24 December 2004
My flight, at 6 a.m. is very, very early. I wake up at 4 a.m. and have my taxi ride at 4:30. With a little less than 4 hours of sleep I’m beat, and hope to sleep on the plane. One nice thing about being up so early is that there isn’t any traffic. There are odd things I pass as we ride through the city. The occasional restaurant open, more than one gambling hall that had quite a few people looking like they’ve been having one heck of a time. I get to the airport, and find all aspects of the check in to be relatively quick (getting a ticket, paying the $5.04 departure tax, security, etc.) It was very nice all around, even though I’m a walking zombie. We ride a shuttle bus to the airplane, an Airbus 320. There aren’t very many people on the plane – maybe only 10% full. We have to wait 20 minutes on the tarmac. As I’m looking around, at the end of the airport are three burned out husks of planes. These weren’t old planes – they were about the same size and design as the one I’m on. Just sitting there, burned out husk of multi million dollar planes.
After a late departure, it’s an amazing flight. The sky is as clear as you could want once we get a little bit out of the city. I wish one of my cameras had a working battery – there were some amazing mountains to see. Of course, I also thought about what would happen if we crashed. I understand that we might have to turn on each other for food, so I spent some time figuring out who I would eat, and who I would take for my mountain bride. You know, just in case. The flip side of all of the scenery, and all the plotting is that I didn’t sleep. Usually I can sleep on a plane, but not this time for some reason. The flight was only about an hour, once we got in the air.
Landing in Cusco was very much like landing in Lima. People everywhere trying to hustle you – you need a taxi? you need a place to stay? Hey mister. Hey friend? Pretty annoying, but I ignore most of them, and lie to the others. I get a taxi to the hotel I want to stay at, and it’s a pretty nice place. Heck, as I’m heading into the hotel, someone says – you need a place to stay, and this is in front of the desk clerk. A large double room with a private bath, and breakfast included is $16, which seems to be a pretty good deal considering this is, essentially, a tourist town. There is no TV. I wish there was one, but I’ve really only got one day to kill before Lou gets here.
We are at (I think) 13,000 feet, and it’s easy to get winded. When I first get here, I’m pretty tired and generally feeling bad. It’s a combination of no sleep, pisco from last night, and maybe the altitude. It’s a weird feeling – not a hangover, and not quite extreme tiredness. It feels kind of like when you are really tired, and you feel it in your stomach. Part of me does wonder if it is the altitude causing some effect on me. Being in Quito must have helped some, as Quito is at XXXX feet. I take an hour long nap right after I check in and feel quite a bit better. Not normal, but better. I start charging my stuff and head out for an internet cafe. The front desk guy (Arthuro) recommends one place off the central square that is supposed to be fast, and it is. And cheap too – S/1.5 and hour, which I think is about $.50. I’d written a couple of entries on my laptop, then copied that to my USB drive. At the cafe, I put that USB drive in the computer and posted it to the net. Having a mac means not having to worry about viruses. There is a slight chill as I walk around – it’s about 10 a.m. at this point.
This town square is very big. Several hundred yards from one side to another. It’s packed with people selling and people buying. It’s a non stop procession of commerce. There are a lot of tourist, but as a percentage, I think it’s pretty small. The entire square is just jammed with people. I’ll upload pictures soon, I hope. It’s back to the constant hustle around here. Hey Friend. Where are you from. United States – capital Washington, president George Bush. Then some other things that I couldn’t make out (partially because I quit listening, and partially because they start trailing off as I walk away ignoring them.) The weird thing is that I heard the almost exact same monologue from maybe 8 different urchins today. Maybe it’s a union requirement or something. While one kid was following me, we walked by some city security guy, who did a pick on him. It was very subtle – he just moved his shoulder enough to stop the guy. Karl Malone would have been proud.
As with so many things in the center of town (where the tourist appear to congregate) people are hustling. I find one restaurant that doesn’t have someone trying to get me inside and have a nice simple american breakfast for a couple of bucks. It’s overlooking the square, but I’m not able to get a table on the small balcony. By this time the batteries on my camera should be charged, and since Lou isn’t here, it’s a perfect time to take pictures of whatever I can find. When I get back after breakfast, I end up taking another nap, and wake feeling even better. By now, it’s warm out and I switch to a short sleeve shirt and plenty of sunscreen. I walk around taking pictures for a couple of hours, until I’m bored again. Back to the hotel, grab my laptop and find a nearby internet cafe to plug into.
Afterwards I find a pleasant looking restaurant that is serving Alpaca Steak with Risotto. As cute as they are, it’s sure to be tasty, and it was. Still haven’t had my Cuy yet (Guinea Pig.) Since it’s Christmas Eve, it looks like a lot of stuff is shutting down early. I watch the Return of the King, and type this up. Right now it’s 11:55 p.m. All over the city there are people shooting off fireworks. About 11 p.m., a largish group of kids has started playing under my window. Picture kids up too late, with fireworks, and what sounds like a good dose of Caffeine. A ton of very excited screaming and running around. Right under my window. I don’t want to be old man Cain, but I do wish they would shut the hell up. They don’t sound old enough to be out this late.
As midnight approaches, the intensity of the fireworks has increased. Now its constant explosions from all parts of the city. Hopefully they’ll use them all up quickly and go home for the coal they’re going to get in their stockings.
Lou is coming in tomorrow from Seattle. He’ll have been on a plane for something like 16 hours at that point, and I imagine he’ll be beat. In his e-mail he said he’d meet me at the Cathedral, but if it’s half as busy tomorrow as it was today, that would be a nightmare. The hotel will pick him up from the airport, and I’m going with them to make sure they find him. He wants to go hiking, but I’m not sure he knows exactly how high up we are it’s pretty hard walking around here.