Colonising Cusco

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We are back in Cusco. We returned from Chile to Peru with time to spare before Paulina starts working in Huaraz and the parts I need for my moto arrive from the UK.  So we are taking the time to catch up with friends in the nearby Sacred Valley.

Cucso is a beautiful and enigmatic city, despite being inundated by thousands of tourists all year round, drawn here primarily by the lure of nearby Machu Picchu.  It was once the capital of the great Inca empire, which at its prime stretched north to Quito in Ecuador and south as far as Santiago in Chile.  As great as it was, however, the Incas were no match for the Spanish Conquistadors.  Armed with both superior weaponry and decidedly unscrupulous morals, they captured Cusco and eventually defeated the entire Inca Empire, colonising the city along with most of South America.

The striking colonial architecture that comprises the centre of Cusco – notably the two imposing, rugged cathedrals which flank the central plaza – was largely built from the stone of the Inca palaces, temples and other buildings which the Spanish had sacked.  Whereas the architecture in other Peruvian cities such as Arequipa creates a distinctly European colonial atmosphere, the fact that many of the Spanish-era buildings incorporate the stones of the former Inca capital gives the city a greater sense of history, of continuity.  Somehow the culture of the conquering Spaniards has been fused with the culture of those they vanquished; whilst the physical character of the city, with its basilicas, plazas and elegant arched cloisters, is unequivocally Spanish, the cultural character – the essence of the city – is still distinctly Inca.

20150204-Concepcion-2Casting a casual eye around the central plaza, it is easy to feel transported several centuries back in time. There is even a peaceful air about the place despite being in the heart of a busy city; the traffic is surprisingly light and it is the only place I have encountered in Peru where the use of car horns is forbidden. As you would expect, the buildings flanking the plaza house a selection of shops selling high-end artisan goods, a few banks and money changers, and the odd tour operator.  But look more closely and you will see the light but unavoidable footprint of the most recent colonisers – namely McDonalds, KFC and Starbucks.  Granted, their normally obtrusive, deliberately eye-catching signs have been muted so as to blend into the surroundings, but nevertheless their presence is unwelcome and disturbing.

I have travelled in many parts of the world over the last two decades. Whilst doing so I have become used to seeing the spread of western capitalism and materialism, and the brands that act as the flag-bearers of these social creeds.  When in the US last October, I learned that their are approximately 29,000 branches of Starbucks globally and that figure is only going up.  Arriving in Santiago last month and the centre of Lima a few weeks earlier after a year’s absence, I was struck by the explosion of Starbucks – they seemed to be on every corner.

20150204-Concepcion-1Yet despite accepting the inevitability of this relentless corporate colonisation, intent on sucking profit from any open pocket within reach, I felt a sense of mourning when I saw the green-and-white crowned siren staring down at me from the edge Cusco’s majestic plaza.  Cusco is much more than just another global tourist mecca. There is something very special about the place. It transports you back to another era with ease and perhaps more importantly, it somehow harnesses and transmits the unique and potent energy of the Inca’s which so tangibly animates ruined cities and citadels such as Machu Pichhu.  Cusco is different. Yet the emergence of another Starbucks outpost in this unique and special place announces one thing loud and clear – profit is king and nowhere is sacred.

During my travels, I have learnt that the world is a magnificent place due in very large part to its variety.  That is as true for the world’s continents as it is for two villages ten miles apart in the same county.  Sadly, our high streets have long lost any individuality, as chains and franchises push out the privately-owned shops which together created the individual character of a particular place.  This alone is lamentable.  But to find no escape from this tidal wave in places like the mountains of Peru is down-right depressing.  Much like the Inca’s did, I imagine, when they found themselves surrounded by the ruthless, relentless and heavily-armed Conquistadors, it is easy to feel like giving up when constantly confronted by these modern day imperial powers.

