Since I last left off at the cafe, I was having a hard time adjusting to the altitude.
It´s better now, but now it feels like I´m getting a cold. Sniffles and watery eyes. It´s a mild version of altitude sickness, they say. Supposedly when you come back down to sea level, it all goes away... We´ll see, I guess. I´m still drinking the coca tea (mate de coca) to keep it together. It still takes like crap. I´ve switched to eucalyptus a couple of times, as herbal remedies are big here and that´s what I´ve been told to drink. Ok....
Yesterday, I looked around the town and got acquainted with Cusco. There is so much to see here. There´s part of me that can´t believe places like this exist. Since we´re so high up, I´m completely unprepared for the weather, which is hot in the sun, and freezing (could go down to 40 degrees at night) when the sun goes in. Also, it´s rainy season, so needless to say, it drizzles or rains at some point every day. I really shouldn´t have given my dad my North Face fleece as we said our goodbyes in Miami and can´t find anything I like to buy to wear to warm up. So, I´ve just been really really cold most of the time.
Part of the allure of Cusco is the Inca Trail hike to Macchu Picchu. Since the trail is the original trail of the Incas, and mostly ruins, the city of Cusco limits the # of people they allow on it each day in an attempt at preservation. So, getting onto a hike is a pain. (yes, everyone told me this before I got here, but did I listen....obviously not). I spent a good part of yesterday running around from tour company to tour company trying to get on a hike. No dice. I am now on a trail on the 12th, so I decided to change my hotel (b-c mine couldn´t accomodate the new dates) and spend a little more time in Cusco, chilling out. There is SO much to buy here. Obviously, I´ve browsed. BUT, I have a really hard time with the whole ¨bargain¨thing. I mean....I´m a sucker for a great poncho, sure. But to have to haggle over it, yeah....not me. BUT, you have to here. I hear people doing it all over the place, but I haven´t bought anything yet, b-c I can´t overcome the anti-haggler in me. Imagine, going into like, Scoop, in NYC and being like, ¨Seven Jeans, $130. No way. I´ll give you $65. Final offer.¨ And they take it!!!!! Maybe you´d end up paying $80. Tops. I mean.....!?!?? The main thing here is Alpaca. It´s Cusco´s cashmere. A little scratchier, but it´s the thing to buy. Now, BABY Alpaca, whole different ballgame. Softer, more $$. I´ve found 2-3 BABY Alpaca things to buy, but can´t commit to the haggle so...I am purchase-less thus far. Oh right, I bought a magnet...
So, you go into all these shops and American music is playing. ONLY. Like, you´re perusing the Alpaca and ¨Meet Me Halfway Across the Sky¨is playing. Or, you´re in a public restroom, washing your hands to ¨Karma Chameleon.¨ Nobody seems to be bothered by it. It gets me everytime. Like, it´s Inca country, and yet, they´ve embraced the Black Eyed Peas.
I visited all the churches yesterday, they´re amazing. I´m actually moved to tears whenever I visit foreign churches. Italy, Spain, now South America. I don´t know why (my mom is like praising the lord and saying Hail Marys right now for me saying that...) but it happens. So, the churches here, like others, moved me immensely. They are so ornate and beautiful, trimmed in gold. Pretty amazing to see. And all the religious paintings are housed in museums near the churches. But, it´s funny, these museums, housing important religious works have like a xerox copy of paper taped to the wall next to it, with notes in pencil, detailing what it all is. The Incan artists all knocked off Spanish works of art, but added Peruvian details to show that the influence was Peruvian. Jungle in the background, for example. The best one that I noticed was a photo of the Virgin Mary wearing a COWBOY HAT!! I guess even the Incans in 1500s knew that the hottest girl in the room was the one in the Cowboy Hat.
Last night, I went out to check the scene at night. The Plaza de Armas, the main square is JUMPING. There´s a million people on it (the bars surround it) in various stages of intoxication. You hear murmurs of ¨coca, coca...¨as you walk through coming from the likes of dark, shady looking men. This, after all, IS South America. Supposedly, everyone goes to the ¨gringo¨bar called Mama Africa. Ironic, no? At dinner, met a German who was really nice and headed to NY next to have a hamburger and fries for dinner. And, visit Ground Zero. I found that SO interesting. That he´s in NY for one night and that´s his itinerary. Ground Zero as a tourist attraction. I got the chills when he said that. But, after dinner we went to Mama Africa, which is all rasta-esque (In Peru, LOL) and tries to be loungy with pillows that are flatter than flat on stiff benches. All iridescent lighting and...throbbing loud American music. Everyone in there is a traveler of some sort and before long, I´m deep in conversation with Gabriel, the sweetest guy from Buenos Aires. Longish dark hair, scruffy but handsome face, medium build. Told me I was ¨very tall,¨ was very impressed that I was from NY b-c ¨New York girls don´t do that I was doing and that I had to email his mom to tell her how well he held a fluent conversation in English with me. He also quit his job and is doing the same thing as I was re: travel. We had a blast dancing, him imitating the American guy´s hand-pumping-torso-throwing-hip-hop dance, me imitating the roll-your-hips-around-lemme-get-so-close-you-can-feel-every-bone-in-my-body South American guy dance. It was hilarious. We got drunk on Pisco Sours (me) and Rum and Sprites (him). He walked me home, like a true gentleman and we met on the square today for coffee before he headed to his next stop, and me to mine.
It´s AMAZING how you meet people, defy the language gaps, have commonalities and can just have random friendships grow out of fleeting moments. It´s been the most wonderful part of this. Anytime I venture out of my hotel room in the AM, I come home in the PM with another story, another friend, another smile on my face...
Until the next entry . . .
I´m in Peru until the 13th. Then, back to Lima for a day, then Santiago, Chile.