I´m leaving Cusco at 8 in the morning, to head off to Santiago, Chile. Spending the day in Lima, as my flight to Chile isn´t until 9 PM. Gets in at 2:30 in the AM. Gotta love Taca, right? Last time, the very last time.
Anyway, just wanted to write a little something less ridiculous than Bad Marie-isms. I´ve been here a week and have really come to adore Cusco. The Plaza de Armas (main sqaure) is almost European in feel, the town surrounding is quaint and warm, bustling always, and even the altitude has grown on me. I have a very weird tan, though. Like a ski tan, but peelier with a freckled nose. (Me peel? I know...) And that water isn´t exactly doing wonders for my skin. But, I really have come to love Cusco. I bought myself an Alpaca sweater, not a fancy one. One that makes me look like a local with wild goats on it, I´d be blasted a fashion faux pas in the States, but I´m kinda into it. I feel Cusqueno in it.
I finally got to see the B-level ruins with a ¨real¨tour company that spoke English and used buses (back and forth) and it was really fantastic. You get a sense of just how advanced these civilizations were back in the day. We place so much emphasis on equating modernity with material things, but it´s not that way at all. All of the Andean civilizations were far more advanced than we realize. The irrigation systems, building construction, villages are astounding to comprehend. The size of the rocks, the way they are placed and utilized, you just find yourself asking over and over again, how the hell did they do this?
At the end of the tour, I befriended Nick from London, a shaggy haired lawyer who looked like he´d rather be at a Phish show, and two Aussies. We spent much of the day together, being wow-ed by the Incans. We hiked many of the ruins together, which is scary at points, as these ruins are built high into the mountains for protection from invasion, and when you go to see them you find yourself on the top of the world, looking down, and disbelieving where you are at that very moment. At points, my knees were shaking b-c I was so high up, with so far down to fall. (You don´t hear about people falling off these mtns, but they must... I wonder.) The other thing that you notice is people of ALL ages are visiting Peruvian ruins. Like, 80 year old shrunken grandmas in orthopedic shoes, hiking unbearable altitudes, climbing up 200 steps to holy altars of the gods. It´s so refreshing. I mean, my mom (sorry, mom...) let alone my grandma couldn´t do these hikes. I was amazed over and over again at the sampling of people. It´s not just schoolkids and backpackers. AT ALL.
After the day, I was just ´going with the flow´and went to dinner with Nick and the Aussies. I now know that I am (and why I am) a complete and utter food snob. For 10 hours, the Aussies talked about the ¨gorgeous¨meal that they were looking forward to for 7 soles, 4 courses ($2.50) that was such a bargain but sooo wonderful. Nick and I got roped in. We went, starving from the day. And....I might as well have eaten my right Teva for dinner. I had to KNOW that $2.50 wasn´t getting me a Chateaubriand steak, but...calling something ¨gorgeous¨all day has to account for something. Nope, not at all. In my head, I was thinking the whole time (and I think Nick was too...) what the fuck? Is this really edible? Anyway, when it was done, assuring the Aussies it was indeed a ¨gorgeous¨meal and thanking them for introducing me to the restaurant (yep, I did...), I went around the corner for another, REAL MEAL, alone. I was starved ... and pickier this time around. I don´t eat to nourish, I eat for the experience, I decided. And will continue to do so, I decided as well. Teva-meat for $2.50. Pass.
Macchu Picchu was yesterday. And it was everything they say and more. Since I couldn´t get on a 4day hike w/o spending a practical month in Cusco, I opted for the 2 day one, which was more than ample. While I fancy myself fit, I wasn´t born in the forest and a 2 day hike was fine for me. At 6 AM, we took a train 3 hours to the 104th KM of the Trail. And, then we hiked 7 hours to Macchu Picchu, coming onto it at dusk. First of all, I know Amy and Brad (could someone tell them this please?) did the 4 day hike which Brad wrote me a lovely email about. I read it and moved on. Ok...they are now my idols. It´s a hard trek, with dizzying heights and steep drop-offs. And, the campsites....leave a hell of a lot to be desired (not that my hotel was anything of merit, more on that in a second) but, everyone is all into the 4 day Trail. I give them credit. 2 days was plenty, 4 days in likely rain, wow. Liptons, impressive.
Anyway, during the hike, which I happened to get the most amazing, perfect, sunny days for, I felt a million different things. At turns, you´re peaceful and calm, exhilarated, frightened to death, and physically taxed. But, it´s one of the greatest things I´ve ever done. Hiking a trail thru 12,000 feet in the mountains, looking to your right of the 2 foot trail you´re walking on and seeing the amazing view, with the treacherous drop off. It´s like NOTHING I´ve ever experienced (or likely will for a while). I used a walking stick (wasn´t sure about it at first, then got REALLY into it, b-c it a) helped and b) made me feel officially hiker cool). But, of course, nothing in my life is without incident. I had an allergic reaction to the sun, b-c I was so overheated and it was so hot. I basically had baby water blisters all over my arms and back. Like teeny tiny spots, that were filled with water. In the shade, they went away. In the sun, they returned. I don´t know what´s happening to me down here in South America. I know you´ve all been envious of my tan at some point in your life. Don´t be. I´ve lost it. I´m a peeling, water blistery (they´re gone, relax!) mess of a tanner down here.
When you come onto Macchu Picchu, it´s amazing. I felt VERY impressed as I was the second in my group to arrive (the first woman!) and awed by the sight. It´s massive. A literal lost city. And since we came upon it at dusk, we got the place to ourselves. Similar to the feeling at the B-level ruins, you can´t help but feel inspired and, well...like a lowly materialistic ass. We were staying the night in Aguas Calientes (the town below that was created around the tourism that MP brings), so we would be able to go into the site in the morning at 6:30, watch the sunrise and be inside MP for about 4 hours, before the first train of tourists arrived. Not bad.
At the end of the day, my body was exhausted. But, accomplished. It was a fantastic day, really one of the best I´ve had. We retired to our hotel in the town and since they stuck me and 2 other Americans (ben and asra from colorado) on the tour at the last minute, we were put at some fleabag hotel b-c the other one where the rest of our tour was staying couldn´t accomodate us. Don't ask... The room was a color pink that even a 128-box of Crayolas wouldn´t house among its assortment. I was terrified to look in the corners-walls of the room, certain a cockroach was going to lay eggs in my ear while I slept. There was a stench of feces eminating from somewhere in my room, but I couldn't locate where. I sniffed all corners (without looking in them) without resolution. Thoroughly nauseating. Whould've thunk this is my life...after such an amazing day. Thank god I got home drunk as a skunk with only 6 hrs to be IN the room. Maybe I should´ve camped out like the Liptons . . .
Gotta go and sleep for an hour or so...onto Lima, then Santiago in a few hours.
More adventures soon.
Miss u all.