Wake up to some dude rustling in his backpack and locker for an hour. 6am. I ❤ dorms.
Hit up the Pariwana bar for a breakfast of sugar crisps (seems to be the hostel cereal of choice), fruit, and a bun that flakes into a million pieces when I touch it. Knock back 23 more cups of Coca tea and we’re ready for the day.
Down at the Pariwana tour desk we get some info on renting quads and going to some archaeological site in the nearby mountains. It’s a guided tour thing, not a freewheel burning, stunt jumping, fishtailing, donut bonanza like we were able to do in Baños. Pretty spendy too. Peru really gouges ya. They’ve got the top visited site in the world, they know it, and you’re gonna have to dish out some serious quid to do the tours in the area. We skip the quads and decide to just ramble around until something finds us.
We walk to the other, newerish section of town that MacKay and I had found last night. Soon we’re approached by a lady with some pamphlets. MacKay is interested and calls us back. 20 Soles for a double decker bus tour that hits a bunch of spots in Cusco and takes you up to an overlook of the city (we fucking love those!) And an archaeological site on the outskirts of town as well. Got nothing better planned. Let’s do it!
Jump on the bus, climb to the top deck, and there’s only one other couple sitting in the far front seats. They’re wearing jackets and beanies. It’s pretty hot and we’re sitting in direct sunlight. How are they not sweating to death?
The bus starts up and we slow roll over to the other side of the square. A couple more ppl get on. This little girl also jumps on with a bunch of hats. They’re these super colorful, touristy, tilly kind of hats that say Machu Picchu on them. I hadn’t put any sunscreen on and the sun was nuking my skull, so I said screw it and threw down 15 soles on one. Diesel goes undercover
The bus heads back to the starting position back at the other side of the square. Ooook. Need more ppl I guess. Strike out over there, so once more across go the other side. And back. Aaand just 6 laps around the plaza and we’re ready to go.
The first part of the tour was super lame. Mainly because we were in super heavy traffic and stuck beside nothing to see for most of it. We did get to some cool churches and a great Incan fountain/mural combo in Cusco centro. Then we were finally out of the traffic and climbing up a road on the outskirts of town. We got up to a great overlook of the city with a huge white Jesus statue looking down on it. Blanco Cristo. Some cute llamas were milling about eating grass and one of them had a hilarious roll in the grass up there, scratching it’s back like a dog, hooves flailing in the air.
Around the corner from there was an archeological site called Saqsaywaman. The pronunciation sounded like ‘Sexy Woman’ and the guide kept making jokes as we approached. It was a large open area surrounded by terraced platforms. Some llamas were sprinkled in to cute the joint up.
As we approached, our side of the bus was busy snapping pics and a series of tree branches smacked us all in our heads. Now everyone is dodging trees while trying to take pictures in an awkward Sexy Woman flash mob dance.
The bus ride turned out to be fairly good overall, not a bad way to kill an hour on 4 bucks. Hop off and hit up a baby market. Grab a couple babies and stuff em in our backpacks. MacKay and I find an outfitters shop too that sells buffs. Yes! I can finally have a selection instead of the same skanky Mongol Rally buff I’ve been sporting all trip. Queue the music – Ssshhhhopping montage!
Expanding the montage, we go back into the central Cusco market. Immediately in the doorway I spot a guy making bracelets, spinning thread attached to his knee. He’s got a different style on selection than all of the typical Peruvian wrist wraps we’ve been seeing. I take a second to ramp up the bracelet tally. Bracelet Dude has long dark dreads under a military beanie and the traditional colorful pants that look like a cross between pajamas and carnival garb. Still need to snag a pair of those. He explains the significance of each bracelet I pick up and tells me the price and how long each one takes to make. I picked up a couple things and he threw 2 more in for free.
“These are all good in water, you don’t need to take them off. You want to wear one now?”. Of course. Pull back my sweater sleeve and he notices the bracelet I bought at the basilica in Quito. “What is this?” He gets super interested. “Got it in Quito, Ecuador”, “May I?”. Sure, i loosen the bracelet and hand it to him. He studies it meticulously, especially the way it tightens and loosens. “This is very interesting bracelet. Horse tail, no?”, “Si”. I offer to trade for one of his, I could tell he really liked it. “No. This is an important part of your travel. You take this one” He ties a band around my left wrist, “I make this this morning. It is for togetherness. It will bind you to other people around you. Very good for travel also.” He tied it in three knots. I raise my fist high in the air, an orange glow pulses out across the market ceiling and everyone stops talking and moving. The world fell silent. Yes this will do nicely. Lower my arm and things resume as they were. I pay Bracelet Dude, thank him and return the horse hair cord of charisma back to its rightful place. Doubly powerful we part ways.
We decide to check out some local gastronomy. The market is filled with fish, meat, and soup kitchens that you can sit and eat at, like we did in Cuenca. Scope the scene, all pretty much the same offerings, we settle in to one with a bit of space.
We order up some mystery plates and while we sit there a little girl across the table starts talking to me. She pulls out a book bag and shows me a letter she wrote. “Oh that’s very good, muy bueno”. This little girl is adorable. Even though I have no idea what she’s saying she continues to chatterbox away. It’s super cute. She puts her head right down on a bowl of soup and starts shoveling it in. My meal comes and I do the same. Our eyes level on the table top. She starts laughing (and drooling soup), her mother behind her is smiling at me. She turns and pulls on her mother’s shawl, pointing back at me. “Si, Si” says Soup Mama.
