ils m’ont apporté à l’aéroport après notre semaine, j’étais conscient que le défi du voyage allait commencer. J’allais passer deux jours à Moscou sans connaitre ni une personne, ni un mot russe, en attendant mon départ.

Durant le vol, j’ai essayé d’apprendre quelques mots russes (bonjour, merci, au revoir). À l’atterrissage, j’avais maitrisé bonjour et au revoir, mais je les mélangeais constamment. Il était maintenant temps de trouver mon auberge, déposer mon sac, et explorer la ville. Mon choix d’auberge était basé uniquement sur son prix. Mon lit dans une chambre ayant 7 autres lits dans un appartement authentique russe (très kitch) converti en auberge allait me couter 25$ (canadien) par nuit (toute une aubaine…). Ça m’a pris environ une heure avant même pouvoir trouver la porte d’entrée puisqu’en Russie, ou au moins à Moscou, le même numéro d’adresse est partagé par l’entièreté du bâtiment qui peut s’étendre la longueur d’un bloc. Quand j’ai finalement trouvé la porte #6, situé derrière la bâtisse et caché par de la construction, je me sentais comme un maitre-détective. « Au revoir », j’ai salué la propriétaire en russe avant de déposer mon sac et je partir à la découverte de la ville.

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La moitié du 15 rue Tverskaya.

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La porte d’entrée est aussi facilement repérable sur cette photo qu’en vrai. Elle est grise, à droite de cette photo, et derrière la cloture opaque.

Je me considère une personne ouverte et amiable. Cependant, quand je voyage, si je ne me sens pas confortable avec la langue, je deviens extrêmement gêné. Ceci persiste pour environ deux jours, mais c’est assez pour rendre mes repas difficiles. Cette fois, c’était la même chose. J’ai mis une bonne heure à me trouver un restaurant où je pourrais commander quelque chose sans avoir l’air d’un gros touriste ignorant qui ne parle pas la langue. Après mon sandwich (mangé seul dans une grande salle à manger vide d’un café), j’ai été pour une petite marche pour voir le Kremlin, un lieu connu comme étant le quartier général de tous les méchants des films des années 1960 à 1990. C’était très impressionnant, surtout la nuit avec un petit vent froid.

À mon retour à l’auberge, j’étais encore mal à l’aise. En me brossant les dents, j’essayais de me convaincre que le lendemain, j’allais me sentir plus confortable et confiant, et que j’allais explorer la ville sans scrupule!

A neuroscientist’s solution for VR’s next frontier

Virtual reality (VR) is the next big thing. I honestly believe it will change everything the way smartphones have changed everything. What excites me the most about VR is that it lets us consume digital content without it being trapped on a screen. This means that in the (very near) future, we will not need to look at our phones to check our emails or sit in front of a TV to watch a movie. All our electronic devices, content, and information will just be around us in the most unobtrusive fashion, almost like magic.

What is VR from the point of view of the brain? Our reality is formed from vision, hearing, touch, and body-sense inputs. Beyond these individual senses though, our reality is formed by how these inputs work together. VR, in effect, is the process of manipulating the “external” senses – vision, hearing, touch, the senses that tell us about our environment. Currently, VR can manipulate what the brain sees. Doing this is tricky though because we not only need to totally control what goes into the eye, but you also need to take into consideration the body-sense (proprioception) of where the person is looking. If you move your head in the real world, you see something different (you go from seeing a screen to seeing a wall). To create this illusion in VR, you need to precisely measure the movement of the head and change what is presented to the eyes in near perfect synchrony. The first huge milestone of VR was to synchronize the visual input with the movement of the body. We can also control what we hear and synchronize that with what we see. That’s where the technology is right now. The second milestone will be the ability to touch objects that are seen, but aren’t actually there.

How do you touch something that isn’t there?

Gently touch the side of an object. How does your brain know the object you touched is really there? Like I said earlier, our perception is based on how our senses work together. Here’s what happens when you touch something:

Vision: You see a hand touch an object. This hand is attached to an arm that is attached to something that seems attached to you (but you don’t actually know it’s attached to “you” without looking in the mirror, do you?).

Hearing: You may have heard a sound come from the direction of the object.

Touch: You felt something touch your finger.

