Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day of Nothing: The First

So – final day in Cusco, what to do – what to do? Sure, I could leave my room. I could walk out into the cold rainy morning, or I could stay under the blankets, turn on the Olympic, mute the Spanish commentators, and listen to some Active Time Babble ( I feel I had my priorities straight.

I spent hours watching skiing, and snowboarding recaps, and all sorts of other winter events. Sure people I know are actually in Vancouver going to these events live... but come on, they're not listening to podcasts about Mass Effect 2 when they're watching the athletes? I think I have the upper hand here. I don't think it can even be called into question, really.

For hours I maintained a delightful warmth away from the cold and rain. The wet air, aggressive humidity, liquid sunshine, what have you, was not looking to rest. And yet my belly was commanding me to go out into it. After yesterdays burger, my stomach felt as if it were to receive constant nourishment. Oh silly stomach, how much you still have to learn! And yet – I do believe in retaliation it started to digest itself from the inside out. This was no good. No good at all. Something needed to be done. An d that something was – get another burger.

So out I walked into the rain, t-shirt without jacket. I'm still holding fast to the belief that my body heat will dry my clothes quicker if I don't wear a jacket, and thus it will be warmer in the long run to go without any sort of additional covering.

Into Bembos I strolled, ordering up a burger with mushrooms and cheese. Then I waited. And waited. And waited. I'm told the wait is normally under five minutes, but the three times I've been, it has taken well over twenty. Which is all fine and well when your stomach isn't trying to digest you from the inside out. But we'll dwell no more on that, as my food finally arrived.

What we will dwell on for a moment is that when I took my first bite all I could see was bright pink inside. Ai ya. Not knowing how to communicate that it was undercooked, or that I didn't want to die, I just kept my mouth shut. My stomach still yearned for sustenance. So in went the burger – if I got sick, well that would learn my stomach for being so persistent, wouldn't it?

There is some failed logic here.

But as I devoured the burger and fries covered in Aji sauce, chasing it with a cool Inca Kola, I thought nothing more on it. And as I never became sick, all was well.

On a related note – you may remember the German toilets I once described, where there's a little flat place for you to do your business, and then the flush washes it away – I'm told this is because they have a meat filled diet and this design allows them to check for worms after every movement of the bowels. Aren't you glad to have learned this? Enjoy lunch my friends, enjoy lunch!

And then it was back to the hostel where I returned to the safety of the blankets, and the delight of podcasts (now Retronauts) and Olympics. And here I stayed until 7:30 when the lot of us were to meet up for our final dinner in Peru.

There was a restaurant that we had all seen, just down the street from or hotel. For the last week we'd avoided it. It and its table clothed tables, with wine bottles placed provocatively on top. If there's one thing I'd learned in Europe it's that one can never afford a restaurant with table clothes, let alone wine bottles.

And yet this is where we were turning, this is where we were headed for dinner.

This place had to be expensive – oh, there's a set menu? Only S/12 (4USD)? And you get a drink, and a meal, and a starter? Huh – maybe I should have investigated this option before. Looking at the A La Carte menu prices were more suitably unreasonable, but here with my lemonaid, cheese stuffed wantons and salsa, and spaghetti and peso, I was leading the culinary life on a budget.

What's delightful about these Peruvian restaurants is what happens when you order something on the menu that's not in stock. In my case, a glass of Purple Corn Juice, in another diner's case, a beer. Running to the back to check on the beverages, it was discovered none existed. Did this mean all was lost? Did this mean it was time to choose a new drink? Oh no – of course not. What this meant was that one of the employees, or employees children (dancing through the window) would be given some money and sent on a run down to the corner store to pick some up. Want some nachos while they're at it? Why not.

The beer was slightly warm, I was told. No doubt from sitting on the store shelf all day.

This has not been an uncommon practice in these here parts.

Over dinner we were told by our tour guide that all issues with the refund had been handled and that we'd be getting it. Have I heard this from any other official sources? Nope. So far I've heard five things from five people. But still I cling to this newfound belief, and await confirming emails that are yet to come.

And with the end of dinner we all headed or separate ways, tips were give to our guide, and with parting words none of us would ever see the others again. Tragic.

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