I have no idea what part of the animal I’m eating. Actually i don’t know what animal I’m eating. But the gravy sauce over top is good, and it mixes well in the rice. And the fries. And the mixed garnish. And the salad. And wow this plate is enormous. I eat about one third and I’m stuffed. Pay up, wave goodbye to Soup Mama and Little Girl, and we’re back to the hostel.
Barbara and Fatima are in the courtyard as we come in. “Mi Amigos! Mi Amiiiiiigos”, “Babababarbra, Fafafatima” we improve a little greetings song and start laughing. Play a little catch up and see what they’re doing this evening. Not much. Us neither. Barbara wants to play ping pong. I think there’s a tournament tonight. “Oh geeeez, I’m not THAT good at ping pong.” Maybe a connect four rematch then? Haha yes! Ok, we’ll catch up in a bit!
We go down to the grocery store for some Machu Picchu supplies. We were told you’re not allowed to bring water or food into the site, but after years of sneaking gallons of booze into Coachella I’m sure a water bottle and some nature bars will be a breeze.
Back to the hostel there’s no sign of our Mexibuds so we try to get some blog time in. Hostel blog fail. Pariwana is a killer hostel but the Internet sucks there. Way too many people hitting the same server and hist resolving issues and timeouts make using it unbearable. Fuck it, let’s go get dinner.
We stop by the tourist booth downstairs. Shitty Internet is a pain when traveling with no agenda day to day as we’re literally planning every part of the trip as we go. So we get some info from Tour Girl. There’s a bus that goes at 7 am the morning we get back from Machu Picchu. It takes a bit longer to ferry to Puno, on Lake Titicaca, but stops at a few sites, a church, and a lunch buffet. The bus is very nice and we will probably meet some people. Alright sounds good to us. It’s gonna be exhausting getting up at 3 in the morning, doing Machu Picchu, getting back at 2am and then catching a cab to the bus station at 6am… but whevs, we’re in.
That problem solved we hit the fancy square for dinner options. Around the block is s traditional looking spot with alpaca on the menu. Yep, let’s keep the exotic (for us) food train going. Plop down and check out the menu. No way! Alpaca Gordon Bleu? Well that’s an easy decision. MacKay gets one too. Drisdelle picks a mixed kabob of beef, chicken, and alpaca. Excited.
While we wait for the meals we’re treated to the top 5 countdown on Htv, the local music station on a hanging tv. Bling. Cars. Booty. Hand thrusting towards the camera. Shaky cam. Some really innovative stuff.
Afterwards comes a show called VIP which takes us behind the scenes of a boy band that’s so hot right now. OMG it’s Chino Y Nacho! We just heard their mega hit top the charts a second ago. Let’s go behind the scenes and see how fucking cool these guys are! Chino Y Nacho, Chino Y Nacho!! Can we hear your hit song 5 more times please? Yes you can!
The Alpaca Gordon Bleu is quite good. A little softer than beef, but tastes pretty much like beef. They had a nice spice rub on it and almost cooked it all the way through (only complaint). It was really good. Pairs nicely with Chino Y Nacho.
Full of cutesy alpaca meat we go back to Pariwana and pretty much crash out. Gotta get up at 3 in the morning to begin our 36 hour adventure bonanza with Machu Picchu, 3 hours sleep, and a bus tour to Puno. Good thing we’ve trained our bodies to maintain max performance even in cases of severe sleep deprivation. Party Spies, on the case.
About to sleep and then I remember – I’ve got those postcards that have to be mailed from Peru for that German chick we meet in Piura. The next couple days will be nuts so there’s no better time than now. Murphy and Drisdelle hang back for z’s while I go on a postal hunt. The hostel security guard tells me to head back to the main modern-ish square so I do that.
I get there and find a dropbox no problem. All of a sudden I’m filled with vigor though – I’d been feeling a bit off for the last week but it’s worked itself out and now there’s no way I can just go to sleep. I roam off in every which direction, looping through these small alleyways around the main square. They’re filled with hole-in-the-wall bars, some obviously catering to ex-pats and tourists while others have a more local feel. This is definitely where the action is though, and there’s a heavy-duty police presence. Not the non-threatening tourist police we’ve seen elsewhere, but carabinieri-looking tough bastards with partial body armor, berets and serious kit. They’re everywhere and they look like they’re ready to regulate at the drop of a hat.
Out of the alleys I continue to walk for a while until I see a Museum of Pre-Columbian Art. Wait, is the door open? It’s almost 10 pm, that’s weird. I go in and the museum is indeed open and virtually empty. Throw down a few bucks and I have the entire place to myself. Curiously there’s almost no Incan art – what I’d expected – but rather pieces from a half-dozen societies that pre-dated the Incans. One section really jumps out at me, a section of jugs and vases made to look like cats and foxes; the style is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. The animals themselves are recognizable but have an anthropomorphism that felt more like something from a 20th-century Asian cartoon than a 2500-year old vase.
Back out to the streets and I walk for over an hour and find myself back near the markets. There’s a midnight game of street volleyball going on. Weird. Swing around the corner and back to the hostel. Still jazzed up but I need to be up in about three hours so I try my best to climb up to my bunk without waking anyone (and fail to do so) and crash out.