July 14-16, 2007
Today I had to get up before sunrise to get as early a start as possible. The plan was to go to Juliaca, Peru for a heavy metal festival with Keru and his friends, who play in a band. They used to be called "SadomasoChrist," but now they're simply known as "The Undead." I met Keru, Eaves, Leo, Marcello, and Krubs near the cemetery where all the buses would leave from, while it was still dark and freezing cold.
We took the bus up the hill through the city to El Alto just as the sun was coming up. Once we got past El Alto it was just a few hours through the Altiplano to get to Desaguadero, on the border with Peru. I got my passport stamped out, walked across the open border, then got stamped back in on the other side. The others filled out some forms and hired a cart to take their luggage across because they had to cover their instruments, less they face a steep charge from the customs officials. We then had a longer ride around Lake Titicaca to Puno, then finally an hour or so in another bus to Juliaca.
Juliaca is different from most cities in Peru in that it's flat as a pancake. This makes the city perfect for tricycle taxis, which we rode to our hotel. At first it was great riding in front of a tricycle through the city, being free from a noisy, polluting engine, but soon the novelty wore off when a hundred cars, each sporting a noisy, polluting engine spread their fumes upon us.
We dropped our stuff off at the hotel and took a walk around town. Right away I noticed how, uh, unaesthetic it was. The buildings all had steel rods sticking up from them and looked unfinished, nothing was painted, there was garbage everywhere, there was not one tree or even a patch of grass, it was cold (Juliaca sits at 3840 meters), windy, and dusty. On top of that, there were disorganized markets everywhere, selling just about everything except paint, shingles, and garbage cans. The vendors flowed over the sidewalks and into the streets, so there was nowhere to walk. Cars kept passing us and nearly hitting us, but they weren't the biggest problem. The aforementioned tricycles, silent with no lights or reflectors, were constantly sneaking up on us and trying to put us out of commission. On several occasions, I witnesses a tricycle driver attempt to plow through an uncontrolled intersection rather than waste energy slowing down and speeding back up, only to come within inches of getting sideswiped by a motor vehicle.
After eating lunch and spending the afternoon shopping for heavy metal t-shirts, we went back to the hotel where the band prepared for the concert. We took another tricycle taxi to the outdoor arena just in time to see another band starting. I didn't recognize any of their songs, but the music was loud and fast, and the lead singer's voice had a certain simian quality to it. The audience was about ninety percent male, and everyone wore but one color: black. At one point, someone asked me with a straight face if I preferred death metal, black metal, or death black metal. I told him I liked Black Sabbath and he seemed pleased with my response.
Keru's band started playing later, and I decided to make the most of it and joined the mosh pit. It was great fun slamming into the Peruvian metalheads who were half my size and ten years my junior. I think I was the only person there who was not from Peru or Bolivia. Even though everyone tried to look as tough as possible, I didn't see any fights break out, nor were there even any police in sight. The night turned out to be a lot of fun, and I was glad I traveled as a roadie of sorts with The Undead.
The photo album for this entry is here.