Sad, but not tragic. A forced opportunity. Maybe even a fortunate adaptation…fuck it. Let's make taco salad.

Cusco III

I returned to Cusco (~350,000 people, ~10,800 feet) ecstatic to finally be on my own schedule.  The prior six weeks had been amazing, but also exhausting trying to keep the train on the tracks…to put it delicately.  Time to settle down for a bit, right?  I made it to town, dropped my bag at the (really fucking cold) hostel, and headed out to catch up with a couple of friends at a local bar, The Lost City.  I’ve never really played Texas Hold ‘Em, but was talked into a “friendly” game with two gringos, an Argentine, and two Peruvian locals.  Two hours later, I’m up 150 soles and buying drinks.  Twenty minutes later, Michael, the owner of the bar, closes up shop and convinces me we should be smoking pot while we play.  Four buy-ins later, the game mercifully comes to a close…

But…the good news is that I met Lawrence from St. Louis at the game.  He’s lived in Cusco on and off for 14 years and was in the process of giving up his current apartment.  My friend Nahoko had located a nice place 2 blocks off of the Plaza de Armas for around $300/month.  Not bad.  Lawrence’s place, just a few blocks up the hill, was only 250 soles/month (around $80).  Bad ass.  The only problem is the hike up to San Blas…it’s only 4 blocks from the Plaza de Armas, but 4 vertically painful ones, especially since I’m not even close to acclimating to the altitude here.




The weather is beautiful here, but also harsh.  Almost year-round, it is 70 degrees in the day and 20 degrees at night.  (I knew I’d regret not making space for the damn Michael J. Fox puffy vest.)  Every day, there is always a trip home somewhere between 6-8 pm to completely re-dress;  the temperature will drop by 30-40 degrees in that timeframe.  The current getup is shorts and a t-shirt in the day and long johns, llama sweater, and chicken hat at night.  The days are most always clear and sunny but the nights are crisp…again, to put it delicately.  At least the chicken hat is good for making new friends…



I have yet to see a heater in any of the apartments, hostels, or guesthouses in Cusco, so the getting in and out of bed process is always a mental grind.  I just had to take an hour off of the writing project to try and plug all the gaps in my door and window with newspaper and electrical tape.  Work with what you have, right?… (Apparently, they have never heard of weather strips or sealing foam here.  All the doors and windows are drafty as hell.)

Part of the appeal of Cusco is the interesting mix of people.  There is a constant flow of touristicos from all over the world on their way to Machu Picchu and other local attractions.  There is also a sizeable number of ex-patriots who have settled here for some months or years.  I’ve been dating a local Peruvian, so I spend significant time attempting to communicate with her friends and family in my impressive Españolish.  It improves daily…but slowly.

The process of outfitting my new apartment with essentials – sheets, pillows, towel, shower curtain, cleaning supplies, liquor cabinet – took almost an entire day.  There is no Target or Fred Meyer here, so I had to find my way to individual shops that sold what I needed.  Instead of being spread throughout the city, the retail strategy here is that you always go to the same place to get certain things.  There will be one entire block of shoe stores and then the next block is nothing but plumbing supplies.  Once I picked up sheets and pillows on Mattress Store Street, I had to take a cab back to drop those off and then head back and try to find the next thing.  There were many helpful store owners who gave me directions to find what I needed, but, of course, I didn’t understand a fucking word they were saying.  The shower curtain was the most difficult…I would have never guessed I needed to go to the Plastiqueria.

I then spent 5 hours in my Cleaning Bandito outfit (I knew the bandana would come in handy down here) scrubbing spider webs and dust out of the place.  I don’t think anyone had really cleaned here in a few years and I would start coughing as soon as I walked in the door.  I also tossed out about 60 gallons worth of garbage that Lawrence left behind.  Thanks, buddy.

I was not aware before I moved in that the water in San Blas is turned off every day from roughly 1-6 pm.  Yesterday I was in the shower (with a head full of shampoo) and the water simply stopped coming.  I also was unaware that Rolando, my Argentinean neighbor, has made low-pitched howling sounds when he is alone since he was a child and it’s become a subconscious verbal tic.  I can’t really explain the sound in words other than to say it’s like living next door to a humpback whale.   I’ll get back to you on whether I adapt or simply lose my mind; I don’t think there will be a middle road.  Regardless of the difficulties (and the unrelenting cold), it’s still incredibly rewarding to have “my own space” after a couple months of being a vagabond.


Nice llamas, eh?




Come by for a drink anytime (pisco and pineapple juice, of course).



The shower (when there is actually water) has a heater wired directly into the shower head.  No, Dad, it is not in any way safe.



I’ve been dying to catch a local futbol match, so I made plans to meet 8 others from The Lost City on Sunday afternoon for ceviche and the game.  Although I was not really a fan previously, I had by far the best ceviche I’ve ever had and we sat around for three hours soaking up the sun, eating, and drinking beer.  Unfortunately, the game was cancelled because the players hadn’t been paid in three months and they decided to strike.  Equally unfortunately, that team was one game away from being demoted from the Peruvian First Division to the Second Division, so the walkover win for the other team means we may not have any good futbol here for a while.  And yet, that seems such a good analogy for how things seem to run around here.

Now that I’ve settled in a bit, I’ll likely stay in Cusco for a month or two and try to get some writing done.  It’s less expensive (and less stressful) to be in one place than to be traveling every few days.  It’s also a hell of a lot easier to develop some human relationships so you don’t feel completely untethered.  After some time here, I’ll be moving south to see Bolivia and then on to Chile, hopefully in time for better beach weather.





4 Responses to “Cusco III”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Do you want me to send you a coat? When it is cold I roll my extra clothes up around me under the sheets and that helps a lot.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Que llamas bonitas.

  3. Anonymous says:

    That shower head heater scares the bajeezus out of me!

    Reminds me of a shower in Pai, Thailand that had an open-poled switch (a big-bare metal thing right out of the movie Frankenstein) to turn on the hot water heater, and it was right next to the shower, in clear line of water spray.


  4. Casey's Mom says:

    ditto on Jim's comment.

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