It was a pretty big day today — visiting Iguazu Falls (Argentina side) and all — but I couldn't rest quite yet. First, I had to leave Argentina, and cross into Brazil for the evening. This turned out to be a lot easier than I'd feared, mainly because I chose to take an easy mode of transport: taxi! After a bit of bargaining, I managed to negotiate a ride straight from the Hostel Inn, on the Argentina side, to Hostel Paudimar, on the Brazil side. And all for just 40 pesos (US$13 or so) — not too much more expensive than navigating numerous bus lines, and certainly a lot less hassle.
This morning, being all prepared and geared up from yesterday afternoon, I left the town of Huaraz, and my 5-day Santa Cruz-Llanganuco hike began. Didn't get quite as much sleep last night as I'd hoped for — as it took a while to pack my bags in the evening, and to sort out everything that I don't need for the hike and can leave in Huaraz — so I wasn't up until about 6:30am, and I wasn't on the combi out of Huaraz until 7am (all about an hour behind schedule). But it turned out that this wasn't too late at all: day 1 of the hike went fine, and I finished the first day's route with time to spare.
Cusco is the heartland of the ancient Incan Empire, and of the Quechuan race; and as such, the majority of people in the Cusco area still speak Quechua as their native tongue. When I got a taxi across town today, my driver decided to share a bit of basic Quechua with me. It's a bloody hard language, and I couldn't really remember any of the phrases he taught me. But at least he was trying to teach me, and I was trying to learn.
If you don't have your own private transportation (e.g. car, bicycle), there are basically three ways to get around in Cusco: taxi; combi (minibus); or on foot (in order from most to least expensive). Being the parsimonious and aware-of-the-long-road-ahead traveller that I am, I prefer to take the final option whenever possble. I like the concept and the good value of the second option as well. However, local economics, local culture, and occasional lack of time mean that I've taken taxis in Cusco far more often than I would normally.
When I was boarding in LA, I saw a guy with a Kippah in the terminal. When I got to Mexico, "mi mejor amigo" (aka fate) put me with this guy, in the long queue to get through customs. We got talking: he's from Israel (Petah Tikva), and was here to meet up with his wife. We were both totally lost and clueless, and we were both happy to have found another Jew in this big city.