Sunday, July 10, 2011

South America Adventures – Part 2 (Cusco)

Our first stop in Cusco was the main square, the Plaza de Armas. There is a cathedral built in an ancient inca temple there. Plus most of the historic cool buildings and museums are found there. With any area heavy with tourists, we expected to be harassed with shop and street vendors. Surprisingly, the only people actively approaching every tourist are Asian women offering massages. No matter the country, you will always find Asian massages (even on a remote beach in Greece).

In the midwest, towns are identified by painted water towers. In Peru, they can just use the sides of the mountain. We found in Cusco (a realtively big town) and several tiny mountain towns all decorated with town pride mountain side signs.

Our lunch was our very first of many ham and cheese sandwich of the trip. I point this out because by the end of the trip I would have eaten about a dozen of these sandwiches strictly because I knew how to say it in Spanish. We sampled other cuisine of Peru that included potato chips (Peru grows like 50 different kinds of potatoes), real chocolate ice cream, and Inka Cola which tasted like cotton candy mixed with club soda. Later we picked up a can of potato chips to snack on, and again we found the brand hilarious…that’s Mister Potato Chips to you. With each meal, Dana amused me by saying “Okay I know I will be shitting myself later”.

Pringles….goooooal (not stereotypical at all)

Peru’s version of Gatorade (electrolights…makes sense)

The Fanny brand. To us Americans, fanny means your bottom. To the British, fanny means vagina. The British boys on our tour would roll over in laugher when we discussed wearing fanny packs around our waist.
We traveled uphill (everything was uphill) to a plaza in the San Blas neighborhood with the nicest view overlooking the city. Around the plaza fountain were llamas and Peruvian women in traditional mountain dress. It made me think about Disneyland characters…you know, something you see in postcards but never in person. I didn’t get too close because I was worried about fleas and didn’t want to fork over some money in order to pose with the animal.

The town had a few women and girls dressed in traditional mountain dress, some with llamas or baskets. They strictly were there to make money from photographs. The interesting thing I found out later was that little details of their dress distinguish the different villages they hail from. The arrangement of stripes and colors on their skirt and the shape and color of their hats. They carry goods on their back by putting the stuff in a blanket and then tying the blankets around their shoulders. It didn’t seem all that comfortable, but I later saw men carrying 60lbs of stuff using that same method.

We grabbed food in a little shop waaaaay off the beaten path. The owner was so happy to have guests that he fawned all over us the entire time. Granted, we were the ONLY patrons of this place which was a shame because the food was not bad. The owner asked us if we wanted to hear music, and we requested “pop”. He seemed a bit confused before putting in a Rod Stewart CD. When Rod started to sing “do you think I’m sexy”, the owner was all nodding and saying “yes, this is good right”. Hilarious! He further charmed us by making us a pisco sour cocktail drink which is a combination of spices, alcohol, and an egg. I say yummy; Dana says too strong.
On the wall of this place was an unusual painting. It was a plate of cooked guinea pigs. Mmmnn, yummy.

Over at the Convent De San Francisco was the open market for locals. We walked along the stalls checking out spices, textiles, and dead chickens. Some British guys we met later scored some South American chocolate bars (part cocaine) which were sold in 2ft brick sizes.

The plaza outside the Convent De San Francisco was uncharacteristically busy with adolescent boys and donkeys. Donkeys in clothing (most in drag). The school’s mascot was a donkey, and apparently they needed to find next year’s lucky representative. Some donkey’s had on hats, skirts, and even oversized glasses. I found it amusing that many of the donkeys weren’t having anything to do with this beauty contest. Many were locking up and refusing to budge even when a couple of boys would start pushing it’s behind. Yeah they knew they looked ridiculous.

The church anchoring the plaza was closed to tourists because they were hosting a parade/procession. Some saint was hoisted up and marched down the street with a hundred or so followers. The most unusual characters of the pious group included three girls leading the parade as some sort of drum majors. Their costumes were short skirts, a jacket, funny top hat, and sequins…lots and lots of sequins.

We checked out the Inka museum where we viewed ancient mummies and elongated skulls (both just as creepy as they sound). The skulls were elongated just like that last shitty Indiana Jones movie. The mummies were arranged in the fetal position or folded up into baskets (most time involving the breaking of legs in half). One interesting (and creepy…everything in there was creepy) artifact was early brain surgery evidence. The evidence being skulls with holes cut in them. Surprisingly, they discovered some of the people didn’t die because of the surgery…at least not immediately afterwards.

One last quiet night in Cusco before we head off to the sacred valley and start our hike on the Inca Trail.


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