MacKay wakes me up at 530. I have an alarm set for 6, but that’s cool. 3 hours of sleep should do it. We’d packed up the night before the Machu Picchu trip. Pull all our gear into the hallway so as not to be those dorm sharing assholes rustling through bags and waking everyone up at ungawdly hours.
We cab it down to Wonder Peru, the company that’s running our bus tour to Puno today. There are a handful of sleepy peeps waiting there as well. The bus is large and comfy, obnoxiously orange, and has Wonder Peru slammed across the side. Wooooonder Peru!
A couple get on the bus that I noticed in Macchu Pichu yesterday, could pick out their Canadian accents for sure, probably East Coasters. I launch the “Where in Canada are you from?” at the guy. “I live in Guelph, but I’m from Yartmouth.” “Ohhhh, the deep South”, chimes Drisdelle, “Ya these guys are from Nova Scotia too.”, “No way, that’s great, I love hearing that”, “Yep, Truro and St Margaret’s Bay. Peggy’s Cove basically.”, “Awesome, how’d you know we were Canadian?”, “I heard you dropping Eh-Bombs on Macchu Pichu yesterday.”, “Eh-Bombs, haha.”
During this conversation the guy busts a water bottle in his bag putting it into the overhead compartment. Water starts slowly coming through the top of his bag. “Oh that’s cool, I’d love to get half my backpack soaked first thing in the morning.” He’s struggling to get the bag open or down, meanwhile the water continues to pour down, now getting onto the bus seat. “Fuck sakes, it’s all over my pillow”. He finally rights the water bottle but the damage is done. The two of them scoot up a seat. Then a couple of old Aussie ladies get on the bus. The Nova Scotian hadn’t realized that the seats were assigned and these two old ladies are now getting into the wet seat. “Oh hey, that seats all wet.” These old ladies are not happy. “Well if it’s any consolation, half of my bag is wet as well”, “It’s not”. Yikes. curmudgeonly ol’ coot. When the snarky one gets up to go her friend offers, “She’s a nasty old cunt, don’t mind her.” Aussie elder hose beast.
Things all cleared up, our tour guide gets on the bus and grabs the mic. His name is Freddy. He’s got the smoothest delivery radio hosts can only dream of. Sleepy, and lazy, but chalk full of info. You just want to drink 6 bottles of red wine and have this guy ramble off movie trailers all night. And every sentence ends in Ahhhh, or ehhhh, or maybe ennnhhhh. And perhaps a slight question mark on it? (We’ve been talking like this guy every day since. Our friends are going to hate us).
Try to mimic Freddy-voice and read this part outloud:
“Here we are by this beautiful natural lake, ehhhhh? And look at the Pre-Incan buildings, ahhhh. The stone gate is to regulate goods, Ennnhh? Coming to Cusco, ahhh? Yes, it’s very old, eaaahhnn? And here is an old Church, ahhhh. No pictures, ehhnnnn? You get a CD of pictures, ahhhhh. Now look at all the gold, ehhhhhn. Very elaborate, ehhaannn? Ahhhh, ehhhhhn? And these murals, ehhhh? One path leads to Heaven, ahhhh. The other…. to Hell, ehhhnnnn? Is very rich detail, ahhnnnn? And now we pass a place known… as the land of witches, ahhhnnn? They live in the hills, ehhhh? Can predict your future, ahhhh? In Coca leaves, ehhhhnnnn. They make offerings to mother nature, ehhhhannn? And over here, ehhhh? On this side of the pass. They export corn, ehhhh? And quinoa, ehaann? They don’t raise animals, ehhhha? But on the other side… they do, ahhhhh? This is the last valley before the pass, ehhhhhh? You will see, ahhhh? Things change, ehhhnnn? Is very pretty valley, ahhhhn? Yes, ehhhhh? The last valley.”
It was a pretty valley. I was getting pretty FOMO on the left side of the bus missing out on the last valley. Freddy talked it up so much. So silky. That freaking voice could make you like pretty much anything. Lost in Freddy’s milk honey I drop the cap from my water bottle. Bend over to grab it and slam my head off of Drisdelle’s tray table. Chouch! Reach up and survey the damage. A chunk of skin comes back on my fingertip. Really? “Yeah man, you’re bleeding”, what the hell? Good thing I bought those ‘fashionable’ buffs, this thing is going to take a week to heal at least. Damnit.
We pull into a site called Raqchi an hour later. Raqchi means ceramic, ahhhhh? Next to the town are some more cows playing soccer. They’re getting better. Inactive volcano here, ehhhh? The site is pretty cool, there are a few blocks with partially intact home structures and a large wall and pillars that are the remains of a very grand temple.
“The Temple of Wiracocha, ahhhhh. Creator of the universe, ehhhhh. The sun… and the moon, ehhhnnn. Mud brick, Llama wool, ahhhh? That is how they make these things, ahhhhnn. Place could be more important than Machu Picchu, ehhhhh? For religion, ahhhhh? Look at this big temple, ahhhhh? Yes… very important site, ahhhhhhnnnn? 200-250 people lived here, ahhhh? And look up in the hills, ahhhnnnn. Wall around the city, ehhhnnnn? 3 meters high, 5 kilometers long. Seems important, no? Ahhhhnnn. Yes, ehhhhh?”
After the church and Raqchi, we stop for a lunch buffet at a nice restaurant. Bus unloads and we line up. Feel like we’re on an old person tour. Actually we kind of are. And with lots of old people on it. The food is pretty good. And there is a music duo in traditional garb. One guy plays classical guitar while the other does random percussion and the pan flute. They both sing, and it’s actually quite good.
