We (Luiggi, his friend Esteban, and myself) left Cusco on a bus around 11:30 last night for Santa Maria (or was Santa Teresa first?? I really don´t remember). I was only allowed to take a copy of my passport in my underwear and that was IT! No bag, no money, no CAMERA...no nothing in case we got stopped on the bus ride (which I guess is somehwat common in the area we were going) or on the hiking trail (VERY common) they wouldn´t have anything to steal from us. I gave Luiggi and Esteban $20 each and they each had a big bottle of water for us and that was it. I was NOT happy I couldn´t take my camera, but there was NO way they were giving in...they said it would draw attention to us since we couldn´t fit it in a pocket and would only get us in trouble. :( So anyways, it was still raining, and it took around 3 hours to get to Santa Maria. I was drifting in and out of sleep the whole time...which was probably a good thing because Luiggi said the bus ride is not a nice one. Up the mountains on trecherous little turns and steep cliffs...I woke up several times from the sharp turns but Luiggi always said everything was fine so I went back to sleep. He tells the best stories though...I think I could sit there and listen to him all day. He is so animated and vibrant in his story telling. He talked all about growing up in the jungle and the crazy things he saw, did, and ate! He has a big scar on his knee from when an anaconda bit him (it´s clearly a snake bit) and he talked about seeing tigers and wrestling alligators...just crazy stories and even better with his sounds and animation. I guess when you grow up in the jungle you don´t have anything better to do than to figure out how to make sounds like the many animals of the jungle...he can do the best impersonations I´ve ever heard of just about any animal or bird! Okay, enough about the stories, we made it to Santa Maria and it was STILL raining. We waited for just over an hour under a little piece of plastic on the side of the dirt road (SO wish I had my camera...mom you would´ve just died!) for another bus to come to take us on to Santa Teresa. Finally got on, and it was back to drifting in and out of sleep for me...can´t believe I could even sleep on that cramped little dirty smelly bus but somehow I managed. Another three hours or so to Santa Teresa (and another like $2) and STILL MORE RAIN. Here we set off just outside of town at sunrise on some little mud path I guess you would call it. It was NOT an easy walk...up the hills in the cold pouring rain. I mean seriously, what was I thinking coming to a town in the mountains and THEN deciding to hike through even higher mountains to get to Macchu Pichu with ONE pair of jeans and ONE long sleeve t-shirt!? The plan was to hike to some electric plant that should´ve been two or three hours away, and from there follow the abandoned train tracks for another two and a half hours to Agua Calientes where you can catch a bus to Macchu Picchu. Esteban had made the hike before so I just followed and kept up as best I could. I was bound and determined to make it the whole way...I mean I´d came this far so I was going to make it. Well...the weather had other plans. It was just pouring rain...I don´t mean like a light rain...I mean POURING rain and SO SO cold. The path or trail or whatever was almost impossible to see by this point and the mud was so slick none of us could make it up the steep climbs. After over two hours in to it...struggling the whole way, Esteban turned around and was like, look...we aren´t even half way yet and we can´t go any farther in this rain (in Spanish) and when Luiggi translated for me I just shook my head no and pointed ahead to keep going. They both laughed, and we continued for another half hour or so, without making much ground. We were literally almost on our hands and knees crawling through the mud and trees to follow this steep path...LOL! It was quite apparent by this point that it just wasn´t going to happen, and we were all going to get sick from the cold and wet if we didn´t turn around. I think I was in too much shock that it wasn´t going to work out for me to be upset. We turned around and pretty much ran/slid the whole way down in like 45 minutes back to Santa Teresa. I was so tired and sore and cold and wet that I just wanted to get back to Cusco and take a shower...so that is what we did. We didn´t really have any other choice. But OH I WAS SSSOOOOO CLOSE! I still can´t belive I made it that far and didn´t get to see the one thing I came to Peru to see. Guess I´m just going to have to make another trip back, huh!? Luiggi promised that if I came back he would take me to his home in the jungle...SO cool...so yeah, I am SO coming back here! LOL...okay, okay...maybe I say that about EVERY single country I go to...but really, I HAVE to see Macchu Picchu!!