A new branch of Starbucks in Cusco plaza may seem a fairly innocuous example of this neo-colonialism and perhaps you think I am over-reacting.  But don’t be distracted by this very minor example. We do indeed live in an era of cultural colonialism and economic imperialism; and whilst the forces making a grab for our money and, in part, our souls are more subtle than the armies or ruthless trading companies of the imperial countries that came before, they are just as powerful.

Starbucks and the likes are merely the more visible out-riders. Unnoticed by most of us, corporate power and control is now rife throughout the world, including in our beloved ‘Free West’.  The truth is we are far less free and democratic than we think.  Corporate money, and thus power, it behind much of so-called democratic government.  And corporate power controls most of that on which we rely upon – food, oil and other sources of power, banking, health, and mainstream media.  Even a casual browse of the internet will throw up numerous examples of this, but as a taster (with a very bitter flavour), check out the innocuously-named Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP if you need convincing.

But what bothers me most about this phenomenon is everyone’s, including my own, complicity in it.  I feel a deep-seated sense of objection when I see Starbucks planting its flag in yet another high street, and in doing so probably signing the death sentence of a local coffee shop around the corner. Yet the truth is, I am one of their customers.  I, like nearly everyone else, have been seduced by convenience; I’ve fallen into the trap of valuing predictability, of feeling comfortable in familiar surroundings and knowing exactly what I am going to get when I part with my money. Hypocritical, me?  Absolutely, guilty as charged.  We are all becoming brain-washed, ‘robotised’, yet the process is subtle and goes unnoticed amongst the daily rush of modern life.

I stayed out of Starbucks and searched out another coffee-shop in Cusco today; on this particular occasion it felt too incongruous and, frankly, disrespectful to do otherwise.  Had I been in Lima, Santiago or anywhere else, however, Starbucks would have been a tiny bit richer this evening, and I a little more hypocritical.

It’s a pessimistic story and I don’t have a silver bullet to change it. But all conscious change starts with awareness – of the world around us and of ourselves.  At least I am aware that I’m a hypocrite, so now I can choose whether to do something about it.

25 Comments on Colonising Cusco

  1. great to hear from you pitch – hope all is well my friend. love your honesty -‘At least I am aware that I’m a hypocrite, so now I can *choose* whether to do something about it.

    Dave

    *David Relph*

    dcjrelph@gmail.com +44(0)7879446756

    • Hello mate! In a bit of an introspective phase at the moment with no bike to distract me. Mulling over a new blog project more on this theme…. Hope you and N are well.

  2. also, get yourself a twitter account amigo!

    *David Relph*

    dcjrelph@gmail.com +44(0)7879446756

  3. Loved your latest blog. You said so succinctly what many of us feel. How to resist ?

  4. Wow, they say it’s a small world – guess where Jenny and I are. Just got into Cusco this pm and got ourselves settled into The Grand Colonial Hostal just around the corner from the Plaza. Here for a couple of days .

    • I had a feeling you guys maybe around S Peru by now – but sadly I’m typing this from Starbucks in Lima Airport!!! Not only did we just miss you, but I’m entrenching myself even further into hypocrisy!!! What’s your onward route? I may be riding south soon, back to Cusco. Would love to see you. P

      • Hi Paul After a day in Cusco I have my own reservations about the place but a little different to yours – I’ll comment separately. Shame we’ve missed you but yes, maybe we can meet up on our way north and your way south? As it happens we are pondering our onward route right now so can we pick your brains for a little local knowledge? We’ll ride west to Abancay on the 3S probably tomorrow and stop there for a night or more. Then we are pondering whether to go south west down the 30A back to the coast at Nazca or whether to ride west and NW on the 3S to Ayacucho via Andahuaylas and Ocros. The 3S looks the more exciting route via Ayacucho. On our Reise maps the network of roads from Abancay to Ayacucho are marked as “Main road surfaced all weather’ and appear to be one ‘down’ from a red road (which have been tarmac’d where we’ve been on them). We wondered if you had ridden that route and what it was like? Looks like it rises to over 4000M then down to 2000M then up again etc. As we’re two up on a heavy BMW and there’s been a lot of rain we’re being a little cautious as to what route we commit to. (P.S. – we’re also just awaiting a reply from someone re our bike aswell, it’s developed a small problem and I’m trying to quantify how serious/not serious it is before setting off as the next proper BMW dealer with parts etc is in Lima). Lima is on our route aswell as I’m going to visit my Grandfathers grave! He’s buried in the New British Cemetery there. However it will be some days before we get there as we keep getting sidetracked by nice places to stay in for several days!

