The South American buses play bingo. I had generally ignored this phenomenon before because of the unfortunate association with our North American Bingo ‘games’ held in smoky, depressed old foreclosed real estate in strip malls. Always beside pawn brokers, too. But I guess Quebec needs a place to store their asbestos! Do’h, can’t make fun of Q because all the Quebecois people I meet are really cool.
Anyway, back to bingo. The SA buses will give you prizes for winning. Invariably alcohol or junk food. My trip from Cusco – Lima – Trujillo was 30 hours so I thought I would get on this for a change. The bus ‘bus attendant’ lady came by and I snatched a card. She was incredulous. ‘You… know numbers… in Spanish??’ she asked. In Spanish. I think other words were uttered but I obviously did not get it. All I heard was the challenge. Now I was resigned to win for more than just the booze and Lays chips. It was a mission to prove her assessment of my ineptitude wrong.
The numbers are being blared out by her on a karaoke machine that breaks up in the high notes. And there are lots of high notes. She yells 46. “Cuarnte y sie-EEEZZZEE” and my ears hurt. But then, I stop the game in the name of victory! I have won. She has to shut down the karaoke machine and come down to inspect my card. Everyone was impatient. I was happier than the dad on A Christmas Story when he wins the leg lamp. It’s Italian – after all it says ‘fragil-iee’.
But my hopes were dashed. Apparently the gritty strip mall rules of 5 across / vertical / diagonal do not apply – here you have to get every single number to win! Bah. So much for my anticipated glory ride which would have in all likelihood required a bib given it’s copious amounts of Lay’s chips and oversize’d beers. Damn.
Cuzco is a famous city. It’s historic, has the big archeological sights (Macchu Picchu is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World now) and has the cool colonial architecture. But it is so atrociously touristic it is all but ruined. The central square is only people trying to hustle gringos into either restaurants, back alleys for dope, travel agencies for tours as far away as Bolivia even or into shady looking massage parlors. I feel bad for the Peruvians – what a sorry fate for the nice 300m x 300m main square of the town. But not too sorry….
…Because it it imprudent to antagonize the Peruvians, like certain mining companies (that would have celebrated Canada Day recently) would have found out. I have this queued up for another post thought. Things get ghetto-violent pretty quick and they could show Vancouver how to have a real riot. But alas I am on South American time so this blog entry will take between one and three weeks.
Back to Cusco. I thought perhaps they were unusually socially progressive. I had forgotten that the rainbow flag was also the Cusco flag. One of the tour guides had this flag so we could find him in this awful cat-herding mass-tour thing. Why are the tourists so difficult to herd? It seems superficially easy but I think the tourists are…. hmmm… challenging? He had a pre-scripted joke saying it was ‘the Cusco flag… uh…. is not that…. uh gay flag.’ Then, upon vouching for his heterosexuality, he wheeled around to deliver a creepy wink at the girls. Smooth operator.
Macchu Picchu was very cool. I did the three-day hike to get get there, but it was bastardized to some degree. I.e., the first day had a lot more mountain biking than hiking. The second day involved zip lining. There was a comically large Argentinian man who tested the integrity of the zip lines. He probable was big even by rugby standards 10 years ago, but then he just got really fat on top of it. I guess they engineer the lines to hold 280+ lbs which is good. And I don’t know why, but he also managed to be drunk by 10 am which was interesting.
Upon getting to the town at the base we got up at 3:30 am to get the jump on the tourists and get up to the site. The elevation is 2000 meters and we only have to get to 2400 meters walking in the dark, but it was a pack of about 400 sweaty, huffing and puffing westerners all trying to swarm up the stone steps in the jungle in the clouds all at once. I am not judging them – my shirt took all day to even semi dry out afterwards. But they would try to pass, then stop, and other petty things of bad stone stair etiquette. I however showed good etiquette by not pushing any botched-passing-attempt people off the steps into the jungle. It was fun hiking thought clouds though.
The other good vantage was a hike to 2700 meters up the sister mountain Wayna Picchu. This provides the good view of the archeological site.
