Thursday, May 04, 2006

Soy Federale!!

Today we arrived in Cuzco, Perú. Once capital to the Incas and now to fanny pack toting tourists from the world over. Lovely city though, as we arrived at about 6 am, we headed into the central plaza, and what luck, the giant cathedral looming over the gardens had it's doors flung wide open. Odd thing, the churches here charge an entry fee, unless you happen to arrive during the hours of worship, when tourism is strictly prohibited. Tatianna and I put on our best Catholic school girl faces, difficult considering I have a month old beard and a confounding pounding in my head from the night before (more later), and went in to pay our respects and gawk at the awe inspiring carved wood altars and 30 ft portraits of Jesus and his lambs.

Afterwards we sated our hunger with real breakfast!! ( a much bigger deal than you might think sitting comfortably in your American kitchens with all sorts of goodies for the breaking of the fast ). The coffee was more like three espressos in a large cup, and after two, I am writing this email with a little bit of the jitters.

So my confounding pounding. We left Copacabana, Bolivia yesterday on a busload of Israelis for Puno, Perú. Dropped off our bags in the bus terminal and meandered into town. The main drag was just one large market, getting increasingly interesting, climaxing with an endless array of parilladas (bbq's) featuring all sorts of meat, my favorite, whole guinea pig. We had a bite to eat on the family side, then headed over to the pounding disco side for a little revelry. Peruvian beer is not particulary strong, but combine terrific deals with terrific altitudes and latin music, and you have a party. Tatianna made friends with some local boys, who gave us chiclets. Well, I suppose they were more friendly with me, but their intentions were plain, I am one good looking rubio (blonde) but I imagine the latin boys fancied the gringa to my side a shade more.

Anywho, they left, and a great bear of a man that had been trying to get us to join him at his table brought us another round of cuenqueña (peruvian beer), so we were obliged to go an join them. After many, arriba, abajo, afrente, adentro ( to the up, down, out front, and inside ) cheers, we were a littly rosy. Turns out, the whole place was filled with Policia Nacional de Perú. As Tatianna said, muy buen compania, very good drinking company. After a round or two, one of them gave me his badge for a photo op, and then to keep, which is what I have hanging around my chest right now. Hence, I am a Federale!!

A round or two more, and the gun was brought out for authentic Dirty Harry style photography. All the meanwhile, Tatianna and I had been pretending to be from Croatia, so as to avoid awkward conversations and english. Trouble with these sorts of lies, someone has always been there and wants to know things that any decent Croat would know. The guy that gave me his badge had studied in Croatia some years before, drat. Needless to say, we covered up our deceit with aplomb.

As things were getting a little blurry, we made for a bathroom break. Tatianna danced with an old red haired lady in the baño that had been pounding them back at the table next to us for at least twice as long as us, while I made use of the urinario, half of an oil drum behind a stack of plastic buckets next to which were sitting the ladies that charged the entry fee, what privacy, how posh! Almost right up there with the bathroom in the Felix, the bar at the top of the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong ( a must see in the world bathroom tour ). Upon leaving, we were "accosted" by another parillada operator, also a little tipsy it seemed, trying to solicit some business. Luckily... I suppose, the bear of a man, who happened to be some sort of police "jefe" (chief), showed up out of concern for us, and escorted us most graciously back to the table. At this point it became obvious that the "jefe" was interested in being more than just friends with one of us (sadly not me) and our little world got a little uncomfortable. After much debating, we made it clear it was time to go, and beat a hasty retreat. Tatianna singing a stirring rendition of an Irish drinking song in Spanish all the merry way back to the terminal. Then a bus ride, and here we are in Cuzco.

La Paz was a fun city, truly breath taking, as in, it is difficult to breath. It runs down the center of a valley, which climbs steeply from either side of the main drag. We stayed on the quiet side, and traversed each day to the more raucous. I unfortunately left my mp3 charger in southern bolivia, and after much confusing debate over the phone with the hotel in the south that I knew had it, I gave up and decided to try and find a replacement charger. Thus began our foray into the Bolivian electronics world. We found a Bolivian super geek who seemed more than up to the challenge of making a replacement charger. With my player in his hands, and a hefty fee, we went on our merry way. He showed up at the hotel that night ( what service! ) with my replacement and was all smiles and grins. Looked like it worked, it didn't.

Went back the next day and dropped it off again, still no worky later on. In the end, I got nothing, he got some of my money ( something about these latin countries is really making me soft ). We had lunch in a little hole in the wall place with WWF (world wide wrestling) on the big screen, in spanish. The best was the match between "The Legend" and "Icon" For those of you not into wrestling, "Legend" is the almighty Hulk Hogan back in action ( if you don't know the Hulk, well, I'm sorry) and Icon is the reincarnation of Shawn Michaels a great one from the early nineties. The old lady that ran the joint sat down and watched a few suplexes with us, good times.

From La Paz to Copacabana. We sneaked onto a boat out to the Isla del Sol, the birthplace of the Inca, with a Bolivian couple and an Israeli couple. As it was nearing the end of the day, and Lago Titicaca was beginning to put up some waves, the boat driver convinced us it would be much easier to let us out early, and it was only a short walk. We jumped off, and I swear over the boat engine and waves I heard maniacal laughter. So the Bolivian guy had a few broken toes, and thus an entire foot cast. We hiked up the stairs from the dock only to find ourselves fenced inside of some Incan ruins. I made a quick escape over the fence, thank you college days, but the rest were not so foxy. The rest made a prison break under the fence, a few torn pants, but none the worse. We then began the hour plus long slog in the dark, with 2 and half flashlights for six people along a rocky manure strewn trail. With a thunder storm closing in, how exciting.

I learned a few new curse words from the Bolivian chap that evening, and as the couple was most grateful for our patient assistance and carrying of their luggage, they took us all out to dinner. Bolivian dining is even slower than Argentine, so after two hours of waiting, some food finally arrived, and it was gone in as many minutes. The next day Tatianna and I hiked to the north end of the island, slugging all our gear, well, I with a mine and her's, but hey, that's what I'm here for. She had joked about hiring a burro, and I'm free. We camped out on the shore, but as we were with spitting distance of the water, and another thunderstorm was passing close by, the fright of the waves taking us out to join the long lost Incans kept one of us awake most of the evening, which of course meant both of us. The next day, tired and sore, made it back to Copacabana, and then on to Perú, today.


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