Stop 39: Cuzco

I have been slacking for a while now, where was I?

Oh yeah, I wanted to go to Cuzco more quickly since there is the Inti Raymi  there, which is the sun festival in the Inka’s language. Inkas worship the sun as one of the most important gods hence I thought this is something I should not miss.

I arrived on a Friday with the overnight bus and checked into a fairly big hostel, Pariwana. My friend Wout from Medellin recommended some local family to me where he stayed during his language exchange and apparently they do some travel agency stuff too. He said sometimes it is difficult to know what you receive when booking those tours and this is one that I can trust. So I chatted her up and we met the next day to go to the office later. (Actually I was supposed to get picked up from the bus station but my bus was slightly delayed and she went away again … )

Saturday the city was packed with people already. There were local groups or community formed groups going around in colorful traditional cloths. I can feel how important the sun is now. At an altitude of 3400m, the sun gives you the warmth that you need. I don’t really like the sun in summer when it is already 35 degrees, but the sun ray at 10, 15 degrees? Ah, must be heaven.

So I booked the Inti raymi tour with the agency and was supposed to be picked up at 5:30 in the morning. I went down at 5:32 and was afraid that I would be late. Turned out south american people are not punctual (so far nothing big happened, which is actually a surprise now that I think about it again) and I got picked up at 6:40. The car went then 2, 3 more rounds to pick up more people and we arrived at the temple of the sun around 7:10ish. The setup was basic with plastic stools but luckily I was in the front row. It was quite cold outside when the sun is not out (5 degrees). There, I found some people from Canada, a mixed couple with the man from the US and the woman from Peru (normal setup) and a russian daughter and father from Australia, with the daughter being a lawyer in London and father used to work in mining industries and now doing something interesting, but I forgot what exactly … something with a prison? So after the rather artificial show at the sun plaza, where 4 different groups from different regions showed up with different costumes, we went up the hill to watching the 2nd part of the ceremony where a llama is supposed to get sacrificed. We were sitting on a free hill and after the long wait, the llama got brought up the stage, but then got hidden under it to “sacrifice” it. Not that I desperately want to see it get killed, but it just feels not authentic.

OK OK, I am not going to bore you or even myself with the details of what I did, let’s switch to the people.

At the hostel, the first night, I remember meeting a half Chinese/Korean girl, and Alex from the US. Then Nick joined who is from Australia. The topic of the night was that Alex was trying to get some weed and the Asian girl failed to do so. And suddenly, Alex was appearing to the “hero” and of course they wanted to smoke it afterwards. I also met another guy called Mats from the Netherlands. He is just doing his usual holiday here and we hanged out for a night.

The second night suddenly, we got to meet the Asian’s friend from new Zealand as well (friends, which she met on the way). Along with her friends too. So we ended up in the other hostel called Kokopeli, which actually had the better atmosphere.

Through nick, I also met Lorin, who turned out, studies at ETH and does electrical engineering … Funny enough, he lives in Neu-affoltern, which is like 10 mins bus drive from my place …

Also one night, I went out for dinner with Lorin and Nick, met 2 more Swiss girls from Romandie. One got her face smashed (literally) because she fell into some glass at a festival.

Now actually, I have all the orders mixed up, but I think, this does not really matter here. I did something in the day and met some people in the night.

At a half day ATV (quad bike) tour, one particular Canadian Tamil guy was a bit different. He does some window decorating at H&M and seems very talkative and open. We talked to some other Israeli guys in the car as well, but when other Israelis join, they speak only in their language and to some extend, it is true that these are “slight” rude people. So in the end, it is interesting to see, that a lot of enthusiasm brings you far.

Another night, I went to Kokopeli with Mats. We ended up playing some pool with a Australian Vietnamese guy called Ly and a Chinese girl from La Reunion. Thanks to a friend of mine, who went there earlier and told me about it, I was able to say that I know where it is. Ly seems very sociable as well and actually knows a lot of people in the hostel. We played a card game called liars, too. That is actually quite fun. You would put down a number of cards and say what card you put down, if someone calls you out and catches you lying, you take them all. This is a good way to get to know people a bit as well to see when they are lying and when not.

