Our pampas trip group was tired and shagged out, following a prolonged swim with the dolphins (earlier in the afternoon); so this evening, we went out on the river, in search of two good bottles of red wine. Hey, we have two french girls in the group, remember? We already managed to find one bottle earlier today (near where we also found two baby anacondas), but we decided that two more were needed in order to satiate our needs for the evening. So we ended up stopping at every building we saw along the river, and calling out: "hola, ¿tienes vino?" (lit: "hey there, got wine?").
The pampas is a pretty remote place, and as such, it is lacking in some things (e.g. electricity, road vehicle access, piranha-free swimming water). But beer-selling beverage establishments is not one of them. After finishing the trip down the river to our campsite, our guide got us back into the boat, and drove us round the corner to the Sunset Bar. It was pretty bizarre, but we rounded a bend in the river, and suddenly — out here in the absolute middle of nowhere — we saw a sign saying (in English): "Sunset Bar: we serve cold beer — welcome". Maybe Bolivia is a bit like Australia after all, eh? If there's one person living within 100km of anywhere, there's another person next door selling beer.
Having got back from my three-day rafting trip yesterday, I was in Cusco today, in time for Jesus's birthday. In honour of the occasion, Jesus held a grand old fiesta this evening, which began with copious amounts of beverages in his apartment (none of which I could drink, due to my still being on antibiotics), and which continued with dancing (and more beverages) out on the town. A great celebration for my friend and school principal, with many of his oldest and dearest friends coming from far and wide, to be there and to celebrate with him.
Wil and Monica, two of the students that have been with me at Amigos these past two weeks, are leaving Cusco tomorrow. As such, tonight we held a little farewell get-together for them, over at Jesus's house. We had a good turnout for the farewell — of students, staff, and friends of the school — and it was a fun night of talking, reminiscing, and beveraging. Wil and Monica have both been great friends to me during their time here, and I know I'm not the only one that's going to miss them.
At this evening's celebratory drinks for Amigos' birthday, I decided to order a cocktail called a cholo lindo. I didn't know what it was, but it sounded local, and I was game for most anything. But not for this. It was full of anís — a really strong, particularly foul liquorice-like substance — and just the smell of it made me want to pass out. I got through about ¼ of it, and team Amigos helped me finish the rest. Cholo lindo: never again!
Last Thursday was the 5th birthday of Amigos; and today was the school's birthday party extravaganza. We celebrated by going to the park this morning, and having some heated high-altitude games of fútbol (soccer) and basket (basketball). This was followed by a big, tasty lunch at a good polleria (BBQ chicken restaurant) and some really good, really chunky torta (cake). Then, the party continued at night, over more than a few alcoholic beverages, and then on the dance floor.
On the real city tour of Cusco today, I had my first sip of real chicha. Most places in Peru serve chicha morada, which looks (and kinda tastes) like grape juice, and which has little or no alcohol content. Real chicha, on the other hand, can only be found in chicherias, and is much stronger in alcohol content. Tastes pretty good, and at the dodgy chicherias in the slums, it's only s/0.30 for a big cup's worth. But you don't want to drink too much of it, or you'll end up like the alcoholics that hang around there all day long.
It's great to catch up with people after not having seen them for a whole day. To see how they've aged, what they've done with their lives, how many children they've had, etc. :P Tonight, the Salkantay hike's Team Feliz (and some of Team Wilson) met up at the Mama Africa disco club here in Cusco, for something different. A bit of a change. Drinking!
It's the national drink of Peru. It's bloody strong. And it's bloody nice. I already had plenty of it in Lima, in shot form; but tonight in Aguas Calientes, I had it as a cocktail. Vodka-like spirit, mixed with a kind of lemon juice concoction. Nice and tasty. And, of course, perfect preparation for tomorrow's dawn ascent to Machu Picchu.
One of the things I resolved to do after leaving Mexico (as you may recall) was to waste less money, and to sacrifice less brain cells, on alcohol. I figured that going on adventures, and getting out of the big cities, would make this easier. Well, it hasn't quite turned out that way, on the Salkantay hike. I've been on a mission of virtual abstinence from alcohol the whole trip. But absolutely everyone else in my group — especially the Belgian Front — has had the exact opposite mission. And they've taken it upon themselves — "for your own good" — to render my mission a failure. They seem to have succeeded.