        Jim & Jenny http://www.motonoodles.com

        Date: Wed, 11 Feb 2015 01:37:41 +0000 To: littlealien263@hotmail.com

      • Hi guys,

        Sorry for the late reply – you may already be on the road. Last year we rode from Cusco to Huaraz via Abancay, Ayacucho, Huancayo and Huanuco at the end of the rainy season. We had a lot of fun and games after Ayacucho – very slippy mud roads, river crossings, heavy mud slides blocking the road and one big road fall which I only just got the ten across. Who knows how it will be this year, but you’ll be taking a risk. Check out these two posts to give you a flavour:

        https://horcamoto.com/2014/03/16/rain-almost-stops-play-ayacucho-to-huancayo/

        https://horcamoto.com/2014/03/24/to-huaraz-through-mud-rocks-and-snow/

        I think you’ll get to Ayacucho okay – there is some dirt road but it didn’t cause any problems for us. And I love Ayacucho, one of my favorite Peruvian cities. From there you can head fro Pisco and the Paracas national reserve.

        Keep me posted. I may be in Lima next week getting some new tires. Jason and Lisa (Two Wheeled Nomad) are there at the moment I think, as Jason needs some work on the Beemer so it may be worth touching base with them.

        Hope to see you soon.

      • Hi Paul many thanks. We decided to ride to Abancay then down to Nazca. The run from Abancay to here, Nazca, was a fantastic ride (albeit a long one). 459km of twisties on mainly good tarmac. We’ve never ridden so many bends and hairpins for so long in my life and it will live long in our memories. Stelvio on steroids! We opted to come down to Nazca because there’s been quite a lot rain up here and we weren’t too sure of the road to Ayacucho (although we think it may now be almost totally tarmac’d). Also because I’ve had a dicky tummy (Inca indigestion?) and being feeling generally unwell ever since we gained altitude about a month ago. Seems to have been a sound decision as after only 24 hours down here at Nazca my tummy has settled down and I feel amazingly well again – in fact I didn’t appreciate how unwell I had been feeling until I got here and felt better – funny how altitude affects different people, Jenny has been fine! Thanks for the info about Simon and Lisa aswell. We’re planning to head to Lima tomorrow so we’ll either arrive there tomorrow Sunday or if we dawdle, Monday. Went for a breakfast here today and sat next to us was Rhys Lawrey, Kevin and Julia Sanders son. http://www.2mororider.com really nice lad and currently setting 2 guinness world records. Great to see the younger generation out there setting an example. Anyway that’s our plans. Not sure how long we’ll be in Lima but long enough to pay respects at my grandfathers grave there and to visit BMW so it would be great to meet up for a coffee (Starbucks or otherwise!) Regards

        Jim & Jenny http://www.motonoodles.com

        Date: Sat, 14 Feb 2015 14:33:58 +0000 To: littlealien263@hotmail.com

      • Glad all is well. I am planning to do that route in reverse when I return to Cusco some time in the next couple of weeks. Keep me posted, looks likely we’ll cross paths at some point and it would be great to see you.

