Day 2: a rainy day adventure in Cusco

I slept through my alarm. Ok, that is not exactly true. I woke up every time one of my bunk mates left, which would have been at 3am, 4am, 7am and 7:45. By that point, I went to breakfast early and read some of my book. I had the whole morning planned out, but it was raining and cold and my empty room and bed looked really appealing. So I went back to sleep and that is when I slept through my 9am alarm that would have allowed me to experience the 10am walking tour.

Normally, this would freak me out, as if I was missing out on my vacation, but I really wasn’t too worried. I had plenty to do. My watch broke, and I cannot live without a wrist watch so that was priority numero uno. I can’t tell you how many times I checked my empty wrist as I walked around the city looking for a cheap digital watch. Second on my list was making my reservation for the Lago Humantay Trek. I had read not to make this one on the internet because it was 20% cheaper in person. Third, I needed to find a charger for my MacBook to make the blogging process easier. However, I have a Mac from 2009, which if you have ever owned any Apple product means that the chargers have all changed since then.

Step number one, head to the electronics district. I found a Mac repair store, only to have them tell me they only carried the new charger. They sent me to a huge electronic warehouse down the street. Four stories or stores only carry PC products. A random street tienda that had mac products pointed me to a Mac store that was on the other end of the city. So instead of making the trek, I decided to call first. They had the charger, but because it is an original (literally what the woman told me. My Mac charger is so old it is now an original) it would cost 130usd. Bahahah nope! So it looks like I will be writing everything on my iPad and editing when I get home. But, on the positive side, all of these occurrences transpired in Spanish. Booya

Step number two, the watch. I walked from street to street only to find tacky cheap metal watches. All of the camping stores wanted as much as my original Mac charger. Then I found this hole in the wall market. It was super sketchy and empty. All except for a man who fixes watches in a room the size of a dinner table. He had a display of digital watches from china. I asked how much. 42soles, which is basically 12 dollars. Sold! I didn’t even try to bargain, especially since I was having so much fun as the man took me through every single button on the watch, set my date and time and even set my daily alarm that I have for my birth control. There is a great comfort to me when it comes to old people who know a trade all of their lives. That specialized labor is really something I only find in South America and rural areas. But I love them and trust them. I always go out of my way in Uruguay to find the little old man who has fixed the soles of shoes all of his life. This was a wonderful coincidence and find in Cusco and made my morning after the charger goose chase. Oh, and in the same sketchy building was a tiny little travel company that was indeed selling my Trek that I wanted for 20% cheaper. Now this is a story.

I walked into this teeny tiny travel company. There was one young boy behind the desk. I asked for information about the trek and the company. He searched everywhere and ended up having to call the boss to figure out where the pamphlets were. In fact, the poor boy called the boss so many times in the 15 minutes I was booking the tour, that I even memorized the number. This boy would do a tiny task, like fill in my first name and then ask me a question about my life. He would get so sidetracked that it took ten minutes to get a simple receipt filled. The final call to Ed, the boss man, was when I asked to pay in dollars since I still had some that were not changed over yet and was hoping to keep my soles. Eventually, he took my money and my phone number. Ten minutes later, I was talking with Ed about the trek and what I needed to bring. Apparently the poor young man forgot to give me a lot of information so Ed decided to do it himself. The whole interaction made me chuckle because the poor boy was about the age of my students and was probably placed in this space because it has zero foot traffic. And here comes this American woman speaking Uruguayan Spanish. His whole day was either made or ruined. Mine was made.

Since all of my chores were done, it was time for lunch. I was dying to try this place called Mr. Soup. It had been closed the day before for New Year’s Day. It’s in this warehouse looking building along with the chocolate museum. Well, there was another walking tour at 12:45 but I figured I would miss that one too and make the 3:00. Soup and chocolate were calling my name.

