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Peruvian Wramblings November 9, 2006

Posted by danaslone in Uncategorized.
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At some point I will edit these random ramblings for grammar and flow but for now…. Things to share as I wrap up Peru, granted I still have two days in beautiful Cusco and two days in Lima: 

Cusco is the base for all of the Sacred Valley of the Incas ruins and of course, the fabled Machu Picchu. And all are spectacular, I might add. Cusco is an especially Spanish-tinged and beautiful city. Narrow cobblestone streets that wind into labrythine patterns and whitewash facades. Peer into an open gateway and see the surprise of a giant courtyard to a house, a hostal, a cafe, a craft market, a junkyard all hidden behind the walls. At night, it rivals Paris as far as the city lights and views go, I think, and is a very happening city, full of gringos but also really nice Peruvians too. Cusco is a very easy place for expats from all over to get stuck in a life of leisure and no direction at low cost…I met a few…at the Irish pub.  

I defy anyone who says Machu Picchu is a let-down because of all the tourists. It is beautiful, lush and green, mist and fog, mountains and smoke, the ruins more awesome in person. Yep, dem Incas really had the astronomy, agriculture and architecture thing down. I took the Backpacker´s Train via Peru Rail from Cusco to Agua Calientes for Machu Picchu. A fantastic way to see Peru inside out.

Hackneyed prose moment: The train creaks along like a braying donkey. The whirs and whistles of metal on metal stir my soul as much as the magnificent, skyward views of emerald mountains and ancient ruins along the coursing, pulsating Urumbamba River echoing the fire of the Incas. Ha ha ha.

Ask me later about how an English guy and I tried to get into the Machu Picchu park to avoid paying the 118 soles entrance fee on our second day. Suffice to say, I did some high altitude, rock and jungle climbing. And no, we were not successful. State of a lockdown, barbed wire and gates high up in the perimeters. Inca engineering I think not. I will say we both thought our tickets were good for two days worth of entrance. Hmmph. Another travel misunderstanding.

I had lunch in Agua Calientes (the lovely, little base town above which Machu Picchu towers silently hidden in the jungle hills) after my aforementioned thwarted break-in attempt to a national park, with a charming man from Montreal, Paul-Andre. He is a 71 year-old, silver- haired architect, here in Peru for a conference, grandfather of seven, loading up on alpaca sweaters for his family and enjoying a few key sites on his own. Now I have a new friend in Montreal, just five hours from Portland.  

Not unique to Peru but more visible here than Chile is the rare species, the mountain cow. That fleet-footed bovine has nothing on the llamas. You can look up these amazingly steep mountains, all jungle flora and mystical, and voila, see a cow. The burros and horses do not even venture that high. But then again, they are not eaten here. One must adapt I suppose. I see them from the train as we wind along the Urumbamba River.

The Beatles are huge in South America. When I was in Argentina last year, Beatles´ songs, covers or originals were heard everywhere. Since being here, I could log endless hours of my encounters with the Fab Four. Songs spanning Bariloche to Puerto Piramides to Pucon and now Agua Calientes. In the past two hours alone, I heard one cover of ´Hey Jude´ on the pan flute and the actual ´Obla Di Obla Da.` Nevermind that in Puno, there was a hair salon, I am not joking, called Los Beatles, with a huge sign featuring John, Paul, George and Ringo. 

Speaking of stealing visages, copyright laws are no issue in South America and they love The Simpsons. In Santiago, there was botteleria (liquor store) with Homer in five stages of drunkenness. Here in Agua Calientes, is a restaurant with a 6 x 6 vinyl banner of Homer shilling cuy, also known as guinea pig.  It is a picture of a guinea pig, roasted whole on plate with a tomato stuffed in its mouth. Next to the plate, is a drooling Homer Simpson in a chef hat. The restaurant is called, Gringo Felize. I am not making any of this up and I have the pictures to prove it. A Simpson side note, I met the very nice Isabel and David, from Santiago on the train after he made a Nelson laugh to her and I laughed too. We practiced Spanish, French and English for three hours. In that time, he affiirmed South America´s love of Homero.

There are three things I am asked when I meet Peruvians, especially men, regardless of age:

  1. Where are you from?
  2. What do you do?
  3. Do you have children?

This is a trend. One man asked the fourth question…my age. I said ´treinte siete´ (yeah, okay, screw you all, you know what that is) and he said, shaking his head in a long exhale, ¨Zshewwww.¨ Or something like that. At least everyone so far has called me senorita. And one mademoiselle.

Thank you again. That´s it for now. More to come.

You may now view a smattering of photos here:

http://danaslone.zenfolio.com/

or cut and paste link
http://danaslone.zenfolio.com/p412896673/

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