Saturday 14th May 2016 –
I set sail with new friends across the border to Peru. By set sail, I actually mean used the ever present South American bus, and by new friends I neglect to mention that Enrico was still there, till Puno at least, anyway. Nevertheless, the point stands – it was a new chapter.
The new friends were Caitlin and Tamsin, and I’d actually met them on the boat back from Isla del Sol. OK, so slightly less new chapter. In a totally selfless, only thinking of other people way, I’d befriended them, and then they’d ended up on my bus. That was funny because they’d actually booked to be on a nicer one. Hehehe, errr, sorry guys. Many hours later, we arrived in Cusco and had dinner and drinks. That was the last I’d see of them – they were off to Machu Picchu.
You see, Cusco is the beautiful former capital of the Inca Empire – one of the biggest civilisations wiped out when the Spanish came to the party, and evidence of their presence is everywhere. Usually in the form of ruins. Machu Picchu being the most famous of all. While most people would be taking a couple of tours on their stop in the city, perhaps a bit of trekking, or just general sightseeing, I, as usual, was dawdling. Spanish lessons was my excuse. Original, I know.
Yes, once more I was committed to learning, bettering myself, and bettering the lives of South Americans I come in contact with. Take note future employers. “But you took lessons before!” I hear you exclaim. “But your Spanish is incredible enough already!” “But you’re really handsome!” Yes, all true, but in the interests of modesty, I do have to reveal that there is the odd word that I don’t know. Or maybe a few thousand. So here I am buckling down, with two whole hours a day. I have homework, too, you know!
Inbetween the rigours of self afflicted trauma, I did some things. Mostly this involved mooching around Cusco’s stunning Inca/colonial centre, eating at Cusco’s many restaurants, drinking it’s many fruit juices (yay! – you wouldn’t believe how happy this makes me), and sorting out a tour of my own. Yes, my planned two weeks of lessons came with distinct forethought on my part. The ruins of Choquequirao are somewhere I have wanted to go for years, buried God knows where, and inaccessible save for a gruelling 4 day round trip, the site apparently receives next to no visitors. A perfect adventure. Plans are in motion to build a cable car to the site though, and I wanted to go while they were still wild.
Better still, I found out that it’s possible to merge the trek to Choquequirao with part of the Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu, to create a nine day hardship of ascending and descending. I was entranced. I still am. All I have to do is stump up the money for it. That’s the sticker. As so few people (ie. none) go to both in one overarching trek, it’s very hard to find a company that goes, and very expensive. Eight hundred dollars expensive. Decisions, decisions.
In order to replace my new lost friends, I made some more at the hostel, in pretty surreal circumstances. Meeting Amanda (New Zealand) and Richard (UK) was standard travelling fare (sorry guys!) but Naomi and Tom were slightly different. After a little discussion it turned out they live all of about two miles away from me, and Tom went to the same school, if a few years earlier. We quickly added each other on Facebook to see how many mutual friends we had. The answer is – one. A testament to my friendliness overall, really. Fortunately, a backup plan for this sort of awkward barrier – a group visit to the chocolate museum.
The rest of the week went much as one might expect; lessons, homework, dedication to Spanish, and a bit of sightseeing, before I was invited to a meal out with my Spanish class. Being as my lessons were in the afternoon (bad, I know – it means I get up late), I knew noone, but we quickly connected over a traditional fare of pollo a la brasa. In other words, chicken and chips. It’s a staple here.
That’s where the evening should have ended. Unfortunately, it didn’t. We proceeded to Wild Rover, possibly the biggest name party hostel in South America (Irish themed, of course) for more drinks. Then to a bar where one of the guys from the school had a mate playing a gig. Then to Mythology, the ever so authentic Inca club, to break out the bad dancing. To my surprise I met Caitlin and Tamsin again – they’d just gotten back from Machu Picchu – and danced with them, too. Then I went home.
Herein lies the problem. I was slightly drunk when I left. Since I hadn’t expected to go out, I’d been wearing my puffa jacket, and left it in the cloakroom when I arrived. When I left, encased in newly paid for beer jacket, I forgot it. Now I’m hung over, really tired, and very annoyed. The club doesn’t open till 9PM, and I’ve been up since 9AM worrying about the jacket. It’s going to be a long day. This, folks, is why you shouldn’t get pissed in Peru. Or I shouldn’t, anyway.
Sunday 22nd May 2016 –
“They’re used.” The guy in the lavanderia stated, matter of factly. “Yeah, but I’m hardly going to buy a used pair from the street, am I?”, was the gist of my reply. We were talking about a pair of underpants that hadn’t been returned with the rest of my washing, and this debate went on for some time, over several visits. The bloke seemed to think they were worth less because of this, and thereby could give me less in recompense. I didn’t agree. This was where my newly improved Spanish came into play (thanks, Jimmy!) – i can’t say I’ve ever managed to negotiate a value for any lost items before!
Which leads me nicely onto the jacket – I thought I’d let you all know that I did get it back. I know how worried you all were for my welfare, but I, and the jacket, are in fact ok. On my third revisit of the day to Mythology it was finally open, and the jacket remarkably still there. The cloakroom guy got a bigger tip than usual for his honesty (and my relief), before I got a grilling on if I’d be back. Of course I will be, I lied.
Finally I got some things sorted out though. In between my hectic schedule of lessons, homework, the million and one different festivals that light up Cusco every day, and the return of everyone from their respective Machu Picchu trips (yeah, I’m not actually sure what I’ve done this week), I booked my nine day Choquequirao and Machu Picchu hike. That’s as far as the good news went though. It was supposed to leave on Friday, but having finally managed to pull the money out of the bank, I went to pay the rest on Thursday, only to be told it was cancelled. One of the other two who had booked it together was ill, so both had cancelled, and the company wouldn’t go with just me.
Dazed and confused, I wandered around Cusco in an attempt to find a replacement trek, with $800 burning a hole in my pocket. Having been to practically every agency already, I knew there were no other going for nine days, so I had to search for ones just to Choquequirao. It was 3PM by the time I found one though, leaving the next day, but it was too late. I had to make the decision by 5PM, my Spanish lesson was during that time, and I was just too tired to make a rush decision. Instead, I left it, and concentrated on my final lesson. Eventually, I booked it again. I leave tomorrow.