There is very little I love more in this world than soup. I can eat it for any meal, at any time of the year. It can be from any country and have any ingredient and I will eat it. I love the warm feeling it makes in your tummy. It’s the ultimate comfort food. Mr. Soup is a tiny little place with wooden tables and an open kitchen. Two women chefs make the soup and a young girl serves and the mama jefe keeps her eye on everything. The options all looked so amazing that I changed my mind five times before settling on a spicy Tom Kha Gai. Ok, when that soup came with the homemade portion of bread, I was immediately in a happy place. It was so spicy and warm. And the brown bread was crispy on the outside and so pillowy soft on the inside. I wanted to crawl into this meal and sleep forever. It was the ultimate comfort. La jefe, came and asked me how everything was and I literally had no words in Spanish or English to describe my pleasure so I ended up making a guttural sound of pleasure. You know that scene in When Harry Met Sally? Well, had she not been faking her organism this is EXACTLY what she would have been having.

I didn’t want to leave Mr. Soup. I wanted to put a ring on it and become Mrs. Soup, but others were waiting for my table, and who was I to keep them from their own orgasmic experience. So I headed to the chocolate museum, which is quite informative and smells wonderful. Plus, they had samples! Chocolate tea, fudge, chocolate liqueurs chocolate spread, caramelized coco beans…I tried them all. I also sat and watched the chocolate making class, which I desperately wanted to try, but I had promised myself that I was going to make the walking tour and didn’t have the two hours to spare.

I actually managed to pull myself away from the chocolate museum without buying anything and hurried to the square to meet the walking tour. And then it started raining. I had a nice conversation with the walking tour guide under the covering of the cathedral. Which one, you might ask? One of the twelve in the city. Yes, twelve. This place has more religion than I have seen outside of the Vatican. When three hit the clock, we realized I was the only one on the tour. This was not going to fly for a free walking tour that functions on tips, but the guide offered me a city bus tour for a discount since we had to cancel. For ten dollars, I got a freezing cold but really interesting bus ride through the city. Here we were, every Peruvian tourist and me. It was like playing spot the white person in the group pictures. And since I was the only English speaker, I had to practice my listening as we whizzed around the city on the top deck of the open-air bus. We did get some really sick red panchos to combat the rain. While my clothes were dry, my hands and face were soaking wet and freezing cold. Sitting on the top of a bus in the middle of a storm is not the best way to enjoy a tour, but the views were spectacular.

The best part of the tour was the ride up a mountain passed several Inca ruins. I don’t have time to do everything so I am really glad I got to see these, even from a rainy bus top.

We also made a stop at the knock off Rio Jesus. Not as cool, but the view was amazing! And I didn’t kill myself trekking up to it this time.

Finally, we stopped a textile factory where they make and sell all of the alpaca stuff. We got a tour of the process and information on the different types. It was super interesting but a little pricey for me to think of buying something on my second day. I did take a look and every sweater I touched was followed by one of the women saying, “the most pretty for you.” It became a game. I would pick up the ugliest thing or something that clearly would not fit me. “The most pretty for you.” Needless to say, I did not find anything the most pretty for me.

What I did find was an Incan shaman man who performed a ceremony of cleansing for the new year. We blew on coca leaves and threw them into a fire saying our greatest desire for the new year. You better believe I shouted HEALTH. Then we were given agua de Florida which is a mix of a bunch of things that help bring oxygen to your body. We rubbed our hands together and rubbed our whole body to cleanse us of the bad from the year before. Please, sir, can I have some more? The next ritual was the shaman came around with herbs bunched into a bouquet. We had to say our name. He touched our head, shoulders, belly, and legs while chanting. Then he whacked us hard on the legs. This was to give us health in these parts of the body and then the whack gets out the bad spirits. Finally, we all held hands and shouted in Quechua (the language of the indigenous) which was giving thanks for what was before and what was to come. While I am not superstitious, there was something magical about this process. I felt very clean and ready to take on 2020.

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