Body-sense: You had the sense that you controlled the movement of your finger in a certain direction.

Your brain automatically takes all of these entirely different informations and combines them into a cohesive percept. Why does it do this? Because every time that sequence of event has ever happened, they were related. Every time you ever saw a hand coming out of near where you see touching something, what you saw, heard and felt were all related. You’ve literally been teaching your brain this association for your whole life.

Now, with VR, we can change what the brain sees. On top of that, we can put our body-sense in VR by tracking the movement of our limbs and seeing that. In its current state, VR can effectively trick our vision, audition, and body-sense. Not only can we see and hear a completely virtual environment, we can see ourselves in it. Our brain sees the virtual environment and it sees arms that move perfectly in sync with what we tell our body to do. The brain associates that the body it sees must be its own body, because that was the case every time that situation had ever happened before. Before you know it, you’re no longer in your living room, you’re in a virtual world. That sense of being in that virtual world is a phenomenon called “presence” and it’s being reported today by people experimenting with VR.

So what’s the next step? You see a virtual world and you see a virtual body. Your brain figures that’s your body and what you see represents where you are, because that’s how it’s always been. Ever. From a brain point of view, this is the current limit of VR. You can see this world and you can even believe you’re in it, but it all falls apart if you try to touch anything. You try to touch a box but your finger goes through it. Your brain is confused at first, but it knows this isn’t real. This is the limit of VR. You can believe you’re somewhere else, as long as you don’t touch anything.

So how do you touch something that isn’t there?

WARNING: This part is 100% theoretical. To my knowledge, no one has tried this. This should work, but until it’s tested, it’s only an educated guess.

With this device:

Touch v3.gif

 

What this device (lets call it TouchVR) does very crudely is simulate touch. Put simply, when the virtual finger touches the virtual object, TouchVR actually touches the finger. The brain then figures the hand it saw touch something is probably related to the sensation it felt on the figure. This is all combined and it forms an an effective multisensory illusion (an illusion involving many senses). Plus, the device weighs hardly anything (little under 3 grams), so it feels like your hands are free.

You may be asking yourself, why don’t you take this idea and sell for millions?! I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately, I’ve reached my technical limits and I still don’t know if this actually works, in that the brain will think it actually touched something. Instead of keeping this idea to myself, I figure it has a greater potential if I share it and work on it with other passionate individuals.

Assuming I’m right about this illusion, here are the next two steps to bring touch into VR:

  1. Build a hardware interface between TouchVR and the computer. I started to attempt this (with the help of the great people at FouLab, a local hackerspace), but realized I was way out of my depth when I was Googling the difference between P.N.P. and N.P.N. transistors because I had bought the former, not knowing anything about transistors.
  2. Program Unity to interact with TouchVR. With the help of a friend, we managed to get a light to turn on when virtual box touches a virtual sphere, but this is as far as I managed to get this. What needs to happen is to get that light to turn on when a hand, which is mapped into Unity using Leap Motion, touches a virtual object.

There will undoubtably be a million other steps, but those are the two next big ones to see if this works.

If TouchVR works the way I think it should, when you would grasp a virtual object and feel something on your finger, your brain should send a signal to your hand to stop moving your fingers. This is called a top-down process: a signal from the brain to the hand. This means that since the brain will know that every it has ever seen a hand that it controlled grasp something from a first-person perspective and feel something on the finger, something was actually there, it will send a signal o the hand to stop moving the fingers, because why keep on pressing when there’s something there. To my knowledge, no one has ever experienced this. No one has every reached for something that wasn’t there and had their brain say “you don’t need to close your hand anymore, you’re holding a solid object” without there actually being a solid object. I don’t want to get too much into the ramifications of this, if it works, but that would mean that we could trick our brain into thinking things that aren’t there are there. This means that things, real things you can see and feel, no longer need to actually exist. Think about about for a second.

Again, why am I posting this on the internet where someone could come and steal this idea? I’m at my technical limit and my curiosity is getting the best of me. I want to see if this works, and if it does, I want to see this concept’s full potential! To do this, I need help from someone who has skills I don’t. Maybe you’re that someone or maybe you know that someone. I think VR is going to change everything and I want to be part of that change. If you feel the same way, maybe we can work together and shape the future!