  5. Paul, I get it but is it really that simple? I am very confident that the offending Starbucks was a franchise owned by a local person paying local corporation taxes and employing local people who pay local income taxes. In fact all the corporate examples you cite operate on the franchise model and therefore are examples of local small businessman pull not international corporate push. Franchises make sense to small businessmen because the considerable expense of brand building, supplier sourcing, etc, are spread among thousands. Is there anything really wrong with that? I’m with you on the dangers of multinational corporations perverting the democratic process but is this any more of a danger than organised labour funding political parties and lobby groups? What about the international power of single interest groups like Greenpeace or Amnesty International, who are they accountable to and who elected them? Multinational corporations are accountable to shareholders, trades unions are accountable to their members and pressure groups are accountable to their funders, yet they all exert influence in the way you object to. Finally, if we want to limit corporate power (and I do), then the best way to do so is through competition in a free market, as competitors will ensure that no single company gets too influential. This is what Governments should be doing, that and ensuring that companies like Apple, Google, Amazon, etc, are paying taxes where their profits are earned. As consumers we can choose where we spend our money, too, and as (broadly) rational agents we seek the best quality at the lowest price. Starbucks, McDonalds, etc, have a model that does this extremely well and that is why they are extremely successful. I remain unconvinced that this is a bad thing. You like diversity but I like good quality at low prices. That isn’t corporate imperialism, that is common sense. Anyhoo, hope you are both well. H

    • Hi Harry. Thanks for the challenging viewpoint. They are always welcome, since they keep me honest in my thinking and help my views evolve. It’s a lengthy reply, but that’s because it’s a stimulating topic.

      With regards the ‘Starbucks Phenomenon’, we’re coming from almost diametrically opposing positions. I don’t view it through an economic lens, but rather through a human one. In the post I differentiated between economic and cultural colonisation. I get that the concept of ‘cultural colonisation’ is perhaps a bit nebulous, but it is primarily this that bothers me in the case of Starbucks and their multitude of friends: the dumbing down of our human environment; the erosion of diversity and cultural richness; the carefully-targeted seduction of great swathes of society; the recalibration of some of our cultural values and the deliberate manipulation of our social tapestry – and all this with the sole aim to lure us into their outlets and part with our cash.

      You see the spread of such franchises as a good thing because it is a prudent capitalist model which puts money in the pockets of local workers and the taxman alike – so everyone is happy, right? But here’s the rub, and the core of my argument – money isn’t what give life true meaning. Yes, sadly it is important and very many people have to struggle just to get by, but the huge potential of the human experience will be wasted if we let money drive our lives. We should be striving to transcend money, material possessions and the illusory status and satisfaction that we think it provides. We should be celebrating and nurturing diversity, valuing the richness of our cultures and heritage, and fostering higher human values such as genuine community.

      So for me, it is fairly simple – every so often, let’s put higher social values above material ones. In other words, let’s get by without a Starbucks in Cusco plaza, and use that as a metaphor to apply elsewhere in life.

      However, as I said in the post, sadly too many folks out there have been seduced by the shallow promises of materialism. The corporations with their slick branding are winning, dumbing down us, our culture and our environment as they empty our wallets.

      You suggest small business ‘pull’ is at play in the franchise dynamic, rather that corporate ‘push’. I think the balance is least 50:50 between the two, but probably more weighted toward corporate push. Firstly, successful franchised-based brands actively promote and seek out such collaborations – I very much doubt there would be 29,000 outlets globally if the head-sheds at Starbucks HQ just sat around waiting for entrepreneurs to call them. And secondly, I am pretty confident is saying that the success of these particular franchise models is predominantly due to very sophisticated branding and marketing which creates a demand, rather than the provision of good quality at low prices. (In fact, neither Starbucks nor McDonalds provide good quality – quite the opposite in the latter case – yet thousands rush to their doors, thus validates the power of branding). The demand exists, in large part, but we have been conditioned to want a weak latte or burger made of low-grade beef, not because we really want one.

