Nothing like waking up on a bus and realizing – dammit, I'm still on a bus.
Still, waking up about three minutes before the bus comes to a stop in the terminal and running off to grab your baggage? That's alright. Get the bags, find the minibus, travel to the hotel, check in, drop bags – this has become a well rehearsed routine.
It was decided that we should go on a wander throughout the city and see what was what, but as most people were exhausted that little quest was put off from 7am to noon. A good choice. Most people immediately went to sleep, adding to their inadequate bus sleep. I on the other hand dumped everything out of my pack, and my day pack throwing contents over the two beds. I tell you what's lovely about being solo on this campaign? A double room all to myself. This gave me enough space to pack and repack.
I'm running down on novels, which is opening up quite a lot of space in my pack. This is a lovely thing. No longer is it a struggle to fit everything in. Instead, it's just a struggle to get the final inch of zipper done up. Still, I have hopes that my new packing strategy will have alleviated that problem in the future.
Scrapbooking was done – beer labels, maps, tickets, and other such papery objects were affixed into my travel book (which also holds all my flight and hostel information.) Other said scraps which I'd amassed that had no place in the book were tossed into the garbage. It's amazing how much – stuff – I pick up. It's not even like I have a room to throw it into, and forget about. No hidden drawers, no bookshelves to become cramped, no desk to bury. It's all quite minimal space. Still – there it is.
Apparently laundry services were available at this hotel too – so I grabbed all of my clothes that were growing more and more rank, and tossed them at reception. What a lovely thing it is to work reception. Fun fact: The receptionist here is a ten year old boy, or there abouts. When I tossed over my clothes, it required him to take a break from playing DotA. That's Defenders of the Ancients for those of you not in the know. And pat yourself on the back if you're not in the know. I tell you what, Warcraft? All down hill since the Brood Wars expansion for War2 (“You don't touch the other elves like that!”)
Next step? Shower. Here's the thing – in Peru, I've never come across a shower curtain that goes all the way to the bottom of the shower, which begs the question, why have a curtain at all? If you're going to flood the bathroom, and depend on the main floors drain to clear the floor of your rushing tidal wave, why even bother? Or – why not get a shower curtain that's the right length? But that's just my suggestion. I'm sure there's a fantastically wonderful reason that they don't exist. The same reason, I'm sure, that toilet seats are almost always the first things to be stolen from public bathrooms. Item two is often the door. I don't question these things any more. Cuba taught me to just roll with it.
You see, the Asians, they're onto something. No toilet seats at all, and thus nothing to steal. Or – they do have toilet seats, but they require being plugged into the wall, and that plug is attached to the base, which is far more difficult to carry out without being noticed.
Flipping through the channels on y room's tv I came across ESPN and ESPN2. Both channels displayed the Olympic rings in the upper right corner. These would become my goto channels, I'm sure. The Olympics, what a terrible addiction. Every four years I care about Ice Dancing, and speed skating, and the biathlon. Every four years I am stuck watching the same winter sports I skip by when it's the World Championships, or the X-Games. Of course, every four years at a two year interval I care about shot put and hurdles too. I quite miss the times when both summer and winter games were in the same year. Sure it was a whole year wasted and obsessed, but at least you had a good four years before you needed your fix again.
What's that? It's noon? Time to explore the city. Fantastic.
From our hotel we headed down the hill. Ahh Cuzco – how you remind me of Edinburgh. There is no flat landing here. No sir. We walked past the main square. Every Peruvian town has one of these. At least on. A big square with some fenced off foliage, and a massive church along one side. They're all starting to blur together. I've come across four or five of these now. And always there is the fountain. The creepy creepy fountain that for some reason has been painted in flesh tones. Leave your statues bronze, or that greeny colour that (copper?) becomes. I do not want terrifyingly blue angel eyes staring me down as I attempt to read my book. Maybe some people like it?
I should also point out that since leaving Lima there have been far less babies with babies. Perhaps it's just a small percentage, but out of the eight million that live in Lima, those in that exclusive club come together for the best begging spots. It's also possible that, like in so many countries, they rent these children. But I'd prefer to think that's not the case.
From the square we headed to an Alpaca factory where you could buy clothing, ties, ponchos (don't think I've not considered a new Poncho), and teddy bears. I just don't enjoy buying things from stores that don't have price tags. I know they just make up prices, and when I'm originally quoted a price twice what it should be, well I just don't have the patience for it. And when they pretend they're upset or hurt when you low ball them, as if there's another way to get down to the real price – well like I've said before, I don't really care all that much for shopping, so -
Still, there was a nice tie. I've been considering wearing ties again. I quite liked it. That's a problem for future-me to worry about. For now? I'll just walk out of said store having looked at things. Others though? They were trapped. Trapped once they tried the items on. When I was a we lad of eighteen I did not buy seventy dollar sweaters. In fact my sweaters either came hand crafted by grandma, or purchased from the V.V. for a few bucks. And those sweaters treated me well... still – Alpaca sweaters? They're pretty sweet.
Outside similar knockoffs created with synthetic fibers were sold for ten bucks. I don't know? You ask me, I think that that is the way to go. At least those can be thrown into a washing machine. This dry cleaning only thing? I'm not fond of it. Do you think those bags you throw into your dryer at home actually work? Doesn't matter.
The two British boys headed off for cake and sandwiches at a place Tad referred to as the best cake shop in the city. I was going to join them, until I was convinced to carry on the walk around the various districts. It seemed like a good choice. How else would I learn what I was supposed to care about?
