SA 6: Cuzco, Sexy Woman and a Guinea Pig

So as we sit exhausted back at our hostel, the only thing we know for sure is that we’re NOT tired due to altitude sickness.  This is straight up too much walking and too much sun.  We went right after Cuzco today and it delivered huge.

First up for the day was a stop by Qoricancha, an old Incan ritual site which, literally, had gold walls at one point.  Now it serves as the foundation for a church and as a place to get fun pictures taken with ladies and their llamas (and alpacas).  We caved and did the whole tourist photo, which actually did end up pretty adorable, mostly due to the alpaca.

Daina’s picture was better, therefore more blog-worthy, than mine.

Then we headed off to the travel agency to finalize the details for our Inca Trail trip and book a trip tomorrow to the Sacred Valley (no real walking required).  We also confirmed that we have our own tent.  Not that sharing in general would have been the end of the world, but Daina and me are not small people and putting us two into a tent with most other pairs gives them a drastically reduced amount of room.  Had to hit a cash machine a couple of times within a few minutes of each other.  More on that later (although I’m sure you can guess)

It should be noted that, today and tomorrow, Cuzco is celebrating the 100th year of the rediscovery of Macchu Pichu, so all day long there were dancers, singers, performers – it made for a pretty cool atmosphere.  As we walked to get tickets to our next big spot, we went past a church that had costumed Incan performers all over it.  Really neat stuff.

Our big stop today was Saqsayhuaman.  It’s actually pronounced “Sexy Woman”, or at least pretty close to it.  This was another massive old Incan site which got wrecked in the war against the Conquistadors.  It mostly consists of some massive triple terraces an some open areas that would have been courtyards in the day.  It was the first time we got a real scale of what the Incas were up to and it was quite impressive.

After making our way down from SexyWoman (and then, ironically, up to a Christo Redentor type statue for more views of Cuzco), we wandered back down to the hill, making a quick stop for some fresh squeezed juice, sweet potato chips and a friend-making opportunity between Daina and two cats. We wandered around a few squares and into a couple of markets and a few deals.  And one not-deal where Daina thought he was haggling, I was too tired to notice he wasn’t really, and we didn’t figure out that we probably overpaid until after we left.  Oddly enough, Daina had a hoodie which was exactly like the long sleeved T the guy was wearing.  The guy asked Daina how much the hoodie cost and D said $20.  The guy said, somewhat accurately enough considering the situation, that we “have a lot of money”.

She also has lots of money.  Fruit money!

Nobody can ever say D and me are high rolling, but it’s one of those things I think people lose focus of when you’re haggling down here.  While you don’t want to get taken advantage of, what’s just a couple of dollars for you can actually make a big difference in a lot of other countries.  So we may have paid exactly what was asked of us instead of the deal we thought we were getting.  Big whoop, the guys family gets a nice meal or something.

We wandered up another hill to Plaza San Blas, home of a nice little church and a Cuzco Rocks concert, again celebrating the centennial.  We figured we had walked enough for the day.  Actually, Daina’s face decided, as it was (and still kind of is) tomato red due to a lack of sunscreen and natural protective pigment.  So we headed through the square, caught some more dancers, and then went to a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant called Victor, Victoria.

I ate a guinea pig. 

They call them “cuy” here and they’re basically like rabbit in terms of delicacy.  And it was pretty tasty, although they serve it to you with it’s face, cut in half like a half-lobster, teeth and skin still intact (no fur, though).  So taking it apart is equal parts messy and brutal and Daina did almost dry heave once during a skin pulling experience.  It’s officially off of the “Well, I’ve eaten that, now” list and probably won’t go back on.  Tasty enough.

On the walk back home, we stop by a pharmacy to pick up some aloe vera and chapstick (Daina’s face is purple, so are my lips) and I stop in at an ATM to refresh my soles for tomorrow and… nothing.  Just a message saying my bank is not available.  Was earlier in the day, but not now.  Can you figure out what happened?

We get back to the hostel and Coco, the hostel owner who is pretty freaking awesome, helps me figure out how to make a collect call and we get the situation sorted out.  BEST part, though, was when the loss prevention lady said “Yeah, actually we see that you called us to let you know that you were traveling so we’re really sorry about that”.  “Yeah, you would have been more sorry if I was on the side of some road in Peru needing money to get to a hospital or to buy food or water but I couldn’t because somebody at your bank couldn’t read a freaking note” is what I wanted to say.  What I did say was “Hey, at least it’s fixed.”

That’s the thing with banks.  No matter how much they foul something up there’s nothing they can give you or do for you other than apologize.  It’s the ultimate abusive relationship and it’s just too scary and too much of a hassle to break up.

Anyway, on to happier things, like the tour of the Sacred Valley tomorrow!  We’ll also have the pre-Trail briefing tomorrow night where we get to meet the other two people on our trip.  Yes, it’s a four person trip!  For the guy who hates Walmart tourism, I’m actually stoked about that.

Especially since we don’t have to share a tent!

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