      So I’m not as lenient on these guys are you. The phrase ‘corporate colonialism’ is in fact quite apt, because the franchise model isn’t that much different to tactics employed by The Crown four centuries ago; by providing willing settlers with passage, land, a bit of support to get them going and perhaps the promise of protection from the local garrison of Red Coats, it outsourced the development of new Crown colonies from which it would later draw profit through trade and taxation. (Take a look at the franchise webpage of Starbucks UK; one criteria for being granted a franchise is “to have the infrastructure and backing to open 20 stores within the next 5 years” – a pretty sound strategy for ‘imperial expansion’, no?!)

      Enough of Starbucks…. As for the dangers presented by seemingly ever-increasing corporate power, that’s another big topic but I’ll try to keep it brief. And here I am most certainly talking about economic colonialism.

      There is indeed a hugely varied plethora of groups, both domestic and international, who can influence the democratic process as well as the business and social ‘spaces’, including many who are unaccountable to anyone. (I’ve just been reading about the hacker group Anonymous taking down ISIS social media accounts and sites this week – a fascinating piece in this complex jigsaw). But I am convinced that the big multi-nationals – or more accurately, the select group of immensely wealthy men behind them – are by far the most dangerous of them all.

      The bottom line here (and now I might sound like I’m contradicting myself, but I’m not) is that money is power. Trade unions don’t have much of it, nor do Greenpeace or Amnesty. The lobbyists who usually succeed are the ones with lots of it, but who funds them? Mostly Big Business, for whom they are lobbying. The people with the real money, quantities that have real influence, are those behind the big multi-nationals and more importantly, the banks. Here rests the power.

      It’s a nice idea, but in reality I very much doubt these powerful corporations are held to account by their shareholders. Those who buy shares in such corporations do so because they are card-carrying capitalists, looking for profit, so of course they aren’t going to collectively vote to block unscrupulous profit-making behaviour. If their stock rises, they’re happy. If the shareholders of the bio-tech giant and champion of GMO, Monsanto, did indeed care and were able to hold the CEO to account, maybe they would speak up against Monsanto’s ongoing attempts to sue the US state of Vermont for passing a law, at the behest of the people of Vermont, requiring GMO food to be labelled. Or their consciences may be challenged by Monsanto patenting their GM seeds and suing farmers who store and later plant seeds from the previous year’s crop – an agricultural practice as old as agriculture itself. Or perhaps they would voice concern at the blatant case of conflict of interest when former Monsanto vice president and lobbyist Michael Taylor was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Foods at the US Food and Drug Administration. Yet none of these activities, it appears, have been impacted by shareholders.

      Free market self-regulation only really exists in Economics textbooks. Again, the proof is in reality – look at immorally huge disparity in wealth distribution, both globally and in countries like the USA who champion the free market creed. Why doesn’t it work? Simple, because the market isn’t actually free. All sorts of forces are at play to influence and skew the market and create business advantage. And governments are on a losing wicket in attempting to rectify this, for two main reasons.

      Firstly, in some instances government and Big Business are in bed with each other. Remember Geoff Hoon, Defence Secretary when Agusta Westland won a £1.7 Billion MOD contract, thrown out of Parliament in 2010 for taking money from lobbyists and now, you guessed it, the MD of Business at Agusta Westland? He is just one name on a long list of instances of ‘cross-fertilisation’ between governments and corporations. Mr Taylor of Monsanto is another.

      And secondly, governments rely on the money of the immensely wealthy men behind the multi-nationals and have done for centuries. From where do governments get money when it needs a loan to, say, wage a war? They borrow it from other governments, said wealthy men (Nathan Rothschild financed both the French and the British during the Napoleonic Wars – what’s to suggest his descendents aren’t playing the same game?), or ask their respective central bank to print some more. The thing is, a central bank like the Federal Reserve isn’t in fact federal (it’s a private bank owned by the same very wealthy men who own most of Big Business) and it almost certainly isn’t a reserve (it has sole authority, enacted through Federal Reserve Act of 1913, to print new money and to lend it (at interest) the US government; and with the abolition of the Gold Standard in 1971, they no longer need to back paper money with anything of real value – money is now, literally, just paper).

