Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cusco

11:00 a.m.

Lazed in bed despite all the commotion outside starting at early hours. Overwhelmed by the activity of this city, and by my lack of preparation and knowledge. Sat in bed and read for over an hour, trying to absorb “Lonely Planet’s” overview of the Cusco region. Just too much to deal with! I’ll have to start off with “small steps”.

***

11:30 p.m.

Catching up on some e-mails and journal entries. I finally ventured out after noon and walked about 100 feet, to the internet “café” a few doors away. The small room contained six computers, Israelis at four of them. They were chattering amongst themselves and listening to the stream of an Israeli news station. I tried to work on the blog, but had difficulty posting. Photos only occasionally uploaded, and then in a different format. I learned the service speed here is 600 Kps, perhaps too slow for the Picasa/Hello applications? I sent inquiry to them to confirm the required speeds.

The young man running the café said faster service was available in the Plaza de Armas. Exchanged $100 at a Currency Exchange on the plaza. The rate of 3.37 Soles per dollar seemed reasonable. I like it more when I can just transact the business and not worry whether it’s the best rate or not. This time, I asked for small bills. Throughout Peru, making change is often an extraordinary operation. I don’t know the number of times I’ve had to wait while a clerk goes down the street to find change – sometimes for less than a dollar!

Thunderstorms moved in over Cusco, bringing hail and chilly downpours. (I had awakened to a clear blue morning.) It subdued the tourist traffic and street merchants. I actually enjoyed the quieter atmosphere it created. Earlier, there had been fireworks set off, and I learned it was a holiday. (I guess holidays are too numerous to list in guide books. There was no mention in “Lonely Planet”.)

Walked around the block to “MundoNet Café”, a clean, up-scale internet café which actually offers some food and beverages. Their service is 900 Kps. Still, I had little luck posting photos. Spent a couple hours trying to diagnose the problem and sending out inquiries. Perhaps I’m reaching the 300MB limit on Blogger’s server? As I was finishing up, a downpour came on. A chance to use my umbrella!

Returned to the hotel to pack my computer and camera away, lock up my passport and gather a raincoat, then headed back out. Stopped by to pay Mako 11 Soles I owed him from last night. Fumy was sitting in the courtyard outside their room, writing in her journal, and invited me to join her. Mako was down using the community shower. Fumy and I talked about food (I was hungry, having had no breakfast or lunch.) She really misses Japanese food! Mako joined us and we continued discussing Japanese dishes.

I was surprised when they said the rice in Peru is very different than Japanese rice. They don’t care for it at all. In Japan, the rice has no flavoring. No butter or salt, as is common here.

They talked about the kindness of Americans and how, when traveling the States, they were repeatedly invited into homes for the night.

Fumy was still suffering a bit from the altitude, so I didn’t even suggest they join me for dinner.

Doing things backwards, as I’m frequently inclined to do, I visited “Trotamundo’s”, a second-floor café on the Plaza, with a great view of the cathedral. There, I had cappuccino and cake. Afterwards, I thought about where to have dinner.

As in many cities along this journey, wealth and poverty exist side by side. Maybe it’s more apparent in Cusco. There is little effort to “sanitize” the tourist zone. The poor are everywhere, asking for a small hand-out. There are thousands of them (and millions who probably never ask for a hand-out, though they need help.)

The city seems flooded with North American, European and Australian tourists (but they’re just the easiest ones for me to spot.)

Leaving “Trotamundo’s”, I walked to Loreto Alley to take a closer look at the Inca walls lining this pedestrian walkway.

Walked up to the San Blas neighborhood to search out “Green’s” restaurant, recommended by “Lonely Planet.” A cozy little spot tucked behind the church, the entry features a bright red London phone booth and the small dining room has walls painted a yellow-green and hung with abstract paintings featuring bright primary colors.

A magazine rack (with 5 of 6 magazines featuring remarkably similar “models” – the media’s sickening conception of the ideal woman. The sixth magazine showed a model male “adventurer”) and book lending library are also found in the entry. The thought of reading a book on this journey has barely crossed my mind. But I guess if one is traveling long hours on a bus or train, it becomes a good use of one’s time.

Two groups of five were dining. One was 40ish Americans, the other, a younger mix of Brit and Aussie backpackers. I took a corner table and just kind of absorbed what was going on around me.

This restaurant is a real splurge, especially considering what a typical Peruvian meal costs. I ordered a curried pumpkin soup with mango salsa, tenderloin medallions and mushrooms in port wine sauce with parmesan spaghetti and a glass of "Casillero del Diablo Tinto" (wine). The food was excellent (as one should expect here for $17.)

I listened to one of the Australians talk contemptuously of the wealthy people he encountered around Cusco and Machu Picchu. I felt like telling him that he has much more in common with those elites than with the local people he is traveling amongst. His ability to board a jet plane and travel around the World is something that most people can only dream of.

After dinner, I enjoyed a walk along the now-quiet streets. It was a good hour to view the polygonal Inca walls along Calle Triunfo. These walls are comprised of massive stones, intricately cut and fitted with the greatest precision. It’s incomprehensible to me how craftsman six or seven hundred years ago achieved such perfection.

Walking the streets of Cusco, many quite steep, I am easily winded. It’s interesting to watch men show their machismo in the way they attack the hills here. I don’t see the same behavior in women, at least not to the degree.

Looking up at the setting First Quarter moon, I had to find a way to explain it’s strange orientation. It appeared as the rising Third Quarter moon would, seen from California.

Returning to the hotel, I found things had been moved in my room, and was at a loss to explain why. The room clearly had not been cleaned. But everything seemed to be present. Later, I went to open my top box and found it was not locked. I had failed to lock it after removing my rain coat.

I began to piece things together and wondered if whoever was in my room had opened up the box (where both my extra funds and passport were stored)? I counted the U. S. currency I had. It was $120 less than this morning (I had counted it before going to the Currency Exchange.)

I went over in my head the day's events – was I sure of the amounts? When could someone have entered the room? Who has a key? (I was carrying my key this evening.) At about 1:30 a.m., I went down and woke the night clerk, to explain there is a problem.

Late into the night, I pondered the possibilities.

5 comments:

otto said...

And then what happened?????

Dicky Neely said...

Too bad about the money. But some was still there? ...Odd, no?
Fascinating photos...
Tienes cuidado!
Dicky Neely

bob beadle said...

It happens to all of us, sooner or later.
Although it's a question of percentages, it feels so much worse. But you know you'll put it behind you, too. So try to do it sooner than later.

Buen viaje/Bom viagem from the other side of the "Hill" in Bahia, Brazil.
Bob Beadle

timtraveler said...

The intersting part is that it was only a fraction of what could have been taken. This leads to my trace of doubt about the theft, but I'm 99% sure of the loss!

Genevieve said...

It's really difficult to be a tourist in Cusco and not have something stolen. One moment of carelessness-- one morment when your guard slips-- and someone will notice. That's how some make their living, you know. It's sounds horrible, but it's true.