Monday, May 4, 2009

Quillabamba, Machu Picchu, and the Joys and Sorrows of Towels and Toilets.

On Thursday night, I took and overnight bus to Quillabamba with Susanmi and her mischevious almost-three-year-old to visit her family. Quillabamba is a hot, humid, rainforesty town. Susanmi's family graciously welcomed me into their humble home, a two-room concrete house, complete with chickens. My first morning, I woke up to chickens strutting around the house. It was tough for me to have to poop when the bathroom was three feet away from the kitchen and divided by a sheet. There was no way you could pull the run-the-water-while-you-go trick because the only water in the bathroom was in the shower, and we all know you can't fool someone into thinking you are showering and shitting at the same time.

More on toilets: I know I am adjusting to life here in Peru because I am conscious of bathrooms, as in I'm always taking advantage of clean bathrooms (or just anywhere you can actually sit on the toilet seat), and I rejoice when I come upon a particularly wonderful bathroom. I've also become a tp/napkin thief. It's necessary for my survival. One time, when I was desparate, I used an old ATM receipt after I peed at the beer garden.

I would also like to note that although I am quite capable of roughing it (I think), it's pretty hard to shower without a towel. Like, you would think it wouldn't be so bad, you could just shake off like a dog, but it doesn't work like that.

Other Quillabamba happenings to note:
  • Swimming in the river
  • Visiting the saddest "zoo" ever
  • Super beautiful waterfall adventure
  • Food, food, food with the family!
  • This "sex shop" that offered potions of all sorts. I didn't nab a picture, and the regret is going to haunt me til the end of my days.
After three days in Quillabamba, sticky and sweaty, I boarded a combi (my mantra was "cool as a cucumber") and made my way to Machu Picchu. I combid to the train station, where I walked along the tracks up to Aguas Calientes (MP-town). I walked with this annoying Canadian girl, who was walking as opposed to taking the train because "it's like such an authentic experience or whatever."

We misjudged the time, and walking to Aguas took longer than we thought, so as it's getting dark, she says to me, "I think maybe we missed it." (Mind you, there is NOTHING ELSE on the way to Aguas Calientes except for train tracks, river, and natural beauty. No way we could have missed it.) And then, she says, "I think we should turn back." In the dark? And walk for two and a half hours back in the dark to the train station? I don't think so. Eventually, when I've talked her out of turning back, I see signs of life (a.k.a. a town) and point it out, joking that I might be hallucinating. At this point, Canada-girl tells me that she did coke last night, in Peru, for her first time. "Well, maybe that's why I felt so sick this morning, but I don't know, I am about to get my period, and my stomach always hurts a few days before that," nervous laugh nervous laugh. Yeah, much more likely it's your menses and not THE COKE FROM PERU YOU SNORTED LAST NIGHT! Oh my gosh. She wasn't even cool, or cooky, or grungy like you would expect a coke-snorter to be. I know I am being completely judgmental, but just wait. It's about to continue.

Sometimes I can't stand travelers, with all of their boastful adventure stories and the snobby ways they have about them. This is what I have to hear all day (and some of it comes from my own mouth):
  • I don't have a guide book.
  • My plan is not to have a plan.
  • I haven't showered for xxx days.
  • Oh really? I woke up with chickens this morning.
  • Well when I was in Bolivia...
  • It's like, such a unique experience or whatever.

Also, for clarification, I also love travelers, but Matt Vail summed it up perfectly:
"there are many kinds of travelers
some are looking for material for their first novel
some are looking for cultural capital
some are looking for stories that will shock their friends and families
and others are there by accident
some others have a genuine passionate need to see something they've read all about
others had nothing better to do"

Okay, and so maybe I am going to sound like an annoying traveler right now, but when I arrived at my hostal in Aguas Calientes, after smokin' hot Quillabamba, combis, and my three-hour train-track trek, I was sooo glad to have a shower and a towel that I shrieked delightfully in my room, and took a picture to document the joy. I have never been so happy to have a towel in my life, clearly. If you're ever in Aguas Calientes, Hostal Adela is nice, comfortable, and cheap at 15 soles for a private room, not to mention they provide breakfast and the staff is super-sweet.

In the morning, I met my tour guide and group and got my Machu Picchu on. I have to say, I wasn't WOWED. I wasn't AWE-STRUCK. I wasn't . . . impressed? You can hate on me, but what can I say, I'm a truth-teller. I know it's impressive, grandiose; those Incans were mighty ambitious. Throughout my trip I was itching to tell someone (or maybe I was itching from my mosquito bites, hah!), to confess that I didn't feel like all the other visitors, the ones who I am sure, upon leaving, made this deal with god, like, "Okay, now that I've seen Machu Picchu, you can take me. I'm ready, because I've been wowed. I've been wowed, and I've been humbled. Whoo lordy take me away!" But I just couldn't bring myself to do it! I can see it now, me confessing, secretly, with ginger-lips, and getting trampled by all of the other Machu Picchu lovers, pelted with their Kodaks and Canons, thrown off the bus and into the river.

Regardless, here I am, at good 'ol Machu Picchu.

I mean, I may not look impressed, but I don't look bored, do I?

It also didn't help that our tour guide informed us that MP might not even BE the lost city of the incas, and that there are other, cooler, more impressive ruins, but MP is famous only because there is a train. Maybe I need to visit those other, cooler, more impressive, more lost-city-er ruins. I'll look into it.

For now, I am home, back in Cusco, figuring out my summer plans. My life's pretty awesome. I'm all free from my TEFL course, and doors are opening, always. I have roots here in Cusco, friends and places I know, a home base. I think in soles, speak Spanish more naturally (more and more each day) and I have lots of opportunities ahead of me. I am remembering (or trying to remember) to count my blessings, reserve judgment, breathe, take each experience for what it is, live presently, take pictures even though sometimes it makes me feel like a dork, ask questions even though sometimes my questions make me feel like a dork, let go, move on.

Until next time.

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