There's a building here built on the ancient Inca ruins where the foundation is interlocking stones from centuries past. One of these stones is “special.” It has twelve sides to it and is featured prominently on one of Peru's most popular beer bottles. Then down another street is a collection of bricks that apparently looks like a Puma. This seemed a wee bit of a stretch, but when some are highlighted and others are greyed out it seemed possible. The one that was sad to be a snake just seemed like a lazy joke. I saw a dog, and a bunny, and other such things. But nope, these ones don't count, because they're not printed on postcards.
Then off to the top of a wee little hill once more, passing a guy selling his own home printed newspapers, screaming about the hidden tunnels that run under the city. Every good city has hidden tunnels! These apparently run out to the sacred valley, from a secret entrance in the church. Apparently there's some potential truth to this.
At the top of the hill the big Jesus on yet another hill, and a cross on a neighbouring peek were visible. And there was a restaurant here too. But I did not quite want to pay thirty soles for food. Not when down the hill there was a fantastic cake shop with sandwiches and such for better value. Breaking away I headed to said shop.
I'm not entirely sure what this shop is called – I'll have to look into it when I go back. And go back I will. For 18 soles you are rewarded with a giant double decker sandwich, fresh juice (selected from the trays of fruit before you) and either a coffee or a glass of milk with finger wafers. And the coffee? It was actually good. This is something I've not come across for a long while.
Most coffee in this part of the word seems to be of the instant variety. Not powdered but instead by mixing a concentrated liquid with hot water. But not here at mystery cake shop. Nope, it's all well brewed here.
I also attempted to have cake – but this failed. There were about four customers, which was quite confusing, as it really is a fantastic place. There were eight staff. Now when I ordered said cake, I'm sure someone assumed that it would get to me. It did not. Eventually my coffee was gone, and I became bored. Going to pay I was not surprised to see I was still being charged for said cake, but after explaining that if I had said cake an extra plate would have been on my plate. Charge removed, I vowed to come back for deliciousness tomorrow.
Back at the hotel we were met by our guide for the Lares trek to discuss what would be going on. We were given packs that could be filled with 6KG of stuff that the porters would carry. And the trail was outlined. Day one, 9KM, day two 12KM, day three 12KM. It almost seems manageable when put on a map. Still – day one's nine KM would see us rising from the height of 3200 meters to 4125 meters. Nine kilometers across, one kilometer up.
Day two is just a wee bit more up, 300 meters, and then it's all down hill. Day three, also downhill to the nearest town to the Machu Picchu. Yup, taking the train out there sure would have been a good reward for said trekking – but nope, we are rewarded with a bus ride all the way back to the beginning of the trail, and then to our hotel in Cuzco.
Still – all of a sudden the trek seems possible. We'll see how that is a few days from now.
Back in the hotel I went from napping, to flipping through television channels, to watching more and more Spider-Man the animated series (Season Five now – Spider-Carnage is almost here. Yup, that matters to me. That's the one episode I wanted to see, and indeed I did have to watch them all rather than just skipping to that. I would have missed out on so much important continuity, you see.)
At nine o'clock the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Opening Ceremonies began. I knew that it would be three hours. It always is. But I didn't think it would really be three hours. Understanding and acceptance? Two different things. I wanted to like them, I really did – but, really? Why do we always play up Canada's native connection during these things? As if that's what Canada is all about. For one three hour period we pretend that we understand and care about native rights, then we go back to ignoring them, yeah?
So what does it mean to be Canadian? Well it means giant glowing natives who raise their arms, and then it means being attacked by a giant polar bear spirit of doom! But luckily the great spirit was destroyed when god descended with his great wrath and caused the ice to split thus destroying the terrifying creature that would have undoubtedly caused havoc on all those living in this country.
I will admit though, the breaking ice was a pretty fantastic effect. And the whales that followed surfacing and blowing jet of water into the stadium? That was pretty lovely.
But then it was back to more terrible explanations of what being Canadian was. And those natives that were dancing for the full hour while the athletes paraded in? My goodness, do they not get tired? I found myself flipping to watch the Carnival parade on channel eighty five. It was like the Olympics, but instead of athletes they had floats of people giving birth, and robots with human faces, flesh ripped away showing muscle tissue underneath, and other terrifying things. Also, this parade had better costumes.
Canadian athletes entering the stadium, the parade came to an end and we were shown that being Canadian is flying like some fifth grade Peter Pan creating the prairies wherever you step. So we've come from the west coast through the bread basket, and then – and then there is fiddle music. O.K. sure, why not? There's the east coast I guess. But this went on and on. And trees grew, and there were leaves, and – look, when they were rehearsing this did no one stop and say – this is terrible? And if they did did they then think they could kick it up with some singing acts? Because that did not improve anything.
Speaking of singing. I have been to a lot of sporting events and heard Oh! Canada butchered in a great number of ways, but I can say without any second thoughts that the version sung here was the worst. When a one minute song goes on for three minutes, well – mistakes were made.
Oh – and let's not forget the Joe Canada guy. Man, when part of the opening ceremonies hearkens back to a beer commercial for a decade past, and the beer commercial did it better? Well – really now “And yes, we say Zed, not Zee.” I just kept waiting for, “A chesterfield is a couch!”
Eventually it ended with the lighting of the torch, which was inside the stadium, and thus not the actual Olympic torch. Right before they lit the outer cauldron – the symbol of the games – the station cut away.
M'eh. At least I could now catch some sleep.
Well we can only hope that we didn't cut some little girl singer out for being too ugly, or fake the best parts with CGI.