      So I guess it is and it isn’t simple at the same time. The simple bit is that money is the real power and it rests in the hands of a relatively small group people who own the banks and major multi-national corporations. But when you take the time to peer behind the curtain of apparent normality, things are a whole lot more complicated that you thought!

      • Hey Pitch, thank you for your reply which I enjoyed reading and got me thinking. My last OJAR described me as challenging but I know what they meant!!

        The only thing I disagree with is your statement that we are coming at this from completely opposed world views and this isn’t true. I strongly value the things that you cherish but within me, and within us all I suspect, is the drive to seek certain outcomes for ourselves. It is these drives that create the societies we have, not big business, and this is perhaps even more depressing. Your post about the new fangled motorcycle with expensive features and options that are unnecessary but somehow ‘must have’ makes this point brilliantly.

        If I am a small businessman in Cusco and I want to open a coffee shop do I open an independent coffee shop and do all the marketing, brand building, sourcing, etc, myself or do I go for a franchise where all this is done for me? The rational decision is the latter and it is a thought process repeated around the world. The business strategies of Starbucks, etc, leverage and exploit this for the advantage of their shareholders.

        In my local Town in Devon there is a Costa that is full and you have to queue for a £3.29 take away and there are two independent cafes with two old ladies with purple rinses drinking £1.50 cups of tea. Which small businesswoman is going to make money? Is this the fault of big business or ourselves? You argue that we should be self-aware about our spending decisions and the second and third order effects they have and I completely agree with this. The interesting question is why increased awareness does not necessarily equal different behaviours and perhaps this is due to our drives and impulses.

        Money = power, membership = power, narrative = power, votes = power, might = power, etc. We should be striving to create political systems that are impervious to the influence of big business, political pressure groups, etc. You lay the fault for this at the door of big business but with annual revenues of $400M and a global membership of nearly 3M does Greenpeace have no influence at all? And multinational corporations are not owned by a few ‘big men’ they are owned by shareholders the biggest of which are the institutional fund holders who are investing the pensions and savings of ordinary people.

        I don’t yearn for a return to the past – 17th century Europe anyone? A third of the population dead over the course of a century of famine, war and disease. The Earth currently sustains over 7 billion people because of capitalism and cooperating nations states, international legal structures, etc,, not in spite of it. If it is going to sustain 9 billion+ in 50 years then we will need GM crops, nuclear energy, etc, to do this. I agree that the market is imperfect but the absence of a market is worse as the miserable and human spirit crushing history of command economies attests.

        So back to the genuine problem you identified in Cusco and how to solve it – sustainable development that conserves cultural diversity and cherishes the human and the spiritual. Well, I have no answers, just depressing conclusions.

        I have spent much of the last three years running businesses in Iraq (security and risk management) and Benin (food processing – flour and noodles) or working with the Azerbaijani government and the biggest issue is not big business, it is the avarice, greed and selfishness of venal politicians who make themselves rich at the expense of the people they are meant to be representing. These men were not in the pocket of big business they are just out for themselves and will exploit anyone and everything to get themselves and their clan rich while they can, often through the manipulation of organised labour groups. This pattern is repeated throughout most of the World – the West is the exception and not the rule – and I reckon that it is repeated in Cusco, too.

        No business will open in Cusco without the right local official getting paid. That local businessman pays his bribe and gets the shop opened and continues to pay a portion of his profits so he doesn’t get closed down or get problems with labour. The same local official also gets his bribes and protection from the new shop’s competitors. He then uses his bribes to further his political interests and the interests of his clan, many of whom now work in the shops he is bleeding. This story is repeated millions of times throughout the developing world and it is the fault of avaricious and greedy people, following their drives, not big business.

        Big business exploits this certainly but what came first, human nature of the multinational corporation? We should look at the former and not the latter and that is the depressing conclusion I have reached.

