Day 2 Sunday March 25, 2012
Today I set my alarm clock for 4:30am. Surprisingly, even after only about 5 hours sleep in less than ideal environments, I woke up very easily and ready to roll. My flight from Lima to Cusco was scheduled for 7:00am, and the taxi showed up a little bit early, so I was at the airport by 5:10am. The departure process for in-country flights is significantly more "primitive" than international flights. After lining up at a "gate", everyone boards a bus that transports passengers to the tarmac next to a plane, which in this case is a British Aerospace 146. First over-the-cab-wing plane I've every flown in.
This flight was also without incident and afforded me my first glimpse of the Andes. I had an aisle seat, and the girls sitting next the window were sleeping and closed the shade, so I dozed on and off during the flight. The landing was nice and smooth. When I got to the airport, I grabbed my luggage and made my way to the parking lot. I found a taxi and gave him the directions I had to my hostal for the evening, he said "No problem, I can take you." When I asked how much, he said "30." Stupidly, I agreed, not knowing how far it was from the airport, and thinking that $10 for a taxi ride was okay even if it was pretty close. Unfortunately, about a mile from the hostal, he said "Thirty Dollars" and when I protested that it was 30 Soles, I realized he never stated a currency. I argued with him about it a little bit, but realized I had no real ground to stand on. Damn it..... lesson learned there. That won't happen again.
I arrived at the hostal (http://www.lacasademiabuelo.com/) and was greeted by the wonderfully delightful owners. I believe that they are brother and sister, and were ready and waiting for even though it was only about 9 in the morning. They knew that my flight was early, and that I had arrived in Lima late the night before, so they had my room ready and waiting for me, even though it was hours before check-in. At best, I hoped to store my bags and go explore the town some, but instead, I managed to get a few hours of sleep, and then was able to check things out much more refreshed in the afternoon.
I was slated to meet Victor at 12 noon to finalize paperwork and details about the ride, but he was running a little late. About 1, he showed up, and we rode to his office.
This is from the last day, but here is Victor:
We rode two-up to his place, worked out all of the details and payment, and then he dropped me off at my hostel. We planned to meet at 9:00am the next morning.
I had the rest of the evening free, so I set out to see some of Cusco. I walked around town checking out various alleyways and side streets, Incan walls, and cathedrals. I quickly realized that the altitude had a much greater impact on me than I expected it to, and climbing the staircase into the San Blas neighbor left me huffing and puffing. I have to remember to take it easy while climbing up.
As I walked around, I fired up my GPS to try to locate one of Cusco's several vegetarian restaurants I had loaded into it. Uh-oh.... this isn't good. There is only one road displaying, and NONE of my POIs are on here. Damn-it.... what did I do? Somehow, after verifying that everything was there, I wiped out the map and POIs on my GPS. Crap, so much for that. I specifically traded for this GPS so I could load Peruvian maps on here, fat lot of good it's doing me know.
I had only eaten 2 Lara bars early in the morning and as it was approaching 3:00pm, I was getting quite hungry. I stopped at a Juice bar place called "Yo Jugga!" and had a veggie sandwich and a strawberry/orange juice. I paid S12 for it, and it definitely hit the spot. This would hold me over until dinner.
Next, I headed to the minor Plaza next to the Plaza de Armas to check out the goods that were being sold here. I found two prints that I really liked, and decided to chance it and buy them on my first day. The survived the trip in one peice, and made it home just fine. I also purchased to locally made charms on cheap chains, one of a llama and the other a hummingbird.
I converted some more USD into Nuevo Soles and realized that the conversion rates SUCK on the ground in Peru. The ATMs have far better conversion rates, do yourself a favor and take out cash this way if possible.
After wandering about for a while, I ended up buying one more print off of this college-aged kid on Plaza de Armas. He seemed like a nice guy, but caused some serious frustration on my part. I changed some USD to Peruvian Soles in Atlanta, and as part of the deal received a 200 Sole bill. I had twice tried to use it, and once tried to break it for smaller bills, and all three times the receiving party acted like they didn't know what it was and handed it back. Basically, I had an unusable S200 and an unusable (small rip) USD$100 on me, both tying up a significant portion of my planned budget, and both seemingly unusable. I didn't know what the sort on the S200 was, but figured I'd get something figured out eventually. So, as I am paying this kid for the print, he points right at the S200 bill and asks me what it is. He claims that it is not Peruvian money, and acts genuinely confused by it for a few moments. Eventually, he says something like "I think you were robbed..... you should let me take that to my art class so I can show them what fake money looks like." That almost immediately confirmed that the money was real, at least in my head, but apparently not widely used in this region. Nice one, kid. The owner of the hostal would later confirm it was legitimate and part of the latest revision of bills in the country. He even took it to the gas station on the block and had it broken up into more usable bills for me the next morning.
For dinner, I was planning on eating at this vegetarian restaurant near the Plaza that I had seen, but at 6:15 it was still closed. I ended up at an Italian place instead, and had a rather normal spaghetti Pomodora with free salad bar. The salad bar consisted mostly of pickled vegetables and beans, different, but good. The salad bar reminded me of the appertivos served in Italian bars.
I was pretty wiped out by this time, so I headed back to the hostal and watched the Dakar on Speed before passing out around 11pm. Fairly relaxing day, although I learned that the altitude is going to have at least some impact on my trip.
All of today's pictures: