This episode details my family’s post Machu Picchu time in the city of Cusco, Peru. There are ruins, cathedrals, rodents for lunch and a milestone birthday celebration. Additionally, I make my most costly mistake of the whole trip.
With the Machu Picchu experience completed, our family time together became much more relaxed. So relaxed, that I managed to get way behind with my account here. Accordingly, I will not be giving a comprehensive review of our time there. Rather, I’ll just kind of hit a few bullet points.
We made some more new friends on the train ride back. One of them was a guide from Lima named Paolo. He was super helpful, even offering to search in the city of Puno for my Mom’s lost phone (long story…no luck unfortunately).
He was a guide for a group from Wisconsin: Teachers bringing 20 or so of their Spanish high school students on a tour of Peru. (…and you thought my journey took courage!)
We had couple of lodging snafus, the most entertaining of which was an Air BnB with lots of local flavor. The path up:
We eventually ended up all together at a hotel called Los Aticos.
I’ve maybe mentioned before that you should never be surprised to see any manner of machine or animal on the roads in Latin America, but parked out front I saw a vehicle that made my jaw drop.
This Kawasaki Vulcan (packing 1700cc) belonged to Alex, a wonderfully helpful staff person. I can say with absolute certainty that I had not seen a bike this big since I left the US. Alex is part of a motorcycle club and has offered his assistance if I need anything in Cusco. I’m hoping that our paths will cross again on my journey.
After the expenditure of time, money and effort required by the Machu Picchu experience, I think the whole family was ready to take it easy. Though we still did a lot of things, it was more about the being than the doing.
First taste of Pisco Sours:
The following picture demonstrates the importance of recognizing one’s surroundings when taking a photo. One should never forsake the opportunity for a surprise selfie:
We visited a nice Machu Picchu museum (Museo Casa Concha) which gave a lot more information about the site. Though it may have been better to visit ahead of time, I enjoyed being able to greater contextualize the museum being familiar with the layout of the site.
The expedition led by Hiram Bingham, the first archaeologist to find Machu Picchu, was outfitted by Aebercrombie and Fitch. I sincerely hope that they didn’t pay $80 for a pair of jeans with holes in them already.
The 31st of May was a very special day for our family: My Mother’s birthday!
Now let me say this: Ascertaining a woman’s age can often be more difficult than discovering the quantum state of your favorite boson. However, at the risk of being grounded perpetually, I am going to divulge her age freely. She is 70.
Though I have no emperical data to support it, I believe that once someone turns 70 it should be worn as a true badge of honor rather than a burden of shame. Especially when one reaches the milestone while still overflowing with so much life and love:
Sorry, Mom. People should know and you should be proud! 🙂
Some more views around Cusco:
We visited the cathedral in the main square, inside of which no pictures were allowed. Still, there were two photos that I just had to sneak. The first is of the “cuy” last supper. I first heard this word from my Ecuafamilia, which required digital help to translate. Cuy is known in English as a “Guinea Pig.” Though it is considered a pet in the US, down here it is considered a treat. Apparently Jesus found it tasty enough for his final earthly meal.
The second picture I just had to take was of one of my favorite translations I’ve seen.
(it actually means “do not throw garbage.”)
Further expanding the comedy was that this sign was printed dozens of times and was seen in other churches and museums as well. A part of me just wants to shake my head. Another part of me feels at least somewhat vindicated about my feeble attempts at Spanish. Learning another language is hard. 🙂
On the other side of language snafus was a chain of Alpaca clothing stores called “Pure Alpaca.” I found this slightly amusing since “pure'” in Spanish means “puree” or “mashed,” as in mashed potatoes. I wonder if some of the local people think it is a restaurant catering to strange gringo tastes.
Brad and Elise had to leave on April 1st, so I had a few days with me and the folks. We continued to find interesting places to eat.
A Chinese menu so large that my Dad needed bookmarks:
A traditional harp player at another restaurant. That instrument is exceedingly difficult and he was great. We also had a nice chat about fingernails (I’m a very amateur classical guitar player).
