Cuzco, So We Meet Again.
Well, we have survived.
Ten hours on a bus from Arequipa to Cuzco—and I’m still here to tell about it. Okay, so that’s a tad over dramatic, but hey—you all know me.
The reality of the situation is that riding Cruz Del Sur means that any bus ride in Peru will be as comfortable as a bus ride in Peru can be. Yes, it’s worth the extra money. No, don’t skimp on it and take a budget bus. If you’re not a poor college student traveling on your semester break than there’s no reason NOT to splurge and spend $10-$20 more for a good bus. I’ve traveled on buses of all kinds, in countries of all sorts, and I’ve finally moved into a stage of my life where comfort trumps all else. Two bathrooms, blankets, large and reclining seats, beverages, and temperature control have moved to the top of my list in this world when it comes to long distance bus travel. I've done the chicken buses, old American school buses, collectivos, tuk-tuks, and just about anything else on wheels that can transport you (and handfuls of others in a fun game of "let's see how many we can fit."). I'm over it.
We boarded at 9 p.m., took our seats, and got ready for a long night. Zac would surely not sleep, this is a given. He can’t sleep on moving vehicles, but me; I’m like a baby who gets slowly rocked to a deep slumber. I can sleep just about anywhere under any circumstance…at least, up until we took our flight from LA to Lima. Suddenly I was unable to sleep on the plane for the entire flight despite my exhaustion. I must admit, this left me psychologically damaged. Yes, damaged (and yes, over dramatic AGAIN). Maybe things have changed for me. Maybe I’ve lost my super hero sleeping powers.
No, I still have them.
I slept for most of the bus ride. My zune is out of batteries and Zac forgot to pack his for me, so I was awoken frequently on the bus by our sickly aisle neighbor who coughed his grossness all over the tiny cabin, which, for the record, smelled like a teenage boy’s bedroom. Yes, the cabin smelled like a particularly pungent combination of sweaty feet, farts, and bad breath.
But, like I said, we made it.
So now we’re back in Cuzco, relaxing at our hostel, happy to have found a place with such a wonderful host who allowed us to check in at 6:30 a.m. because he had our rooms ready. Oh, Coco. He’s been one of the nicer Peruvians we’ve met on this trip, opening his bar for us, trusting us not to pay until the last leg of our trip (this is our third stopover in Cuzco and we still haven’t paid for our previous four nights), and shooing away pesky cab drivers who think we owe them more money.
When we arrived at the bus station we picked the wrong cab, apparently. Everywhere in the main city center of Cuzco should cost you s/3, nothing more. That’s s/2.50 for the cab, and s/.50 for a tip. Never negotiate, and never ask how much it will cost you. Just get out of the cab, retrieve your belongings from the trunk, and then hand the driver the s/3. Do not give your money before you collect all of your things, and if a driver demands more money you walk away. This is a given in Cuzco. You pay s/20 to get to the train station in Poroy, s/60 to get to the market in Pisaq, and s/5 to get to the airport. That’s really all you need to know. The rest can be negotiated, if need be.
This morning our cab driver tried to demand s/8 for the cab ride. EIGHT? He surely had to be shitting us. The cab ride was literally three minutes. We had all of our belongings, I handed him the s/3, and he stood demanding another five. Not in this world. We all said no. He continued to try and get the money. At this point I just said “no, it’s always three, you know it’s three, you get three.” We all walked off.
By the time we were settled into our hostel and napping, the cab driver came back. This time he talked to Coco, trying to get him to get the money from us. Coco, being the awesome host that he is, told the cab driver we were sleeping, there is nothing he could do about it, and that it only costs s/5 to get to the airport, which is much further away. The cab driver tried to say that he was transporting four of us and our bags, but Coco waved him off.
Coco was a lawyer in Lima until he moved to Cuzco several years back, wanting to spend more time with his family. He decided to change careers to accomplish this. Money isn’t everything, he says, though he admits it certainly does help make things better. You don’t come by many people who live by these ideals. Most of us say that money isn’t everything, that there is more to life, yet we continue to strive for financial success. I think Coco is one of the few people I’ve met who actually has taken action to align himself with his belief. And sure enough, his entire family can be seen at the hostel at various times.
Post cab shake down, after our naps, and following gloriously hot showers we walked to the Plaza de Armas to do some more exploring of the San Blas neighborhood. The San Blas is considered the artsy neighborhood of Cuzco, and one of its most frequented by tourists. The narrow cobblestone streets are worn down from centuries of foot traffic, and the surrounding Incan walls that are still standing and providing a foundation for many of the neighborhood buildings reminds one that those same foot paths were used by the Inca centuries before.
Most of the early afternoon was spent shopping around, looking at art, and eating lunch. We strolled down to the Plaza de Armas afterward to people watch. People watching is a great pass time in Peru. Our favorite game is the “not okay” game in which we all spy people wearing completely unacceptable clothes, and then point them out to one another. One of the most frequently spotted “not okays” is stretch pants. Peru is big on stretch pants, and often big Peruvians are big on stretch pants. To be fair, though, we see people of all persuasions in them. I don’t know when people began thinking that it’s okay to wear stretch pants without shirts, tunics, or dresses long enough to cover their asses, but apparently someone got some confusing message about it. I also don’t know when anyone ever thought it was okay to wear jeggings.
Not all of our people watching has been horrifying to the eyes, though. We have been fortunate enough to see several parades (as I’ve mentioned before). Today we also saw an outdoor band playing some salsa music on an open stage as the clouds parted and sunshine broke through. The weather in Cuzco—so crazy.
My favorite part of people watching today took place as crowds of kids passed through the busy plaza, dressed in uniforms and happily running along as they clutched their belongings tightly under their arms. School was out! Hooray!
It was a low key day, to say the least. We’ve spent the remainder of the day playing games, eating food, and relaxing. It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is our last full day in Cuzco before heading back home. Vacation passes so quickly, yet so slowly. It doesn’t feel like it’s time to come home, yet I feel like I’ve been gone for ages.
We’ve all been talking about what we’re going to eat when we get home. We’ve all unanimously agreed that vegetables are what we’re craving. We’ve avoided most veggies on this trip, at least those that aren’t cooked well. Zac and I consume a lot of vegetables normally in our diet, so the change to mostly carbs has left me dreaming of leafy greens. In fact, I’ve joked many times this trip that my getting so sick hasn’t been because of bacteria or a parasite, but rather because I’m suddenly eating high amounts of carbohydrates. My body is engaging in its own “low carb diet” by flushing it all out.
Tomorrow will be a bittersweet day. I’m looking forward to sleeping in my own bed, having a richer diet, and washing my hands with hot water and soap, but the idea of going back to work and having to pay my bills does not sound appealing. It does, however, leave me day dreaming about where I’ll be going next…