Monday, May 7, 2018

Peru 2017 Day 3- Cuzcoo Boogaloo

July 4

Unlike most of our trips, we did not have to get up at Stupid O’clock in the morning. 

The flight was scheduled to take off well before Stupid O’clock, meaning our alarm went off at 3:30 AM to allow Milthon to get us to the airport.  We had already started taking the altitude pills the day before, and packed them with our normal morning vitamins and such to ingest en route, which would be closer to what sane people would call morning.

Our gate was one of the downstairs ones, and we knew that meant we’d groggily, zombie like pile onto a bus in the early morning coastal Peruvian air to be driven out to our Airbus.

Having an older plane was excessively welcome. The leather and roomier seats were just the comfort we needed. 

In a massive switch of how we usually fly:

I slept (instead of Rosa).  In fact the only other airplane ride I slept this easily on was when Rosa took me on this flight before we were married.

Anabelle read an entire creepy book (instead of me).  More horror genes.

Rosa looked out the window (instead of Anabelle).  Constantly taking pictures of the Peruvian mountains, as opposed to refusing to look in the direction of the window and frequently crossing herself.

Cuzco is up at eleven thousand feet, which I only learned on this trip is several thousand above Machu Picchu.  Exiting the plane, we were greeted with a large bowl of Coca leaves, because chewing on them or making tea with them can help with the altitude issues. 

It can also make travelling back to the states interesting if you forget them in your coat pockets.

We walked out of the airport unable to find anyone looking for us in the sea of taxi drivers.  Rosa called our hotel, and was told that because of a teachers strike demonstration, he couldn’t get to the airport.

The guys at the "get a ride" desk let us know that hotel taxi guy NEVER comes to the airport…
Good to know.

Rosa booked us a licensed taxi, and Anabelle napped the whole way into Cuzco proper. This was probably for the best as we passed gangs of police in riot gear getting ready for the teacher’s strike.  The strikers were never violent, the cops just wanted to be prepared.

The radio played “Livin’ in America” and “American Woman.”  I originally thought it was a greeting for us, but it may have been that was July 4th.  Rosa set us up with an afternoon tour of local ruins with the driver on the way in, as opposed to our original plan of using the non-appearing hotel taxi.

It should be obvious that Rosa set up, ordered or booked everything. This placed us in an almost completely “no English,” bed and breakfast kinda zone. If possible, I highly recommend this visiting method over touristy hotels.

No, you can’t borrow my wife.

The Hostal El Chaski overlooked the Plaza De Armas right in the center of Historical Cuzco.  It was set up like all of the repurposed old Spanish buildings were.  Downstairs housed a small convenience store, called a Bruja for reasons I never got an explanation for. Other places had travel agencies at the bottom.   Upstairs was the lobby/ offices and rooms to hire.

Restaurants were upstairs in many of the other buildings following the same pattern.

I was impressed at the number of gay pride flags all over in this traditionally macho country…
Until Rosa explained the rainbow designs on nearly every building were Inca Flags.

I can be forgiven for not knowing this as I confirmed a suspicion when we got home that native cultures of the Americas did not use flags.  Somebody made one up in the Seventies. I’m glad I waited until I got home to learn this, as they tend to frown mightily on those who bring up the “made one up” part down there.

The hotel had phenomenally beautiful woodwork, covered by phenomenally odd color choices painted over some of it, and a phenomenal lack of tape used when painting edges.

The outstandingly attentive and friendly staff sat us down and gave us some Coca Tea, which is what everyone does when you first arrive in the mountains.  A) Because it helps counteract the altitude and B) Because almost everyone is outstandingly attentive and friendly.

Rosa and I forgot that the tea’s counteracting doesn't work as well with sugar in it, and we should have encouraged Anabelle to try to get it down without the sweetening.  Anabelle was too focused on yelling at us for making her drink cocaine to notice. I think the D.A.R.E. program works a little too well.

There were two rooms available with private bathrooms. One was up an extra flight of stairs, and the other had a mini balcony, but what we initially thought was a slightly smaller bathroom.  The balcony view on to the main square was phenomenal, and the stairs were  a big deterrent to our recently oxygen deprived brains at that juncture.

Once we’d settled in, the magnitude of the “slightly smallerness” of the bathroom sank in. 

