Friday, June 21, 2013

Peru-Brazil 2013 – Day 4 - Cusco

After the sleep fest I felt refreshed and ready to go. Alma and Tom came down from their mountain retreat, we had breakfast together, and then adventurously jumped on a bus (0.80 Soles or US$ 0.30) that with many starts and stops took us to the center of Cusco. All buses here have a driver and a helper; the latter drums up business for the bus, collects money, runs little errands on the go, and acts as tourist guide. The driver drives, oblivious as to the activities of the helper, who sometimes has to sprint to climb back on the bus at the conclusion of one of the many errands.

Cusco was boiling with activity, partly because the dance and music groups that will take part in Inti Raymi are rehearsing all over town, and partly because commerce is alive and well in Peru, and all sorts of tiny businesses, street vendors, and big emporia are making a brisk business these days. Annie and Alma unerringly found one of the many courts where several artisans have come together to set shop, and in no time both were sporting handsome sweaters with llamas and monkeys all over them (let’s not forget that Peru has its fair share of both the Andes and the Amazonian jungle).

We crossed the Plaza de Armas, which was in total festive mood, and then headed up one of the narrow cobbled streets toward Plaza de la Soledad, to meet up with Tita. On the way we admired thick walls built by the Incas, where each stone is milled so exquisitely that they interlock perfectly without the need of mortar. When the Spaniards conquered Peru they tried to demolish many of the buildings, but they found them to be so difficult to take apart, that instead they used the Inca walls as foundations for their own adobe public buildings and residences. A piece of good luck for us, who can now admire this beautiful architecture.

We finally came upon the yoga academy where Tita has been doing her teaching certificate for the last three weeks. She was delighted to introduce her parents to her six classmates and instructor, who were very welcoming to all of us, and on the spot a lunch was organized to the local vegan restaurant. Pretty good fare, if I say so myself, although vegans appear to be difficult restaurant costumers, who want all sorts of swaps in their dishes: “Can I have qinoa instead for rice as side?” “Of course, but that will be an extra 2 soles.” “What about pawa (avocado)?” “That will be an extra 4 soles.” And so on, and so on. Another interesting thing was the multiplicity of slogans for the philosophy of veganism: “Why would some be pets while others are eaten.” “I don’t want to kiss you. Your mouth smells like carrion.” “Animals are not on Earth to be our subjects, just like Blacks are not subjects to Whites and Women are not subject to Men.” Heady stuff!

Tita is having her final exam tomorrow, so after dinner we said goodbye to let her free to study and we headed for the local archaeology museum (nothing in comparison with the Larco Herrera museum) and then walked back to the Plaza de Armas. Alma and Tom had to find the DHL office, because they needed to send some papers back to New Mexico, so they took off on the errand, while Annie went back to the small market she had visited in the morning and completed her outfit with leg warmers, a hat, and a double-layer scarf or chalina, which with suitable ingenuity can turn itself into a hat that extends as a scarf that you can wrap around your neck (something I remember seeing in the Tatooine bar where Obi Wen Kanobi first met Han Solo).

Back at the hotel in the evening we had a briefing from the outfit that is organizing our walk up to Machu Picchu. The big surprise, or difference from when I went up five years ago, is that porters are now limited on the weight they can carry, so they no longer carry your sleeping bag or clothes. They carry the kitchen, the food, tents, and sleeping mats. I am OK with the change, because last time it felt too weird for someone else to be carrying my stuff, but it will require rather drastic downsizing on the amount we carry. We are going through an elevation change of 3,000 to 5,200 m above mean sea level, and every gram of excess packing will be an extra pain on every step. My Honey is not at all happy with this scenario.

No comments: