Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Adventures: Day 2

Sept. 3rd
So, we arrived in Lima, but since it was just a short layover in the airport we weren't really "In Peru" yet. It's on the coast, not that you could tell, but there's an ocean out there somewhere in the grey. It turns out that Lima is always this color. Anyhow, we had a cup of coffee in the airport and then off we went to Cuzco. Yes, that's a Starbucks. They don't have real coffee in Peru (with the exception of the airport Starbucks). If you're lucky, you get a syrup to which you add hot water. If you are unlucky, you get Nescafé. Most of the time, you are unlucky.
The Andes Mts. are mountains like they mean it. The Rockies look up to them and say "We're not worthy." The Appalachians are too old to care and too busy telling stories about "Back in my day, we didn't have people climbing all over us. And we liked it!" Only the Himalayas are like, "Bitch, please."
Once again on terra firma, my first impression was along the lines of "Wow, this is going to be an adventure," followed shortly thereafter by "Oh, God, the sun!" and "There's no air here!" All of these statements turned out to be true. The city is in a valley at over 3400 meters in altitude - that's 11,000+ feet for you gringos. Murfreesboro is at about 200 meters or 656+ feet. We were 3200 meters closer to the sun and farther from where the air is. Forget culture shock, try system shock. We did *not* buy a can of oxygen at the airport. That's just silly. Instead, we tried to take it easy until we got used to the altitude.
Note the word "tried." It turns out that the day we arrived, there was a transportation strike, so the taxis couldn't take us to very many places. There were big rocks in the road and a parade and we had to walk many several blocks with all of our luggage to find the Avis office. In said parade, some people were waving this flag (not my photo). "I bet that means something different here," says I to myself. It does. That's the Cusco city flag. Don't make fun, they're kind of sensitive about it. Anyhow, as we walked around, there were these bike carts all over that descended on us like vultures, but we respectfully declined and eventually found the rental office. They took us to the lot (which you could fit maybe three cars in, if you were a really good driver) where we stuck our luggage in the rental car until the strike officially ended. I searched for yarn, but to no avail. The shop was closed for inventory. We kind of tooled around the city being tourists for awhile, had some lunch, found our way back to the lot, and then left for Urubamba where the conference was to be held.
It was a lovely drive and I got to see the big white Jesus statue. Also, they like to write things on the sides of mountains. I am told that this is a habit that is an extension of the Nazca lines and that you really can see something of them from the ground. They just like to write and draw big things on the Earth. They also seem to compulsively build little walls everywhere. I'm not sure what that's about. The drive was pleasant and pretty and we arrived at the hotel later that evening. There was dinner and beer and all was right with the world. I had a coca beer and a Cusqueña at this little place down the road and I think that was the evening that I had alpaca steak. It tasted like alpaca fiber smells. I didn't order it again.
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