We were back in Cusco by around 2pm after two not so fun bus rides. Sitting in wet jeans is THE WORST!! I don´t think I´ve ever shivered so much in my life!! At least it had stopped raining by the time we got back to Santa Maria so the bus ride wasn´t as long or as scary.
Once we were back here to Cusco, I changed in to my wind pants and Luiggi and I set off on foot again. I didn´t want to sit around here and think about what I was supposed to be doing (seeing Macchu Picchu) so we walked around again. Walked and walked and walked and Luiggi just sang and sang and sang. We walked from probably 45 minutes to a part of town that we didn´t go to yesterday. I know, I said we had gone everywhere, and I really thought we had, but this was the ¨bad¨part of town that he said was very dangerous at night but he thought it would be okay during the day. I was like, ummm, Luiggi...you better THINK again if you aren´t sure this is safe I´m not going! But he pulled me along and said I would be fine. He lived over in this area and there was nother big locals market we hadn´t been to yet. We were kind of on the out-skirts of town and I guess the slums. I mean the nice parts of Cusco aren´t really ¨nice¨at all...so when I say slums I mean trash everywhere, filthy little kids, and literally shacks that people live in. It was another eye-opener for me...said a little prayer for how lucky I am to have what I have back in America!
So we got to this market and everyone was just staring at me. I guess tourists don´t really go there. It was so funny...they´d look at me and then look at Luiggi...and then back at me up and down and then back to him with a puzzled look. :) I´m pretty sure I probably would´ve been robbed at least three times (or attempted robbery) while we were in this area. I am fully aware of the fact that there are thieves all over this place, and belive it or not (MOM) I am quite safe when traveling! That´s why nothing bad has happend to me (SO FAR). I keep my bag over one shoulder and around my body so they can´t just yank it off my arm and I am very alert and aware of who is around me. On three different occastions, two guys (different guys each time) would walk by me, look me up and down, and then turn around when they got past me and follow me. I knew what they were doing, and apparently Luiggi did to. He would stop and look them right in the eye and say, ¨No, leave her alone. She is with me.¨and they would give him a dirty look and walk away. Unbeliveable...broad daylight in a busy area and they were going to try and get whatever they could off of me...which honestly I don´t think would´ve been anything because I don´t carry anything in my pockets and there was no way they were yanking my bag from me without pulling me head and arm off as well.
So anyways...on to shopping...Luiggi picked out some cool Peruvian/jungle music for me and I bought the two disc set for 3 soles. I saw some other new american music and was like oh I should buy this...and LUiggi opened up the case and said, ¨No, Terri. This is not original.¨ NO crap Luiggie! I smacked him up-side the head and said if it was the ¨original¨ it wouldn´t be for sale here for $1!! LOL! I bought four new movies for about $1 each (even though Luiggi kept telling me they were not ¨original¨ :) ) and a churro...Oh the churros are SO good here. Just a little bit better than the one at the Nevada/Utah State basketball game, Tony! ;) I wish I could bring them home!!
Luiggi said he needed some new shoes and he was looking at some Merrell boots. I really think the vast majority of this crap over here is just stolen...I mean these shoes had the original box and tags and everything and they were asking literally less than half of what they would cost in the US. Some of the stuff was obviously fake (reminded me alot of the Silk Market in Beijng) but I´m pretty sure some of it was real and just stolen or something.
After shopping for awhile, Luiggi said he wanted to go home and drop off his backpack (which he had left at the hostel last night) and change clothes. I was a little weary about going with him to his house, expecially since he said he lived in this ¨bad¨ area, but agreed anyways. I was getting a little worried as we got closer because I just really had no idea where we were, where we were going, or what his house was going to be like, what he had planned, etc. Just so many unknowns it made me a little uncomfortable. We were like less than a block from his house and he went in to this little shop to buy something, so I followed him in. He reached in to this medicne cabinet kind of thing and pulled out some little packet that I couldn´t really see what it was. I was totally starting to freak out thought because I thought this guy is so buying condoms right in front me! He thinks we are going to have sex!? So what do I do now...I can´t like turn and run or anything, I don´t know where I am! Starting to panick a little bit, and Luigie turned around and must have noticed my wide-eyed stare at him, and he held up what was in his hands...Head and Shoulders shampoo...LOL!! He said, Ï take shower...need to wash hair!¨ WOW...that was a huge relief, but still not sure what to think about going to his house.