Leap of faith

In the larger scheme of things, I’m almost done my Ph.D. All that’s left is writing one article, writing my thesis and then defending it. After 6 years (2 years for a Masters, 4 years for this Ph.D.), I can finally see the finish line. What I have a tougher time seeing is beyond the finishing line.

Seven months ago, I applied for postdoctoral funding with the Fonds de Recherche du Québec – Santé (FRQS). Basically, I submitted a research project with an leading researcher to a funding body and asked them to pay my salary for two years. A few weeks ago, I got news that I was one of the 51 applicants out of 131 to be granted this award. Because this research was to take place in the States, I was awarded approximately $26 000 USD per year, for two years, to do research.

Things change in seven months. For me, that was deciding to move to Toronto with my girlfriend and getting excited at the prospect of having to challenge myself beyond academia and potentially redefining my career direction. After some intense introspection and discussion, I decided this postdoc was not the right direction for me and respectfully declined the offer.

This was a difficult choice but I feel the right one.

Now, I plan on chronicling this new journey I’m about to undertake. The decision of leaving the comfort and familiarity of academia at the end of a Ph.D. is one taken by many, but like most journeys, it’s different for everyone. I’m not exactly sure where I want to go, but I’m sure I’m going exciting somewhere!

Day 18 – June 11th, 2012

Today was one of the trip’s most expensive days. We were in Nazca and since I probably would never return, I decided to treat myself to an aerial view of the world-famous Nazca lines. Those are the mysterious line, found in the middle of the desert, that form giant trees and animals which can only be seen from the sky. For $100 USD, I bought a ticket to see these lines for myself. From the sky.

Picture from the plane over the Nazca lines

Another wonderful example of how jaw-dropping the Peruvian landscape can be. This time from the air.

There’s not much I can write about the Nazca lines that hasn’t already been said, but seeing such an ancient and strange sight first hand is truly wonderful. If you can handle being in a small plane that buzzes around like a mosquito, I highly recommend it. Even if it’s a bit expensive, it’s one of those things that I don’t regret just for the sheer fact that it highlights the wonder and ingenuity of humanity.

A wonderful example of the Nazca lines.

Day 19 – June 12th, 2012

When traveling, we often forget that we are still capable of getting hurt. Sure, we buy insurance, just in case, but we never figure we’ll need it. At least, I don’t. Today was a day when I got reminded how real danger can be while traveling. On our way from Nazca to Paracas, I saw an overturned tourist bus on the side of the road. It put me in a melancholic sense of self-reflection. We travel to experience new things, often putting ourselves in situations that we never would in the safety of our homes. In a sense, that’s the whole point of traveling, getting out of our comfort zones, but we can’t forget that even if we don’t live our normal lives on the road, we’re still as vulnerable as if we were at home. Sadly, the overturned bus wasn’t as close as I was going to be to tragedy that day.

Sand buggy in Peru

A few minutes before strapping in and going down a sand dune on a wooden plank.

We stopped at Huacachina for lunch and the option to do some sand buggying and sandboarding. I missed out on the chance to do sand buggying in Abu Dhabi, so I certainly wasn’t going to miss out again (the chance to do some sand boarding was an added bonus!). We set off on our roller-coaster-like sand buggy ride in the desert with some sandboards in the trunk. If you ever have the chance to go on a buggy on sand dunes, do it. It’s so much fun! We first stopped on top of what I thought was a high dune to practice our sandboarding. If you’ve never tried that, take my word that sandboarding is both terrifying and super hard, but also exhilarating. Your feet are strapped in on a wooden board and you slide down a steep sand slope while trying not to fall and eat loads of sand. That being said, it’s lots of fun. After that “starter” hill, we tried a second, higher hill. Many people gave up on trying to go down the hill standing up and simply rode it lying down on the board. Ironically, one girl really ate sand while going on down this way. You know how sand is, it gets everywhere.

The Peruvian desert

Another incredible scene from Peru.