After lunch we get the Nova Scotian’s name. It’s Delby. He launches into the whole, hey do you know blah, blah, blah cuz Nova Scotia is a small place, game. And right off the bat, stereotypical Scotia, I actually do know them. Starts with the band Wintersleep since my last name is Murphy. Ya actually I do know Paul. My ex used to live with him. Had a great New Year’s one time with those guys. Do I know, Sarah Trask? Yeah I do. Same group, same New Year’s. Loel, ya. The drummer. Used to live in the same apartments as my friend. Yep, yep, yep. World’s a small place sometimes.
The next stop is a pass. The highest one, ehhhhhh?. Chimboya, it’s at 4335 meters. There’s a snow capped peak, a train station, and a ton of trinkets and llama wool goodies set up. Everyone gets off the bus for pictures and a short, full bus shopping montage. Drisdelle begins a new quest. The Quest for the Cafe colored Llama sweater. The pass let’s him down. None that fit. Onwards!
“Look at this small town, ehhhhh? Mud brick houses, ahhhh? Government built yellow bathrooms, you see? Now they can shower too, ahhhhh? Helping them out, ehhhh? On this side of the pass people raise animals, ahhhhh. More instead of farming, ahhhnnnn? Higher up has good potatoes, ehhhhhh? Cows, alpacas, Llama, ahhhhh? Hard lifestyle up here, ehhhhhhh? Very…. minimal, ahhhhnnnnehhhahhh?”
Our next stop on the Gerry Tour is Pukara. At an elevation of 3860 meters. It is a Pre-Inca culture. The terraces here are dated at 400 years, BC. There are tunnels underneath. They are unexplored, ahhhh? May connect to other sites, ehhhnnn? Maybe Macchu Pichu, ehhhhnnnn? We’re on the case. Agent Getz and I descend into the depths. Not very tall and not very wide, I have to swivel sideways and duck to make it through. Using my torch app, my hands guiding along the wall. We travel 200 meters and come out below the terraces. Pretty cool.
Walk down into the town to check out the museum. A pretty damned cute flock of sheep comes across our path and awwwwww you guys, oooooooh.
They took a lot of the artifacts they’ve dug up from the Pukara site to this museum. The central pieces were these idols they found of some sort of King or something on them, eating babies. Yep, Kings eating babies. Apparently that’s why the site is in such good condition, these idols scared the conquistadors off. Maybe they were cannibals, ahhhhh? These cannibal idols, drive conquistadors crazy.
The bus pulls into Puno around sunset. The city is set below the hills on the edge of Lake Titikaka. We get a nice overlook of the city as we drop down into it.
As soon as we pull into the Puno bus station we get intercepted by a cabbie who also runs a tour business. Here’s the deal: A boat will take us out to an island in Lake Titikaka called Uros. It gets back at 1230pm. Then a bus will take us to Copacabana, Bolivia, just across the border. It gets in at 630. 20 bucks. We’re in.
We take a taxi to a hostel i’d looked up in Cusco. It’s under renovation. The guy there gets in our cab and takes us to another one down the street. Pretty nice. Three beds. We’ll take it.
Out down the street to a bad ass plaza con church with Edward scissor hand shrubs outside. Kind of cool, kind of standard main drag w lots of ppl, alpaca shops and restaurants. It started to get cold as the sun went down and people we’re dressed in full on winter garb. Summer days and winter nights, ahhhhhhh?
Hustlers are trying hard to get us in to their places. A dude from a place called Ecco walked us down the street. Showed him my ecco shoes. Haha you can advertise for our store. All the places were basically the same. Guy with a great hat won us over with a super cheap tourist menu. We end up ordering off of the normal menu though. Giving the guinea pig another try. Drisdelle went with the kingfisher. MacKay went for pizza. This guinea pig was much better. Had seasoning on it and a bit more meat. Still too much hassle though, don’t think I need to try it again.
MacKay heads back to rest up. Drisdelle and I continue the search for the elusive Café Llama sweater. Fail again. We hit a really cool bar. Good vibe and music. Really chill wooden interior with candles. Insanely huge cocktail menu. We get some crazy drinks. Pachamama Molecular. It comes out with this liquid nitrogen ice smoke overflowing a martini glass. Drisdelle has something similar. They’re frothing on the table and we have no idea what to do. There is a spoon dangling off the side. Hmmmmmm ok, going for it. “No, no, no” the server comes rushing over, “Dos minutos.” We give the nitrogen some time to evaporate and go for it. Mine is some sort of milky drink and has some weird globules of something that exploded cherry flavor and maybe alcohol in my mouth. Hence the spoon. It was delicious. The bar starts playing a bunch of live old school rock tunes on the TV and over the stereo. Then fire up an AC/DC marathon with spanish subtitles. Estoy en la autopista infierno. We decide not to go for a second molecular cocktail and instead get a Negroni. The Summer of gin continues. These turned out to be the best negronis yet. It may have been the best negroni I’ve ever had in my life actually.
Knowing we’ve gotta get up and catch a boat tomorrow, we cool it after the negroni and walk back to the hostel. No actually we walked all over town just for shits first. Off the one main drag things get non-touristy super quick and we are amongst the locals now with restaurants sporting prices 1/4 those we saw on the strip and tons of people filing down the sidewalk, waiting for buses, and showing little to no interest in us. That’s the way these towns all seem to be. There’s the one main tourist drag with it’s hustlers and vendors. You somehow get sucked in by the gravity of that area, probably because they’re always beside the giant, gorgeous cathedral in the clean, central plaza. Trinkets, clothes, bracelets, and scarves. All the same. Exploiting all of the local ‘culture’. I guess it’s the same everywhere. Whevs, where’s that damned Cafe Llama sweater!