Flashback: Peru

Yikes – it’s been two months since I posted here. Life in Manila has been eventful – expect an update at some stage. In the meantime, I came across something I wrote back in 2010 about my trip to Machu Picchu in Peru. Sadly, I have no idea where my MP photos are, so you instead get this cool shot of a parade.

And this absolute gem. Enjoy.


Yesterday, while fondling apples at Shop Rite, I heard a man walk behind me and say, “Hey.” I turned, thinking it would be a friend or a student, but instead came face to face with someone I’ve never seen before.  Sweat glistened along his upper lip as he smiled at me and continued walking. Minutes later, when leaving the store, I encountered him by the exit with an older woman, scrubbing shopping carts and saying, “Wow, I’m so glad they let us wipe these.” He was not in uniform.

As I walked to my car, I tried to push the event out of my mind before realizing that Mrs. Quirk and Ryan may be right: perhaps I am a nut magnet. (Have you ever had a drunk man sit next to you on the way home from NY shouting about how the train you’re on is bound for hell? I thought not.)

It wasn’t until I got home that I remembered the incident coming back from Machu Picchu. Because of the landslides that covered the railroad tracks, the train ride is shorter and visitors to this world wonder enjoy a three hour van ride back to Cusco. I’d spent the day roaming the incredible green hills, marveling in Incan splendor and poking llamas, so the three hour ride home through Peruvian countryside was a welcome end to a long day.

Until Benjamin McCloud* climbed aboard. I slid across the first bench seat and positioned myself against the window. An Irish guy named Martin sat next to me and on his right sat Benjamin McCloud. The bus ambled off and I got comfortable, chatting briefly with Martin about Gaelic. We’d been on the road a mere minute when Mr. McCloud turned to us and introduced himself. He was a professor of some kind of science at a highly acclaimed Boston university, and he had discovered a way to ween people off of glasses. After a few questions from Martin involving vision and some branch of nuclear physics, Mr. McCloud shifted topics.

“I didn’t find what I wanted there, at Machu Picchu. I came all this way, and spent years of research…for nothing.” He hung his head, looking not unlike Indiana Jones had he failed to obtain the lost ark. I made the mistake of asking what he’d been looking for. I blame myself for what followed (all three hours of it).

“The architecture here is similar to architecture at Stonehenge, and a miniature stonehenge my son and I uncovered in Brazil. My theory…is that there was extraterrestrial involvement. You know, aliens. But I couldn’t prove it today. I couldn’t get close enough to see if the brickwork was similar.”

I silently cursed myself as he unleashed a barrage of bizzare memories. The stories that unfolded over the three hours included (but were certainly not limited to) the following theories and anecdotes:

1. Everything we have in the United States was shipped over the Atlantic by Viking prodigies. Mr. McCloud discovered this while he was relaxing in his New England den one evening and his television fell over. Behind the TV stood the Mothman, who led him out to his backyard woods where they uncovered a stone engraved with Viking symbols.

2. The Vikings, the Mothman, and the condor that inspires much of the Incan culture are all, in essence, Jesus.

3. An older McCloud was once kidnapped by Indians and brought into the woods (someone’s been reading too much Mary Rowlandson) where she discovered mystical blue lights that enabled her to predict earthquakes and other natural disasters. The blue lights were located under a waterfall.

4. Tecumseh was also able to see these lights.

5. Mr. McCloud and his son were able to see the lights. On a trip to Ireland, he and his son saw fairies and possibly a leprechaun that no one else saw. However, the fairies, leprechauns, and blue lights were all actually Jesus.

6. Mr. McCloud traveled the world looking for more blue lights, and found some in Florida in a sequestered “No Trespassing” zone. He and his son violated federal law and took pictures of the blue lights.

7. His research on the blue lights is halted, because his son recently passed away. However, his son has been contacting him from the hereafter, and Mr. McCloud is waiting on one final sign before publishing his research. (Here I felt bad for him.)

8. Mr. McCloud also revealed to us that he is somewhere between 60 and 120 years old, and according to a prophecy from his recently deceased son, he will live to be 140.

9. I asked Mr. McCloud if he’d ever predicted anything based on the blue lights, and he said yes, a small earthquake off the coast of Florida, before saying predictions weren’t his specialty and quickly changing the subject.

10. Mr. McCloud thought he was the only one with unique ideas on reincarnation, but then he saw Julia Roberts the year she did not win an Oscar, and he knew she had some abilities as well. He taped the Oscars, paused the tape and studied her face for hours, realizing that she knew in advance that she would not win. Since it’s impossible for an awards show to be fixed or for information to leak, Mr. McCloud came to the only plausible conclusion: Julia Roberts was reincarnated and is living a second life on earth.

11. Enthralled, Mr. McCloud wrote an unpublished dissertation on Julia Roberts, reincarnation, and schizophrenia. Some of his sources include her apparent pre-knowledge of her Oscar loss and a clip of her sobbing when an orangutan hugged her in Africa.

12. Soon, the topic of conversation turned to the impending apocalypse and Mr. McCloud advised a mass exodus to South America or Africa, the only two continents on which life will be able to survive after this event occurs – and where he’ll be living out his days until 140. He then told a story about canoeing college students who may or may not have been abducted by aliens; he, however, thinks the spaceship that was pursuing them was some kind of floating matter.

By the time we arrived at the bus depot in Cusco, I was ready to call my friends and family and profess my love to them (but could not afford to do this), terrified that the Mothman, aliens, or a planetary alignment-induced apocalypse would be waiting for me at the Incama Hostel. I exited the van, bidding farewell to Mr. McCloud, who was now off to enjoy some peace pipe or something back at wherever it was he came from.

Unsettled, I walked alone toward the terminal until I heard rapid footsteps behind me. Turning, I saw Martin, a look of disbelief and amusement on his face.

“What the fuck was that?! I thought he’d never shut up! And what the hell was he talking about?” Martin asked in a dulcet Irish accent.

It took a few beers and a barely cooked hamburger to calm my nerves, but Martin’s empathy and the fact that it could’ve been worse (at least Mr. McCloud didn’t smell or die in the van) helped me through the night.

Do I attract these people? I’m not sure, but I’ll be in the backyard awaiting an answer from Mr. McCloud, possibly reincarnated as a skunk.

*Names have been changed (slightly) to prevent curious readers from Googling this guy.

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