My hike was a day less than most people who opted for a 4 day hike. So I had to leave the group that I started with the first day and catch another group. The second group was generally late 20s which was a good change. My first group was Team Teen (Aspiring) Romance. Well, so some of them thought. There was a few Canadians which was cool. Upon talking to them, I found that each girl had a love-stricken guy who followed like a lost dog. And each one a comically obvious mismatch. Thus my scorn. Trying is fine, but don’t embarrass yourself in the process. They guys trying their lamest were also socially inept too, so if I would walk over and say something to the girl being pursued, pouting and foot shuffling and silence ensured. No tears however, they were too above that fortunately. It would have been interesting to stick around and see how long the girls permitted these doughy doofuses to shamble around behind them all day under the guise of being friends before staging the travel-divorce, but sure enough when I saw team teen romance on the last day the boys hopes had been cruelly dashed. Glad that I got to do the group switch overall though, a few hours of that is fine but not a few days.
I also missed a hostel that team travel romance stayed at. All reports said it was sketchy. There was a big hole in the roof of a room and an animal lived in there. It would scuffle and cry and make horrible sounds. One of the girls brought a cat into the room to try and protect them from the animal but the cat, for bathroom purposes, had to be let out. Plus they had ran out of chicken, thereby disincentiving the cat to remain. So they opted for stuffing food into the hole to appease the beast and hopefully make it the night without seeing it in all its (most probably) fanged fury. This was a weird little town with nowhere else to go so they were stuck. No mauling ensued though so that was good.
Speaking of stuck, ditto for the food with the hike. No other options. I am a slow eater, and was only a little bit into some unappetizing soup when the group had already devoured theirs. Then, I discovered a nasty addition to mine. Maybe some sort of grub or larvae or something else equally awful and gross. The worst part was that since we all had the same soup, I just said nothing and that was that. I would not subject them to a post-consumption analysis/compliant of something that was likely widespread… and consumed in mass by everyone. Good thing they don’t know I have a blog….
Speaking of gross, we went to a hot springs in the town called Aquas Calinantes. I mean when the name of the town translates as Hot Water it should be… hot water. But it was luke-warm. And filled with people so that the supposedly hot water was a shade of greenish-brown. The main pool looked like an orgy it was so packed (people making out too, which was not a good indicator of hygene.) The relationship, mathematically, must be that the temperature and hygiene level were probably inversely related. Thus the make out, jam packed pool was likely the hottest, but probably carried the best chances of getting the plauge. We passed on the hot pool. Unlike there Bolivian hot springs there was not a big sign that said ‘no pooing’ so that was a good sign.
So me and a couple others from the hike had to settle for a peripheral pool. It was also right in front of a terrible mural that made me wish I had my camera. It appeared to be bears that were fighting, or acting like the kids in the main pool. There was an English guy in a Crocodile Dundee hat in our pool who had lots of offensive (yet funny) commentary for the awful things being allegedly depicted in the mural.
Upon getting back to Cusco I got back on the coffee. It is a tale of woe. I was looking for breakfast on Sunday morning one day there and everything was closed. Well, the places without guys stationed out front because generally I will not go to those because I do not respond to the ‘heeeeeey amiiiiiiigo, we has food here, real American food’ calls from the touts. So after walking into a few places and finding no staff, I found the McDonalds. I can go with some bland pancakes I thought. But it came with a coffee. A North American sized coffee. This was the first in 9 or 10 weeks. Obviously I went mental. So, four hours later I finally emerged from the McDonalds, a second cup of coffee in the mix, and some Stephen King esque literary prolificness accomplished. Not nearly on pace to write a full sized book but maybe a novella can emerge in time. I was pretty much out of batteries on my netbook then, so that was the driving force for the departure.
Last of all I was doing a bad job of reading the Lima newspaper on the bus today. But I did find this article.
Of note is that he apologized in advance of delivering his ultra lame pun via Twitter… so “Incr-redible” was I guess not serious.