In one of my last blog writings, I briefly described my first week in Lima, Peru. I finished my text by saying: This week, I head for Machu Picchu, ex-capitol of the Inca empire. I shall connect to its energies and feel throughoutly the presence of the three worlds that were at the center of Inca`s worldview and mythology. With my humble steps, I allow myself to enter to presence of Divinity.
– This was my intention, or expectation. In order to get to Machu Picchu, I first traveled to Cusco, to the ancient capitol of the Incas, where I spent few days. This article focuses on my time in Cusco. The second one is about Machu Picchu.
I stepped into the bus. They were showing some
action movies, dubbed in Spanish… Works as a way to learn the language. The drive would last 22 hours anyway so I made myself comfortable by watching the views and films. After watching Spanish speaking Brad Pitt, it was time for sleeping.
Some time of the night, driving turned to a constant accelerate-slow down -loop. I guess we are now in the mountains, driving on serpentine roads. The bus wasn’t the only thing that was waving. MY STOMACH!
I had to run to the toilet quickly. And so I welcomed my first diarrhea, one out of five during my travel. Luckily I didn’t know that in advance..
However, I could sleep somehow. When I woke up in the morning, everything sounded surreal. My ears were locked because we were so high. The bus had stopped on some station. I stepped out and opened my ears. It was cloudy, the place was surrounded by mountains. I was astounded by the mountainous view. I really felt I had shifted into a different realm from Lima. A young woman with traditional clothing was selling some herbal tea. She had a colorful robe, brimmed hat and friendly but shy look in the eyes. She handed me a cup. Tea was called mate muña (plant in the picture). Later on I deduced it was related to mint.
Talking was really consuming and mostly I was wishing it would end.
My Spanish was lousy and stammering so I was shy at speaking with others… and I felt lonely. I wanted to learn Spanish and there was no other way to learn it but to speak. In the bus there were some group of girls. I constructed a sentence in my mind and said it to them. They had a friendly smile and at least wanted to understand me. They were from Argentina. They asked some simple things I could answer. Talking was really consuming and mostly I was wishing it would end. It was really uncomfortable but I knew there was no other way. When it ended, I was relieved and happy! Also because I could show myself I had guts enough to speak if I wanted!
On the way to Cusco there was a peaceful demonstration by some students. It made me think about the political unstability because there had been a time when Peru was unstable and dangerous but now the country seemed a peaceful place to travel.
Arriving to Cusco
The bus finally arrives to Cusco. City reveals itself behind a mountain. Amazing to think that this is the ancient capitol of the Inca Empire. Wherever I went, people stared me. Little by little I got used to it and even enjoy it! One picture also shows abundance of street dogs. They were usually around in the cities.
There was a couchsurfing place waiting for me. It was close to the main square that was always called plaza del armas (= square of the guns [why that name??]). Every place had it. It was uphill and that was quite an effort for me in 3500 meters, with all my stuff. Feel my exhaustion from this little video (in Finnish).
My couchsurfing home was like a little community. Travelers from all over the world being a family, connected by same phase of life. We made food together, strolled in the city, went out to have fun or watched movies. It reminded me of my commune back in Helsinki, such a sweet and warm home. It was just what I needed. A place where to sit down and get to know people and overcome my language difficulties. Occasionally I felt lonely but with this loving community, no way! There I met a friend Fernando, who later on stepped in my life when I needed help.
This experience left me with a beautiful realisation: Wherever I went, I found and felt at home.
One friend said well:
Mi mozdilla es mi casa y el mundo es mi jardin.
(= My backpack is my home and the world is my garden)
Cusco, the city
Cusco is one of the most touristic cities in Peru, but it didn’t matter. Touristic places also have their familiar services, such as Mcdonalds or Irish pubs. The funny thing was, they were not visible at all! At least where I was.
The city felt safe and welcoming, people helped me and only some were pushing their services on me. City was active, filled with life. Cusco was the only place in Peru where I met another Finn. I knew that alpacas and lamas live in the mountains. It was delightful to see my first alpaca! The woman was just sitting there with this alpaca, dressed up traditionally, with a lollipop. You had to give money to take a picture. Apparently alpacas are sort of a tourist attraction. (Of course, they are cute!)
Surrounded by mountains, you see amazing view wherever you go. It is nice to stroll around the city, see the architecture, visit the markets and use the bus. Conquistadors, however had their irreversible impact on the city. For example, sun temples from the Inca times were replaced by churches. Markets were always interesting places to take a look for the abundance of this land. Not that much processed food, rather fresh ingredients. The amount and variety of products, especially with potatoes was astonishing. You could also buy coca leaves to prevent altitude sickness and to energize. The government had apparently some ideas to stop people from using coca leaves but it is so strongly in the tradition that it’s practically impossible to prohibit it.
So, diarrhea was still with me and something needed to be done. Even after Machu Picchu it was still making me feel uncomfortable. I was adviced to try local medicine treatment. A Chilean friend took me to a place in a market hall that had lots of different drinks and the personnel having a busy time. As the list in the picture implies, you could ask help for many different problems. I asked to get medicine for diarrhea. They brought four different drinks to clean my digestion, as you can see from this video (in Finnish).
Usually western perception doesn’t believe in the healing potential of these kinds of treatments but it worked for me. My diarrhea was over!
Saying goodbye to Cusco
Cusco definitely left good vibes. It’s people, friends I met there and its living, positive attitude. I also got away from diarrhea, that was sucking energy. I didn’t know though, that this friend wouldn’t leave me that easily. So I continued back to Lima to spend few days with my friend Francesco who took me to bohemian music scene of Lima. Before that part, you will next hear my experience in Machu Picchu!