20140904

Thursday

When I dropped my third class to put me at two, I also switched my Wednesday schedule to Thursday. Same class. Same teacher. Same time slot. Just spacing out my week to maximize my time between courses.

Walking in from the east hall, I see, coming from the west hall, Audray.

How odd. She only has classes on Tuesday and Wednesday. Why is she here today?

She informs me that she only has classes on Wednesday and Thursday.

"Do we sit next to each other?"

"I think it would be weird if we didn't."

20140901

After

Perú was foreseen two years ago when Audray and I left Bolivia. We said we would continue along suramérica together.

She was not with me in Perú.

Instead, I travelled alone.

Having now come back I know that travelling alone means having no one who draws the same connections as you between places. No one to share their point of view. To help you see things differently. No one to talk to about everything during. After. No one to verify that it really happened. No one to make sure you never forget.

The lines at Nazca, sandboarding, the kids who wanted a picture with me at Machu Picchu, the chess set I didn't buy, the Jack Layton quote, campaign posters, the god of futból, the rainbow flag, bungee jumping, street sweepers in Nazca, lomo saltado, how rice and potatoes are served with casi every meal, how everyone got hot showers in Cusco except me, hostile hostel sex, the aqueducts of Nazca, Cañon del Colca, el monasterio, Ollantaytambo,Scooby snacks, never seeing las salinas, the overnight ride from Cuzco to Nazca, tipping, that awesome big green sour cactus fruit, how the women sold me my Real Garcilaso t-shi

20140828

Machu Picchu

In Machu Picchu, acts of desecration are forbidden. It is considered to have been a sacred place to the Incans, and thus, a sacred place to the modern people of Perú.

To visit this place, I paid four hundred and fifty soles in train tickets, sixty soles for bus tickets, and a hundred and forty soles in order to get in the gates. In total, six hundred and fifty soles. The average Peruano earns one thousand five hundred soles per month.

The UN estimates that Machu Picchu can sustain up to five hundred visitors a day. The Peruano government has agreed to limit access to two thousand five hundred people a day. Two thousand five hundred tickets to Machu Picchu.

However, they also sell four hundred tickets to Machu Picchu mountain and four hundred to Huanu Picchu mountain. Both tickets also include the right to visit Machu Picchu.

Finally, if you purchase your train tickets before your ticket to Machu Picchu, the Oficina de la Cultura will sell you a ticket for a later date, stamp the ticket, and then scratch it out, writing in a date to match the one on your train ticket.

A local conservationist, he estimated to me that there are approximately five thousand visitors a day during high season. Ten times as many people as Machu Picchu can support without risking its future.

Originally, I wrote a humorous piece about how to get some alone time with Machu Picchu when it attracts more visitors every day than Disney World. How to take pictures without hordes of picture snapping tourists in each one of them.

But, I suppose, one desecration from me is enough.

20140827

Cuzco

Perú is not Bolivia. Cuzco is not La Paz.

Someone I travelled with in Perú, we held a conversation about places that really affected us. That even though they aren't where we live, we feel a connection to them. This because of my reaction to hearing the news that Valpairiso partially burnt down.

My reaction being that I said I was devastated. I was devastated because a place I saw once, that I may never see again, that, for me, exists as a memory, changed in a negative fashion. For me, my memory was affected, and I felt devastated. Meanwhile, people who actually live there, well, many of them lost their homes. And I was devastated.

When I arrived in Cusco, I felt comfortable. At first glance, it looked like La Paz, Bolivia. But then, where is all the street food? Why is it so expensive? Why am I being hounded by young women offering massages? Why are there so many tourists around? Where is the api?

Yes, it's Andean. Yes, they can speak Quechua in the region. Yes, even the souvenirs are pretty much the same thing. But, I am not in La Paz.

Here, I can eat cuy. Drink chicha morada. Get a masaje for veinte soles. There's a parrillada up the calle from la plaza de armas with great anticuchos. And, let us not forget, one of the wonders of the world located a train ride away.

My last night there, I finally took a picture of the beautiful night skyline, when the casas running up the mountainside are illuminated.

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Photographic evidence of Cuzco is located on facebook in the album entitled Cuzco.

20140824

Aguas Calientes

Make no mistake. Aguas Calientes, now officially known as Machu Picchu Pueblo, is one if the most beautiful little towns I've ever seen.

It is nestled into a little valley in the Andes, surrounded on all sides by giant green mountains. It has a river the runs through the centre of it, joining a river that runs along its eastern side.

The town has lovely fountains along its main roads, and interesting stonework along its walls. There are no cars. No taxis. No honking.

It is beautiful.

However, the town is completely unnatural. Almost every person who lives there works to feed us, shelter us, or sell mass produced artisanal works to us.

The first sight you are greeted with upon exiting the train (the only way in or out of Aguas Calientes, other than walking), is the Artisans Market, where you can buy the same t-shirts, jewelery, Incan vs. Conquistador chess sets, "real" alpaca sweaters and toques, that they sell in the stall next door. Or even the stall in the next city over. Or the next country over.

When you stay, you'll pay more for less whether it's hostel or hotel. My hostel featured no wifi, screaming kids who played with your belongings if you leave them unattended on the bed in your room, and a bar open late with loud music when most people want to wake up early to go to Machu Picchu.

And eventually, you're hungry, so you step into a restaurant. You'll have plenty of options, each street is littered with restaurants. All more expensive than anywhere else in Perú.

And that's just from the menu. When you receive your bill, you'll likely get hit with either a servicio charge, or an imaginary tax of anywhere from ten to thirty percent.

And it is all thanks to us.

Rich tourists who want to see Machu Picchu.

Prior to our desire to see one of the wonders of the world, there was no Aguas Calientes.

Just a beautiful valley surrounded on all sides by giant green mountains.

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Photographic evidence is on facebook in the folder entitled Aguas Calientes.