Few tourists can say that they visited Peru and that they missed Cusco. With more tour agencies, Internet cafés, and falafel joints than anywhere else in the country — and with close proximity to the world-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu — Cusco is the tourist Mecca of South America. I spent a few days here before my Salkantay hike, and I'm spending one month more here, to study some Spanish.
As of tonight, my beloved little blue Nokia 3100 mobile phone is MIA (Missing In Action). I think it fell out of my pocket, when I got out of a taxi this evening. Very sad, and very much a pain in the a$$: people have been calling me (and vice versa) on it every day while I've been in Cusco, and would have continued doing so for the remainder of my time here, were my phone not lost. I've already tried calling and SMSing it numerous times, but so far, with no response. I still have hopes of recovering it, but the chances of that happening around here are pretty slim. Looks like I might have to say goodbye to my phone, and move on.
I've known about the Beit Jabad (that's Chabad house, for us English-speakers) in Cusco since my first week here, but I haven't had the time or the motivation to pay it a visit, until tonight. When I finished my three-day Apurímac rafting trip this afternoon, some of the Israelis on the trip suggested that I pop in tonight, for an Erev Shabbat shul service and dinner. So, tonight I had my first proper Friday night Jewish experience here in Cusco. The service was beautiful, the food was (kosher yet) delicious, and the company was (all-Israeli yet) friendly.
I first met Chris over two months ago, during my blissful week of sea and sun in Tulum, Mexico. Since then, we've travelled different paths, but we've kept in touch, and we've kept track of each other's whereabouts every now and then. Chris, 35-year-old backpacker-slash-British-web-developer and cheerful chap, has now made it here to Cusco; and tonight we had a reunion and caught up on old times.
In an effort to once-and-for-all be rid of the food poisoning that's been plaguing me almost non-stop for the past week, I finally visited a doctor on Sunday night. Tonight, I returned to Clinica Paredes in downtown Cusco, where the doctor examined the results of a test that he'd had run on me. Looks like I have some kind of stomach / intestinal infection. I've been prescribed antibiotics, which I have to take for the next 5 days, and which will hopefully cure me.
Over the past three days, I've spent a lot of time working on the new English content for the Amigos web site. I've gotten a lot written, but there's still a fair bit more to do. However, I'm afraid that I won't be doing the rest. Due to an unexpected clash of personalities in the office, my time spent volunteering for Amigos has come to an end. I'm happy with what I've accomplished here, but I can do no more.
Stephan's a law graduate from Quebec, Canada, who's come down to Cusco to do some voluntary legal work with Hampy for a few months. As well as being a friendly guy, he's also an interesting conversationalist, and a keen and adventurous hiker. He has, on occasion, been known to drink more than he can handle, and to suffer the consequences. But generally speaking, he's pretty reliable and responsible.
It wasn't short. It wasn't cheap. And it was a big chunk eaten out of my travelling and exploration time in South America. But it was definitely worth it. In my four weeks at Amigos, and with the Polar Covarrubias family, I learned a lot of Spanish, I made some great friends, and I got a lot of love (and plenty of food, too!). Plus, during the whole thing I was in Cusco, where I could party at night, explore the area on weekends, get by pretty cheap, and stay fairly safe. All up, a great experience, and one that will surely benefit me in the rest of my travels.
Quiet, clean, cheap, and central yet out-of-the-way little hostel-slash-guesthouse, situated in Cusco's trendy and eclectic San Blas neighbourhood. I checked in to this place (on the recommendation of Jesus) after leaving my host family today, and I'll be here on-and-off for the rest of my time in Cusco. It seems to be almost empty — I've got a 6-bed dorm all to myself — and this is probably due to its being very basic, and to its location at the top of a big hill, which can only be climbed on foot via a flight of steep steps.
After four very quick and very memorable weeks with them, today I finally said goodbye to the Polar Covarrubias family, and "moved out of home". Lunch today was my last meal with the family, and it was a bit sad to have to say farewell to them; but it was also a relief to be ending my routine and getting-a-bit-too-comfortable life with them, and preparing to get back on the road again. They've been the best host family I could have asked for: after my time with them, I feel like I've gained a second family, for life. I know I'll always be welcome at their house in the future.
It seems that working on one web site (during my "vacation" — which seems to be on hold for now in Cusco) simply isn't enough: as well as Hampy, I'm now also helping with the Amigos web site! That's right: Jesus has persuaded me to lend a hand with the effort to deliver Amigos a shiny new site. However, in the case of Amigos, Luis is taking care of all the design and development side of things (using Rails); so I'm just assisting with writing, improving and correcting the English-language content for the various pages.