        Some other thoughts:

        – Trade unions don’t have power?!? Come on Paul, the RMT regularly shuts down London Transport on minority ballots and causes economic and personal disruption that costs the capital billions.

        – I was working in the area of Defence Capability in the Ministry of Defence responsible for helicopter contracts, writing business cases and making recommendations to Ministers and Augusta Westland got the contract to protect thousands of jobs at the Augusta Westland factory in Yeovil. Whomever was on the Board was completely irrelevant. Jobs, political considerations and newspaper headlines were paramount, not the ‘old boys network’.

        – The traditional model of Government borrowing are bills, bonds and gilts sold on the money markets. The buyers of these interest bearing instruments are predominantly institutional investors trying to increase the value of pensions and savings.

        – To raise money to fight wars Kings and Queens predominantly taxed their people, sold the right to future taxes (to international money lenders), debased their currency by reducing the amount of precious metal in the coinage or simply stole it from neutrals. The struggles between the monarchs and the people over tax raising powers resulted in the democratic systems that we have today.

        You are onto something though but globalisation and big business are tired targets. The human story in Cusco is found in the tale of how that Starbucks got opened, who got and gets paid, who is related to who in the workforce and where the money goes.

        Thanks again for your taking the time to right such a stimulating response. H

  6. Rexy and Rosie // 10/02/2015 at 9:50 pm // Reply

    Huaraz…..I have been to Huaraz….why would you work in Huaraz? Mate, get her a job in London!
    Your composition has gone up another notch… That is at least seven notches since you started with this writing two and a half years ago……professional level now.
    Missed this years Dakar I notice.
    We leave home for south east USA in a week…..on the road again….ain’t life wunnerful.
    Be good…. From Rosie and Rex

    • Why would I want to live in London is the easy response!!!!

      Thanks for the kind words. Been a bit out of the writing groove having been out of the moto groove for the last few months Might be time for a new topic. Can’t play the biker roll all my life!!

      Enjoy the States.

  7. Libby Gardiner // 11/02/2015 at 1:21 pm // Reply

    Will be in Cuso in April this year. Won’t be frequenting Starbucks.. not what I am going there for. Actually don’t like their coffee anyway. Any suggestions on where to get a decent brew??

    • Hi Libby. Jack’s, a well-known gringo hangout, does great coffee. And I found a really nice coffee shop / patisserie one block from the main plaza which does average coffee but has a lovely vibe, good food and good prices – but I can’t remember the name!!! You’ll find it though – it is on the little plaza just off the main plaza, with a big glass front window.

  8. Stephen Eldridge // 16/02/2015 at 5:45 pm // Reply

    Hi Paul, really interesting and thought provoking piece you wrote…and I have to say an equally interesting reply from Harrythomset. Conversation of the highest calibre!. And shades of Motorcycle Diaries. ..the Che Guvera in you?. I like being ‘forced’ to reflect on these things, Corporate greed, the Western is at ion of all corners of the globe. It is so hateful when you realise what you are up against with the might and power of these corporations, and my guilt is not being a customer of them but of copping out of the equation all together. When I have my crash helmet on and am away on my bike I switch off and am in MY world, and it is a pleasant place to be!. As a garden designer one of my customers was chairman of the stock exchange, here and in Hong Kong. , he was also involved in government at the highest level. A lovely , down to earth man we became good friends and would talk at length over a cup of tea. One thing it made me realise was the hideous degree to which wealth shaped this world, and what a little minnow I am in this sea of sharks. It makes the achievements of the Gandhi’s and Mandela’s all the more remarkable. On the flipside, and I’m sure you have found this, there are many good and kind people who have very little but are still wanting to share what they have with you. One act of kindness, one good sunset at the end of a ride and all is well….what a simple soul I am!!. Take care Steve ps I am nursing a few broken ribs after an ‘off’ on my brand new Tenere. ..oncoming driver gave nowhere to go but the muddy verge and down I went…ouch. Not a bloomin mark on the Ten!! Great bike