The door opened in, requiring a cha-cha-cha to enter or exit the room as it barely cleared the sink.  To the left of, 
and I can’t stress the power of these words enough, 
the sink was the back of the toilet.  The toilet seat was rubber, because it would take absolutely no effort to sit on it and take a shower simultaneously.  The drain for the shower was under the sink, insuring anything in there that was not removed would get wet, including one of the rarest of Peruvian commodities, the toilet paper.

Hot water could be generated by the shower head itself, through a series of scary looking wires, which provided an explanation for the electrical tape around the shower knobs.

Then again, we were there to sightsee, not shower, and the room was phenomenal in that regard.

We rested a bit, while Rosa walked out to find a place to fill our Peru phones with minutes.  A group of students marched loudly through the square banging drums and blowing horns protesting the same thing the teachers were striking for, because they wanted to go back to school and learn. 

How’s that for culture shock?

Anabelle was kind of out of it. She didn't react well to the altitude and her lack of sleep and empty stomach didn’t help.  In an attempt to recover, she napped a bit.

Rosa tried to get her some safe grilled chicken.  She checked two places we were sure would have some, but came up short.  The places were a McDonald's, and KFC along the town square in the heights of the Andes mountains.

How’s that for depressing anti-culture shock?

Anabelle was bummed since she wanted to eat Kentucky Fried Chicken on the Fourth of July as some sort of show of patriotism.

One of the many restaurants had a Menu’ with plain grilled chicken and some rice.  Rosa had the soup and sides, and I ate the main dish.  Anabelle tried a little but didn’t like it and was not acclimating. In fact, she was having a hard time standing. Even with the pills we all started taking the day before, she had “soroche,”  along with well over half the tourist population given everyone’s reactions.

I was a little dizzy too, but with me, it’s hard to tell if that's just a natural state of being.

Rosa went to get some Coca pills, and any advice to help Anabelle get better.   She asked about the Coca chocolate and had one of many awesome Cuzco residents admit she could tell her it helped so Rosa would buy it, but it really didn't.  Speaking of awesome people, when she heard Anabelle was having issues, the woman who ran the Hostal El Chaski brought us in an entire hot water dispenser and a bush’s worth of Coca leaves to make tea. Anabelle still didn’t like it, but Rosa and I enjoyed many a cup, which helped my dizziness to be much more occasional.

Another protesting gang came through the square, this time the parents of the students.  Rosa wasn’t back to translate for me that time, but I think they were saying, “Get those noisy buggers out of our homes and back in school.”

In the quest to find remedies for Anabelle, Rosa had already left the room several times. I volunteered to go instead. Anabelle propped herself up long enough to tell me, “You wouldn’t survive.”

I tried to make a case that there were many tourists, the store was nearby, and all I needed to know was, “Yo tengo agua, por favor.”

Once my family stopped laughing at me, the catch phrase for any time on the trip I tried to speak or understand Spanish was my daughter saying, “Uh huh.  I have water, please.”

Needless to say, Rosa went to buy the water. Instead of a couple small replacement bottles, she got one of the seven liter Cielo jugs. We then proceeded to irrigate the tiny bathroom using it to fill our normal sized bottles.

We could tell Anabelle improved somewhat when she announced, “I'm bored.” However, she was still in no shape for sightseeing, and camped out on her bed playing airline with our receipts and reading a little. I was alternating between taking in the nifty view and reading myself. Rosa was watching TV on the other bed. None of us were in any real shape for a tour that day, and we cancelled it to save our energy for the next day's excursion.

We thought another protest was coming through, but it sounded much more impressive.  It had a full marching band.  A bit more nifty viewing on my part as they passed around the square let me see that it was really a funeral procession.

Unfamiliar with this kind of custom, Anabelle wondered if they were really happy the person died.  I asked if she wanted to see them, to encourage her to try to get up.  Her answer, “Do I know the dead person?” let me know she wasn’t ready for standing yet.

My wife is known as a light sleeper.  On normal evenings, an acorn bouncing off the roof, a stray insect flying around the room, or someone snoring…in the next county…will easily wake her up.

After tying to discuss the marching band playing outside our window with her for a while, I walked over near the TV to try to get her attention since she hadn’t answered me.

