This evening in Pilcopata, we were wandering around the main (and only) street of town, when we saw an ambulancia parked in the middle of the road, lights blazing and loudspeakers blaring. The driver was saying through the loudspeaker that they were offering Yellow fever vaccinations to the locals, on-the-spot, and 100% free of charge. As Pilcopata is on the edge of the Peruvian jungle, I guess it is technically a Yellow fever endemic area. Great to see that they're making a real effort to try and curb the prevalence of this illness, and to protect the locals from contracting it.
One of the seasoned staff at Mayuc, Santiago is the instructor on my 6-person raft, for my three days on the Río Apurímac. He's a very cheerful guy, always cracking jokes and telling freaky stories. He's also a strict instructor, and (in our opinion) probably the best guide on the trip. We feel safe and lucky to have him. He also speaks excellent English, as well as a few token words of Hebrew (inevitable, given the number of Israelis around!).
Carlos Joel Delgado Pizarro is a young guy studying computer science at university, here in Cusco. Carlos was told about me (and vice versa) by — who else — the king of Linux and of Linux-folk here in Peru: my friend Antonio Ognio (from Lima). I met with Carlos today at my host family's house, and we had a good old chat about Linux, open-source, programming, the state of IT and of open-source in Peru, and even Drupal (a bit). Plus, I managed to talk with him in Spanish the whole time! Not bad, especially considering that I really wasn't feeling too good today (more food poisoning). Great guy, and a many with many questions.
Jorge is the director of Hampy, an organisation (that I got introduced to today) that helps disadvantaged kids in the village of Chocco, near Cusco. Jorge's been working in Lima for the past few years, with the US government's Peace Corps; but now he's back with Hampy. He's a friendly and very passionate guy, and I'm glad that I'll be able to help him out a bit, over the next few weeks.
In Western countries, we're accustomed to Internet cafés being overpriced, limited to the city centre (and other commercial hubs), and really only used by tourists. This is because the majority of people that need it in these countries, have it installed in their homes, so there's simply no demand from the locals. But here in Peru, very few people can afford a PC or an Internet connection at home; and so cabinas (Internet cafés) have become a way of life here. They aren't around because of the tourists: they're around for everyone.
Jesus is the founder and the director of Amigos, and he's a very complicated guy. He has enormous talent, diligence, and ambition; yet he has many fears, doubts, and dilemnas to contend with. He genuinely wants to help and to serve the kids that he works with; yet he also indulges in the luxuries of high-class Cusco that most locals cannot enjoy. And he's technically the boss, above and in charge of everyone around him; yet the people around him are his best friends, closer than his family, and he hangs out with them and parties with them, and he treats and respects all as his equals.
Juan Carlos is a young guy who really has a right to be proud of himself. He's the "director of activities" — basically the second-in-command — at Amigos. He was one of the first kids who went through the community English-learning program, which the school runs for disadvantaged kids in the local area. Now, he's a fluent English-speaker, he's an important part of the school's administration, and he's a great guy and a friend to everyone around him.
Straight after finishing my first classes at Amigos today, I got picked up by Flora and Mario Polar Covarrubias, the mother and father of the family that I'm staying with, for the duration of my four weeks of study. It seems that, as with the school, I've hit the jackpot with a great host family. They're very warm people; they live in a nice, safe area in Cusco; they only speak Spanish; and judging by today, I'd say they're going to be feeding me very well indeed.
After getting lost yesterday, Jack and I woke up this morning in Juan's house, feeling very grateful to have found a bed to sleep in, but also very eager to get back to Cusco. And, thankfully, after a bit of breakfast and a morning walk, make it back we did. Civilisation never smelt so good.
Yes, it was very stupid. Yes, we really were completely lost. Yes, we were lucky it didn't turn out very bad. Yes, it was fun and it was a good experience. And no, actually, we don't regret doing it one little bit.
Today, Jack and myself decided to explore some of the ruins north of Cusco. We made it (on the bus) to the first one; but we never reached any of the others. Instead, we became two Aussie bogans, lost in the mountains; and we had a grand adventure — one that we hadn't planned or anticipated at all.