Tuesday, July 18, 2006

a surprising sunday in lima and a monday arrival in cuzco

it{s hard to believe we{ve been here less than a week. we arrived in lima and spent a lot of time walking around and eating. downtown lima is charming with colonial architecture, but it{s a dirty city, with lots of cars, honking, and pollution. taking long walks was somewhat difficult, since there are always so many people to dodge on the sidewalk. being conspicuously foreigners meant that we got compliments or cat calls from passing men. our favorite pickup line was "hello! macchu picchu!" i guess they thought that was a phrase we might understand. people assume you don{t speak spanish.

this past sunday was a day full of surprises. i wanted to go to a certain church, and really enjoyed the sermon. unfortunately, about two-thirds of the way through the service, i heard an incredible din outside. saxophones and loud drums. finally temptation overcame me and i snuck outside to see what was up. it was a massive parade. costumes, dancing, bands. ladies in huge skirts and others in colorful peruvian outfits. a few devils scattered in for good measure. and leading the huge procession as it made its way slowly around the plaza: La Virgen Del Carmen.

i ran back to the hotel to get s., and we watched with glee all the bizarre costumes, dances, and props. this guy with a shrunken green money-seeming head got excited when he saw me taking a picture of him and he ran out of the parade and posed with s. this had us both laughing.

there were so many beautiful cholitas in matching outfits swirling their polleras in unison.

the most bizarre cluster of costumes was a bunch of guys dressed as mafiosos: leather coats, dark sunglasses, and big guns. dancing joyfully??

it all was very confusing. is this a pagan thing, or a catholic thing, or just a crazy free-for-all? but it was super entertaining.

after leaving to find breakfast in a suitable hole in the wall, we got caught up in getting s. some new glasses for about one fifth of what she would normally pay. they are very hip too! she is super psyched about her new look.

when we went back to the plaza we were amazed to find that the dance was STILL going on, with even MORE people flooding the plaza and watching and cheering. the people dancing seemed to be having a lot of fun.

we also had the good fortune on this day of meeting two VERY cute dogs. i usually don{t even notice dogs. but s. has doggie radar that spots them miles away. then i have to get the camera out and photograph them. on this day, the dogs we met were so charming and loveable. since they were pets, not strays, we petted them and got some doggie kisses. i was intoxicated with glee when the tiny little white puppy stuck out his pink tongue and kissed my nose.

later, we decided to grab a bus to Barrancos, a nearby town that the guidebook said had an artsy community with writers and poets (mario vargas llosa wrote here). we fell in love with the atmosphere there. maybe we{ll stay there instead of in lima on the return. so quiet and idyllic, with views of the pacific: long rollers coming in slowly from a long, long way out. we caught a food festival by chance, as well as a group of young brazillians demonstrating/performing capoeira, a martial art from brazil. it was mesmerizing, because they got in a circle and sang and chanted in unison while two at a time dueled with slow, elegant motions.

monday morning we had to get up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a plane to cuzco. lucky us: a bus to cuzco would take about 24 hours, if not longer. the plane took an hour. i think after this we are going to do a lot of bus and train rides. but we cheated on this leg of the journey.

we have no plan yet of what is next. however i think bolivia is going to be part of the plan. i initially didn{t want to go the jungle, but now i think that it may well be an experience i don{t want s. to miss.

we are in cuzco now. i need another hour to write about the cuteness of the man who greeted us at our darling little hotel. it is a bit ramshackle, with a very old courtyard. we got a tip at the airport, when i insisted that i wanted a hotel with a private bath & hot water for $10 a night, not more. they balked at first (it{s busy season here--the town is packed with tourists), but then gave us a name. we were greeted by the most adorable old man, porfidio. he was wearing blue coveralls, which only added to the charm. when we filled out our forms, and he noticed it was s.{s birthday, he opened his arms wide to give her a hug! then we were offered coca leaf tea--what hospitality! i have never been greeted with a cup of tea upon arrival before. coca leaf tea is supposed to help you adjust to the altitude. i think cuzco is about 9000 feet high.

after a big nap, we started exploring. we found the non-touristy local market and have been eating breakfast there, as it{s really cheap--like $2 for hot milk and egg and cheese sandwiches for both of us. it{s the essential experience, as lots of people drop in there for breakfast on their way to work.

since it was s{s birthday we celebrated with a fancy supper of alpaca meat. even though s. is an animal lover, and we had met some beautiful alpacas earlier in a narrow cobblestoned street, we enjoyed eating it. it was seasoned with cumin, garlic, and something else i couldn{t catch. i also got to taste peru{s famous alcoholic beverage, pisco.

right now we are going to go scope out more of cuzco{s historical sites. it is hard for me to keep up with reading the guide book to find not only the typical sites, but how to do them the non-touristy way, on the off-peak days, on the cheap. cuzco is SOOOO touristy that it is kind of bad. of course we want to do all the traditional stuff and see macchu picchu. (we have heard the words macchu picchu so much from overly eager tour guides and tourists i am now calling it m.p.) but there are other less-known ruins that we want to go to. i want to try to go stay in some smaller, less touristy towns soon to get a more authentic experience.

there IS a certain appeal to getting completely immersed in the whole touristy experience, shopping for trinkets obsessively (i might buy a lovely poncho & i already got a chullo with earflaps), and watching the good-looking foreign backpackers in their hippie attire and hiking books. but part of me says, NO. i am not a gringo. i{m a true bolivian and i don{t want to be treated like a tourist.

i also have a book on the incas which i haven{t been able to read fast enough, and now we are in cuzco where it all went down. i have read several good books before but my retention is about 2%. oh well. ready or not, inca ruins, here we come!

1 comment:

eatyurveggies said...

soooo jealous!!!!! you are having a flippin blast! so many memories. have you met any cute kids? have you done anything on the list we told you to do? tell sharon hi for me.