After this second hill, we went to an even higher sand dune for our third and last ride. I managed to more or less ride the dune, but I wouldn’t say I did it expertly. It was more of a manage-not-to-fall-and-control-my-speed success. I’ll take what I can though. Our last rider wasn’t so lucky. About halfway down the hill, the edge of his board caught on the sand and in an instant, he was flung forward, face first, in the sand. Thinking about his whole body slamming on his face still makes me shiver. We rushed over to see if he was ok. His glasses were a meter behind him, bent, and he had a slight cut below his right eye. His knee was hurting too. It could have been much worst though, sand doesn’t really absorb impact, and he had just hurled his body, face first, into it. While we were making sure he felt fine, uneasily joking, and waiting for the sand buggy to arrive (we figured we should call it a day and head back to town after that), we heard the last thing you want to hear after such an accident. “Guys, I can’t see anything.”

Oh no.

An instant later, his face was white and he collapsed. My father had done the same thing in different circumstances a few years ago, and he made it out unscathed, so I had an idea of what happening, but it was still terrifying. We were in the desert with one of our friends unconscious. No matter how calm you are, it’s not a situation in which you ever want to find yourself. To his credit, our guide handled the situation perfectly. After what seemed like an eternity, the buggy arrived. Our friend returned to us and after a few long minutes, we returned to the city. After a bit of rest, he felt better, but it’s very likely (from my untrained opinion) that he suffered a concussion.

Later that night, I dropped my camera and it broke. But I rather drop and break 1 000 cameras than have my friends go through what happened in the desert.

Day 20 – June 13th, 2012

On our last full day of the trip, we made our way to Lima, the capital of Peru. Like every other capital city, Lima is teeming with American chain restaurants and giant supermarkets. We had our final goodbye supper and decided we should go out for drinks together as a group one last time.

Together with my roommate and the Belgian guy, we decided to have a tequila night after supper since nothing else was happening (9pm on a Wednesday night in Latin America, who would have thought otherwise). We found a reasonable bar and took turns at buying rounds after rounds of tequila for 5 soles per shot (around $2). I remember Alex, my roommate, estimating we finished about 3 bottles of tequila, or about 16 shots each. It is one of the few things I remember clearly from that night. It was a big finish to big vacation.

Day 21 – June 14th, 2012

This was it. My last day in Peru. Though it wasn’t really a day as much as a few hours in the morning. My flight left at 7:30, so I had to leave the hotel at around 5am to make it at the airport before 6am. However, because I decided to party quite hard on my last night, I ended up sleeping through my watch alarm and the wake up call. I finally came to around 5:45am. This couldn’t be good. Because sober Simon had the foresight to get everything ready for drunk Simon, I got dressed and ready in record time (like 2 minutes). Luckily, the taxi driver had been waiting for me for the better part of the hour and he was ready to go when I emerged from my room, still drunk. I’m honestly not sure how I managed to get all my stuff together and board the airplane without too much trouble. In fact, when I unpacked, I discovered that the only thing I forgot during my rushed departure was my deodorant. Not bad!

I found my seat on the flight (a nice window seat) and next thing I know I’m waking up 5 hours later, somewhere over Central America. The rest of the return home was, as these things typically are, uneventful. But after three weeks of fun and excitement, some time to relax was exactly what I needed.

Day 15 – June 8th, 2012

For me, the worst thing about Peru are the “continental breakfasts”. They are basically just crusty bread with a little side of hard butter and jam, and some tea. Sometimes, like in Cusco, you get eggs and ham and puffed cereals too, which are really nice. But generally speaking, it’s not the best way to start your day. Today, I had an even worst “continental breakfast”. I sat down at a table with some friends, where one had just left, and waited for a few minutes to get my portion of bread and tea (and from what I could see one the other people’s plates, egg). The lady never came. When I finally asked her for some food, she ignored me. Eventually, I was able to get one triangular piece of bread out of her with the help of one guy who speaks Spanish, but she refused to give me a slice of cheese (and forget about the egg and juice!). I think she mistook me for this Australian guy with spiky hair and a good 30lbs on me who had just left. Since we are rationed at one slice of cheese at this place, she probably figured I was just a greedy pig who decided to lose 30lbs and a fair bit of hair to get a bit more cheese and bread. I never did end up getting more than one bread. After that disappointing breakfast, we left Arequipa to head to our next hotel an hour from Colca Canyon, where we hopefully will get to see some condors in the morning.