She was out cold and remained that way through the band’s entire forty five minute performance, providing me some future ammunition.  Granted, it was nowhere near, “I have water please,” levels, but it was something.

Eventually we all reached the point where boredom and hunger surpassed exhaustion and we strolled out into the plaza, stopping to sit and rest fairly often. In a flashback to our last Peruvian visit, a shoe shine guy chased us for a stretch while insulting the lack of cleanliness of my footwear.

We took a side alley down to see the famous twelve angles stone: a ridiculous feat of carving for the technology available to the Incas. Thanks to a ridiculous feat of stupidity by some tourists who damaged it, there was a full time “no touchy” guard next to it.

On the way back we stopped in the little overpriced market area and Anabelle got a writing book. (That’s my girl.) They also both picked out some earrings from a street vendor.  Or maybe it was just Anabelle, even typed, my notes can be a bit disorganized.

As we re-entered the square a man passed us in the other direction wearing a shiny plastic horse head mask.  For most people, this would be the worst case of a non-sequitur surprising and creepy encounter with a guy in a horse mask on the trip.

My life is weird.

Rosa had been telling us about a place that served a mix of all the Andean foods Anabelle wanted to try.  She took us down a side street to find the owner, who greeted us like members of her own family, gave us all big hugs and took us to her restaurant.

Figuring she was one of Rosa’s old school friends who had moved up there, I asked my wife how long she’d known this person who was treating us with such kindness and familiarity.

“Since this afternoon.”

In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, the people up there were awesome.

With all of us past crazy hungry (yes…again) and Anabelle still afraid to eat from the soroche, we came very close to giving up and leaving before ordering.  That near catastrophe was averted by the timely arrival of garlic bread.

Finding everything we wanted to taste on the menu, we ordered the Parilla. 

Una Parilla, por favor,” appears to be Spanish for, “Please bring a teeny barbecue covered with a massive mound of skewered meats to my table.”

“I have water, please.”

We couldn’t get a straight answer on whether the trout was grilled, fried, filleted, or live; and therefore asked for extra chicken, which blew away the afternoon’s chicken, and most other chicken I’ve eaten.

There was also chorizo which I heard were fantastic, but vanished before I could get any.

The alpaca was exactly as spiced and flavorful as I remembered from before we got married.

The cuy, an Andean delicacy Rosa’s mom told Anabelle that she really liked was…


It was a section of a Guinea Pig with its little foot waving at us.
And to describe the taste, I have to fall back to a quote by Basil Fawlty addressing Manuel over his pedigree Siberian hamster:

“Is rat.”

The rest was outstandingly excellent, and filled us all up, while Anabelle made plans to discuss her Abuelita’s dining habits with her.

The music alternated between a guy playing local folk instruments, and the sound system playing pop and rock music that was on the play list of my freshman dorm in the late Eighties.

Then there was a weird combination when the guy played, “My Heart Will Go On,” and “Careless Whisper” on the pan flute.

The only problem with the outstanding Plus Restaurant that night (aside from the rat on a stick, which is more of a cultural issue) was they were out of pie.

We grabbed some dessert from the Bruja store connected to our hotel, and went in for the night.

While we were getting ready for bed, Rosa asked, “Do you know what the problem with picking this room is?”
I guessed, “The fact that I can’t fit both of my shoes in the bathroom at the same time?”

What she was referring to, was the fantastic view of the Plaza meant we would hear the people passing through the square all night.
Anabelle chimed in, “I bet they’ll be quieter than the marching band…
Unless they come back.

I must have been tired as I was surprised to find out the amazingly thick and warm alpaca blankets were from Cosco.

That is until I realized they really said, “Cuzco” which made more sense.

Anabelle played airline some more and I requested a bulb for the lamp and the electric heater they said was available.

In all the times I put things in and out of the suitcases, I never noticed the boots in there were my heavy work boots, not my comfy hiking boots.  Along with extra soreness and tiredness, this led to an epic itchy feet attack over the night. 

When I got up to find cortisone, Benadryl or a hack saw, I nearly froze because the heater had gone out.  I moved the plug to another outlet leading to a small shower of sparks, and the cord being warm by morning. 

We decided to stick with only the super warm blankets the next night.

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