From complex identities back to stereotypes. You cannot dissociate Peru from Machu Picchu, the most touristic site of South America. Probably the oldest one too. Since its discovery in 1911, North American visitors have come to discover the incredible Inca ruins. Incredible by the ruins themselves but also by the environment in which they rest.
But I’m going too fast. Before getting to Machu Picchu, there was another “must see”: the city of Cusco. It’d better be worth it because driving there was a nightmare.
I made my reservation a bit late but, to my delight, one of the seats by the front window, on the second deck, was still free. Although most of the ride would be by night, I was looking forward to enjoying a broad, panoramic look at the landscape. What I hadn’t calculated were the numerous curves between Lima and the former capital of the Inca Empire. 21 hours of them exactly. One every 100 meters or so. In those cases, sitting completely up front on the superior deck is a very bad idea indeed. Not only did I have a perfect view of every curve, I could also very well feel every bump in the road. I endured it for 17 hours. And then my stomach couldn’t bear it any longer. So if you want a good tip, if you ever need to go from Lima to Cusco, spend a few more dollars and go by plane. Or go to Arequipa first and not the other way round, like I did. Your body will be forever thankful.
When we arrived at the bus station, I needed half an hour to recompose myself and feel a human being again. Then I took a cab to the hotel – another recommendation of Dorine: meeting her has been much more effective than buying a travel guide – and there slept for the greatest part of the afternoon.
The first days in Cusco, I had again the feeling I hadn’t had since arriving in Buenos Aires. The feeling of being lost and disorientated. I thought I only had that when getting to a new country. Although in Colombia and Ecuador, the feeling hadn’t been that strong. I guess I was getting used to change, something I generally tend to resist. How come I had it now, when I had already been in Peru for a few weeks? Maybe the fact that, after having had company and a place to go to during that time I was, once again, on my own? The same way I had been seeking comfort in a shopping center in Buenos Aires, I was now doing the same in a… Starbucks. Most expensive coffee ever. But it is recognizable and you have wi-fi to connect to Facebook. Yes. Pathetic. Or so it probably sounds. But every now and then, I needed that kind of reassurance. Then go on to the next adventure. The name Cusco comes from the Quechua word “Qosqo”, which means “navel”. In such a centric, balanced place, it couldn’t be that difficult to find back my balance.
It took me two days to get back on track. I went to discover the main things there were to see in the city, discovered a nice little place to sit and have a coffee. Maybe not the most “local” thing around but certainly more than a Starbucks and they had lama empanadas. During my wanderings I, of course, landed over and again on the Plaza de Armas. And there are always people willing to talk to me on the Plaza de Armas. The first one in manifesting interest was a journalist. I don’t remember the exact nature of the question but it had something to do with the fact that, as a place with many sites recognized as World Heritage by the UNESCO, the city had been elected as the number one place to visit in the World in 2015. And what I thought of it. And if I would recommend anyone to come there. And if I was having a great time in Cusco. I just got there and I was still feeling dizzy. Therefore, despite the fact that I did my best to sound enthusiastic, I am not sure whether I managed to be very convincing and if I somehow made it on the regional television. And I call myself a press relations specialist… Well. I WAS on holiday, after all.
The second encounter came as I was taking a rest on one of the benches. I had been warned that the chances were pretty high that I should be addressed by someone claiming to be the descendant of the last Inca emperor. Apparently it is a common trick to try to get the interest of the gringas. So when that guy came and sat next to me, and seemed to want to start a conversation, I feared the worst. But, apparently, it was something completely different he was interested in. He was discussing philosophy, psychology, life experience. Originally from a small village, he never got the chance to study at university and had learned about psychology by reading books. And by basing himself on his own experience. He managed to get himself invited to lectures every now and then. Or an interview on the local radio. Now that I think of it, he makes me think of one of the characters in the book I am reading now: Fox Caro, in the novel from the Peruvian author Edgardo Rivera Martínez “País de Jauja”. A man who has no diplomas and no titles but who shares his vision of life with whom is interested to hear it. He might be considered a crazy man by some, or a candid one with a lot of imagination. But he was a friendly person and some of the things he said I found interesting. So there we sat and chatted for about an hour. Then I left and never heard of him again.