    • Hi Stephen. Harry’s an old military buddy of mine and that conversation could have gone on for pages! I got distracted by some other stuff for a couple of days so decided to draw the line under it for now – other things are occupying my mind. Since leaving the Army I’ve had a lot of time on my hands and have used some of it exploring the internet to find alternative views on and explanations for the world we live in. Talk about opening a Pandora’s box!! In some ways I wish I hadn’t. You can’t help but see things differently when, for example, you learn the basics of how the banking system actually works, with privately-owned central banks like the Fed and established practice of fractional reserve lending, where banks are legally allowed to lend money that doesn’t actually exist, making profit of the interest….. Don’t get me started!!

      Sorry to here you were forced to crash-test the Ten (and came off worse), but at least you know what the bike can handle!!

  9. Stephen Eldridge // 16/02/2015 at 7:00 pm // Reply

    Hi Paul, thanks for good wishes. ..I know you are wrapping up that thread of conversation, but just so you know I get it, my friend I mentioned was a director of several of Those banks..vast sums of money that was in clearance or ‘between’ banks’ was lent or used to buy and immediately sell commodities etc…it is a secret world to most people. On the subject of the Tenere I have just had the first service, and am on the slippery slope of farkling!! I am on the xt660.com forum, ( I am greatescape) and when you see what Jaume has done with his Ten..wow!! Steve

    • And whilst they were busy on the commodities market, they were also fixing Libor interest rates, laundering money for Mexico drug cartels, mis-selling insurance loans and assisting those with a few more quid than you or I to avoid tax. Yet all they get is a fine whist whilst our political masters bicker in Parliament about which of the two main political party received the greater donation from the said tax dodgers. (At least the HSBC apologised for the tax scandal, so I guess that and laundering drug money is all forgiven and they can go back to inventing money on which to make some more profit to pay off their fines for illegal practices.)

      We’d do well to look closely at what Iceland did.

      This guy gives an interesting take on things…

      Or perhaps you would prefer to hear from the president if Iceland himself…

  10. Stephen Eldridge // 23/02/2015 at 6:55 am // Reply

    Hi Paul, have your bike parts turned up yet..? and can I pick your brains about pannier frames for the Ten, with a few miles under your belt which one’s would you advise?, (for soft luggage). I’m loving the Tenere by the way!. Was so worried that i wouldn’t after the XR650R. Hope alls well, Steve ( cold/wet in West Sussex today!)

    • Hey Stephen. Sure, drop me a line on the email (under ‘Contact Me’) and we can chat. The easy answer is, “Which soft panniers are you looking at?”!! The Giant Loop Siskiyous I use are superb and only need a small frame to stabilise them, Whereas the Adventure Spec Magadans I used were difficult to attach really securely on to my Touratch hard pannier frames – and a pain in the ass to remove regularly when I stopped in hostels.

      I really like the look of these new soft panniers from MOSKO MOTO (I checked them out in the flesh in the States):

      http://mosko-moto.myshopify.com/products/backcountry-35-pannier-kit

      They use a similar system to the Kriega stuff, clipping of easily to be carried into your room. They therefore use standard hard pannier frames.

      Choice depends to a degree on whether you envisage leaving the panniers on permanently or removing them regularly. On that point, the idea of removing inner bags and leaving the panniers on the bike is just that, in my opinion – an idea and nothing more. If your panniers are full, it just doesn’t work – bulging inner bags don’t fit back into the pannier and your careful packing system will rarely stay in place.

  11. Zaid Corrales El Fil // 27/02/2015 at 11:15 am // Reply

    Regards dear Paul, my best wishes for you in your new adventure. Areyouplanning to come back to Quito Ecuador?

    • Hola Zaid!! I’m going to stay in Peru for the next two months, but I still want to visit Colombia so maybe I’ll be passing through Ecuador and Quito again some time later in the year. I’m not sure!! Saludos to all the family, Paul

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