I also went to the rainbow mountain, which is 5070m high, to test out how I feel on that altitude. Turned out it was pretty OK. If you walk in a very slow pace but steady, you can reach the top without big problems. There, I also met HD, a Chinese girl who is living in the States. It was breakfast time when I saw her, (we got picked up at 4:30 and I made sure I was picked up the last.) while still waking up. She wore glasses and broke out a smile when she saw me. On the table, everyone did some small talk and when I said I am originally from China, she said she thought that I was not, the classic. And one thing that I still remember is that when we were pouring coffee, she mentioned that she does not want to drink coffee now, “because, you know, afterwards I need to go to the toilet”. I was chuckling inside a bit since this is not something that someone would say the first few minutes you meet, especially not girls. But in some way, that was cute. In the minivan, there was also some Spanish students, one was a medical student who was between her studies. There was also one a bit older woman from Peru, but living in Italy. She left the countries many years back and somehow managed to stay there with no outstanding education. The rest of the hike, I was talking together with HD, talking a bit about just anything. Tbh, I don’t remember what we talked about in details, but in some way, I find Chinese girls more interesting, not sure why. Maybe it is just the way you communicate in Chinese, that makes everything better … When we finally returned, I asked her whether she wanted to come to dinner which I planned with Tao and his wife. Ah, Tao, whom I met 3 times in my whole trip, 2 times in China, once in Peru. In the end, it turned out, when HD mentioned she was going to do research, she is actually going to Havard …

At the trip to Machu Picchu, where I organized the lazy version, with the train back and forth, I met also a few that I got to know previously. I met the couple in Lima again, where the guy is going to work for Apple. We met on the way up to the watch tower/hut, and they kindly took a few pictures for me. I also met the Mexican couple on the way to Sun Gate (actually on the climb from the bridge to the peak of Machu Picchu as well), which I met in Cusco city. Mats also just came down from his Jungle trekking tour. In the tour group, there was a Swiss couple too travelling for quite a few time. Also, I met Alex from the hostel on the way down with the bus with his parents. Did I mention that he is actually only 18 and doing some gap months? Gosh, what did I do when I was 18 …

Also worth mentioning, was the receptionist, who picked me up at the Agua Calientes train station. She seemed nice and normal in the beginning, but I had to throw a big question mark when she knocked on my door 1 or 2 hours later, where I was half naked coming out from the shower, and asked me which nationality I was again (but she made a copy of my passport earlier). Then she added me on fb and also texted me on whatsapp …

Also a very random and funny encounter was when I boarded the bus to the sacred valley tour just prior to the train to Agua Calientes. I got shoved into a pick up taxi and talked to some Americans about what we do, and made already some jokes about things. Then we got off at the same place, but went on different tours. That was like a successful speed dating, but you get dragged apart disruptively.

Then, I also remember the bus pickup back in ollamyamtambo, where a woman has a list of a lot people who she needed to confirm with her voice shouting out the names. That was not efficient at all, especially given there were hundreds of people coming out of the train. It was sort of not nice, but I was kind of watching her hustling around out of entertainment …

Back at Pariwana, I met some other new people. There was a Belgian guy doing sabbatical before moving to London for his new position, a young English guy working for BBC with vendors. A chip designer guy whose job is exactly those things I learned at VLSI with voltage drop analysis, place and route and all this stuff. Then there was also a girl at breakfast table doing investment banking and quited after a week since her colleague who stayed there for 2 years is doing the same cheap excel shit (I sort of can imagine now after 1.5 months at EY). She is going to Deloitte afterwards doing data analysis. At lunch time once, I met an vienna guy studying economics, went to brazil for an exchange semester and is afterwards going to mckinsey. There were also 2 NY real estate guys (one law and one maybe sales) on the hill of cusco. They missed their flight and it took them almost 24 hours to come from NY to Cusco.

That was it, a very brief description of what happened in Cusco. After almost 3 months, I feel like I missed maybe many details. There was the World Cup going on at the same time, and even some more smaller encounters, which I kind of remember, but don’t want to write down anymore … Anywhere, I got the most important down and that is good enough for 2000 words.

Me, back at home for exactly 2 months …

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