Day 16 – June 9th, 2012

We woke up early to reach Colca Canyon on time to watch some condors in the morning. It was really beautiful. At first, we were skeptical that there actually were any condors, but all at once, 6 condors emerged from the canyon and started majestically gliding around! Some must have soared some 10 or 15 meters from us. It was really exciting. Colca Canyon is apparently twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. Again, I’m constantly surprised by how rugged the Peruvian landscape is. If I was a Spaniard back in the conquering days and I came across this insane canyon, I would have probably would have let whoever lived on the other side of that deep rift keep practicing their heretic traditions. It apparently takes like 4 days to get from one side to another. No way would I have the motivation to that. There weren’t even paths back then! Geez.

A condor and a sunrise

Condors soared above us as a new day began.

Day 17- June 10th, 2012

Today is more of a transportation/waste some time day. We left Colca Canyon at around 10am and returned to Arequipa by 1:30pm. We have another night bus leaving at 9pm, so we’re all just trying to waste time until that departure. We’re also trying to mentally prepare from what has been universally hailed as the worst night’s sleep ever part 2. At least the bus ride back to Arequipa had some pretty rad 80s music playing. Yes, I am getting lousy with the details of this trip, but honestly, it feels like these days we just do a lot of transportation to see a notable sight for a few hours. I guess it’s good in that we’re being quite thorough with our Peru sightseeing. Also, I can’t wait to get home and have a hot shower. It’s been like 3 mornings in a row that we don’t have any. Reminds me of my first few weeks in Montreal when the hot water didn’t work, only without a bucket to pour boiling water from a kettle.

Terraced landscape in Peru

The road may be long, but the view is always beautiful.

Day 12 – June 5th, 2012

Our first night back after Machu Pichu turned out to be a big party night (Day 11). Day 12 was pretty much a write-off. It got so nuts that one of the guys woke up at 3:30pm and thought the reason why no one was in the dinning room was because it was around 6am and therefore before breakfast. That same guy fell from the bar (one which he was standing) and hurt his knee. He woke up with no memory of the night worried he had gotten into a fight. I didn’t have as big a night as he did, but I still didn’t feel top shape until I relaxed in my room for some tv and a long 3 hour nap.  Though I did watch part of a show called Dr. TV (think Spanish Dr. Oz) where, from what I understood, the doctor was warning the audience of the dangers of alcohol consumption. The irony didn’t escape me.

Day 13 – June 6th, 2012

This was our last day in Cusco. My roommate and I decided to try some of the area’s famous white water rafting. If ever you’re in Cusco, you really need to try the rafting. It’s so much fun! The river started about 2 hours out of Cusco and ran for about 13 km. We were four in our raft (my roommate, some Swedish guy, our guide, and me) and the whole thing was amazing. The third guy in our team, the Swedish guy, told us a few stories from his 6 month exchange to Peru. One of those stories, where a friend of his took a 10 hour night bus bus from Cusco to Arequipa and 4 dudes with machetes came and ransacked the place made us a bit uneasy because we were taking that same night bus that very evening. No jokes.

Day 14 – June 7th, 2012

The 10 hour night bus wasn’t as bad as I expected. There were no machete wielding thugs, so that was good. Plus I was able to sleep! My day in Arequipa consisted mostly of wandering around and eating. It’s a pretty nice place, but it’s much warmer and more spread out that Cusco. Actually, it’s quite beautiful. The city is surrounded but mountain. From the top of the hotel, on the rooftop balcony, you have a terrific view of a few snow-capped mountains. For breakfast, we ate at some restaurant at the market where I had a very filling soup called adobo (basically meat with some thick broth and onion), for lunch I had a bunch of fresh fruits and a fruit juice because I was still full from the adobo, and for supper I had a local specialty, guinea pig! I’m glad I tried guinea pig, but I won’t be having it again anytime soon. It’s a very fatty meat and the meat is, as you’d expect for something the size of a rat, very sparse. Oh! I also experienced an earthquake today! When I first felt it, I thought I was sitting over a metro or something, then I remembered there is no metro system here and I noticed that people were rushing out of their buildings. It was a neat experience, though I’m glad I was outside for it.

A mountain from the top of our hotel in Arequipa

A mountain from the top of our hotel in Arequipa. Beautiful scenery like this abounds in Peru.

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