We walk up to this little yellow house/shack and he opens up the door. NO furniture at all, but music playing and a great smell coming from the kitchen. He ushers me in and says ¨I want you to meet mi familia!¨ He took me in to the kitchen and introduced me to his mother and older sister who were cooking, and his younger brother walked in with a mop. None of them spoke much english at all, but it was SO cool and such a crazy experience to be welcomed in to someone´s home to see how they really live. We went upstairs and he took me in to his little sisters room who was sitting on her bed watching some tv show in spanish and we talked for a little bit (broken English but such a sweet girl) and he showed me a picture of his father and uncle who are back in the jungle. His mother took him and his siblings 7 years ago from the jungle to Cusco so they would have a better life.
I took some pictures of the house and his family. So much for my worries, huh! Luiggi is such a nice guy, and I really can not ever thank or re-pay him enough for watching out for me and taking such good care of me while in Cusco! We weren´t there long at all...he did just what he said he was going to do: dropped off his bag and changed shirts and then we left. I´m a little ashamed I even thought those bad things about him...but like I said yesterday, you never know about some of these Peruverts! ;)
So, once again, Luiggi made me get on another one of those stinkin´ busses to get back to the center of the city. It wasn´t a bad one at all, as he proimsed it wouldn´t be, because it was early enough that they weren´t crowded yet (so we got to sit down!), and it was a cool day from the rain. He put his arm around me on the bus and said he was going to miss me when I left! It was so cute :) Anyways, took about 10 minutes and we hopped off in the little city center area that I am quite familiar with by now. We walked around a little bit more and sat down in front of the steps of the big church looking at the fountain and park across the street full of pigeons. It was so relaxing after the crazy night/morning I`d had.
Well so much for my relaxation...we started hearing all of this chanting and police whistles and around the corner came a huge group of people walking with police on the sides getting people out of the way. The farmers were on strike! LOL! I swear, the craziest crap happens to me! We were just sitting there on the steps watching them get closer and closer, so I took out my video camera. Well they finally came RIGHT up to us and sat down and started there little strike DIRECTLY on the steps we were sitting on. Haha...the video is SO funny!! I´m taping and I say, ¨Oh shit! They´re coming right at us!! We´ve gotta move!¨ The cops come and stand right behind us and all of the farmers are standing right in front of us and I´ve got my video rolling! Haha...Luiggi tries to explain what they are striking for - something about the cocha leaves and how they aren´t getting enough money for them or something. We moved over out of the way a little bit and sat down again to watch. Apparently there are strikes all the time in Cusco. In fact, we saw one yesterday that was at the hospital! That really made me feel safe! ;)
I eventually stopped recording but I wish I would've kept going a little longer, because about a minute later the head guy of the strike came up to us with a bag of cocha leaves and started talking. I said I didn't understand, but Luiggi told me to take some. He put them in his mouth and started chewing them, and after some convincing, I did the same. He is very...I dont know...protective? of me so I figured it was fine. They were SO gross! And I dont even know what they were, but they made me not feel so well, so we left and had some dinner at the same spot we went to for lunch yesterday. Great food again! Okay, okay, I am running short on time...so I'll finish the rest of the day tomorrow hopefully...sorry! ;)
I am leaving for Rio de Janeiro at 9:40pm and get in around 6am I think (two hour time change and a 5 or 6 hour flight I think). A much longer flight than you would think, but Rio is clear on the other coast of South America. I´m not sure what the internet situation is going to be like there. I´ve been quite lucky that both of my hostels have had free internet! Hopefully I will be able to write more tomorrow! :)