We visited the Temple at Qurikancha which is an interesting mix. It was a sacred sight for the Inca’s, so the Spanish did what the Spanish do: Build a church on top of it. The site was a great demonstration of the Inca’s master stone working techniques.
They didn’t use any mortar, instead cutting each stone to an exacting fit. Walls were also inclined to make them more seismic proof.
When Cusco has earthquakes there is usually a lot of damage to the colonial structures, but very little to the Inca constructions. This picture offers a good contrast between the two styles of building.
If the Inca’s would have developed the same sophistication in weapons as they had in masonry, the Spanish would have been repelled easily.
We took a bus tour to see some of the archaeological sights surrounding the Cusco area. Our tour started with some pretty significant rain:
The highlight of these sites is the fortress at Saqsaywaman (basically pronounced “sexy woman”). The size and variety of the stones is mind boggling.
(main photo at top)
I also like looking at some of the oddly shaped interior ones:
As always, there were plenty of biological lawnmowers hanging around.
The next day I made a gut-wrenching discovery:
I had missed my flight back to Quito.
Even typing that sentence almost causes my face to flush with a mixture of embarrassment and shame. I just can’t believe it happened. I still don’t know how I got the days mixed up. This meant that I would have to purchase another ticket to return to Annie. I shopped around thoroughly, but even the cheapest ticket on the cheapest day set me back $332. Ughhh.
To provide a little context about the significance of this number, it was $10 more than I had spent on all of my fuel since I left Nebraska for this southbound chapter. Oooooffff.
The upside was that I got to spend another day with my parents. They were really consoling about the whole matter. I tried to drown my sorrows in a liter of Inca Cola.
At this restaurant, we had all ordered Inca cola. The waitress went to great lengths to explain to us that we could save about $1 by buying the big bottle instead. Though occasionally I feel like some locals take advantage of my seemingly bottomless “gringo wallet,” experiences like this one have been pleasantly common.
Another great benefit of this family time was the opportunity to use my parents as a shipping company. They brought with them some new brake pads and a couple of camera mounts.
I also sent home a few surplus items to them. I’ve maintained a pretty strict “anti souvenir” stance during my travels (Michigan quilt notwithstanding), but having them as a shipping option allowed me to buy a couple of items in Peru. A snazzy sweater:
and an Alpaca poncho:
My parents were running low on space, requiring my Dad to wear it for the flight. A side effect of his ongoing cancer take-down (it really picked the wrong guy) is that he is perpetually cold. When he put the poncho on, I became worried that I may never get it back. I always thought “snug as a bug in a rug” was just an abstract idiom until I saw this sight:
I can’t begin to explain what a blessing it was to be able to meet up with my family so far from home. I’m still kind of in disbelief that it actually happened. It required an ample sacrifice of time and money to make it a reality. Still, I’m sure a day will come when I will forget the exact price of my return ticket to Quito. All that will remain will be the memories of a special time in a special place with some very special people.
Stop bouncing garbage cans, everybody!
Realtime update: I’m currently sitting in the airport in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I’m a little over half way through a 17 hour layover here. Tomorrow I will be reunited with Annie in Lima, Peru. My journey probably won’t recommence immediately. I plan to take 5-7 days to complete my application for my Brazilian visa.
My feelings are a little mixed right now. The last month has been a true torrent of amazing experiences. For that, I’m very thankful. On the flipside, I’m feeling quite overwhelmed at the moment. I’m way behind in nearly every facet of this project (writing, planning, general correspondence, etc.) In addition, each day now brings less sunlight south of the equator.
I’m having to fight against some inertia at the moment to get myself back into “go mode,” devoting the vast majority of my waking hours to this project. As this journey approaches 11 months, I’m beginning to notice some “macro weariness” creeping in. Though it should be noted, in the interest of full disclosure, that I currently type these words having gone around 30 hours without sleep. 🙂
Thanks again to all of you who follow this most foolish of fool’s errands. Your support really means a lot to me!