I only have three serious gripes with this small, mostly charming little town in the middle of Chile's northern Atacama desert, and they are the following:
- The Internet is really, really slow here — slower than anywhere in Bolivia (and that's saying something)
- The prices are ridiculously high, even for Chile (e.g. some places are charging as much as USD$10 per person for dinner — waaay more than what I've gotten used to lately)
- Despite being significantly lower down than the Bolivian altiplano (a mere 2400m asl), it's still freezing cold here at night
There are many things that I'll remember about Cusco, after I've left (which I will do, one day!). But if you were to ask me what Cusco sounds like, there's one noise that would always, inevitably, spring to mind before all others. And I'm afraid that it isn't anything terribly nice, like the twittering of the birds, or the wailing of the Huayno music, or even the honking of the taxi horns. It's those damn fruit peddlers, who ride around the streets all day in their over-sized tricycles-slash-mobile-shopfronts, and who advertise their wares using a fat, blaring loudspeaker. The horrible, loud monotone can be heard almost anywhere in Cusco, all day long: "papayas platanos chirimoyas, manzanas piñas limones zanahorias, muy fresco muy barato, papayas papayas naranjas, tenemos platanos dos soles por kilo, platanos platanos chirimoyas...". It's a sound that I'll always remember, and that I'll never cease to detest.
With Cath and Gaz gone today, and with Abimael working, and with my bus out to Cusco not leaving until the evening, I had one day on my own to spend here in Ayacucho. I decided to spend the day visiting the village of Quinua — a tiny place about 45 minutes from Ayacucho, reachable by regular combis — where I unexpectedly found myself horseriding through a beautiful, jungle-enshrouded cataract.
The original attraction of San Cristóbal was that it was a cozy, quiet mountain town, with plenty of locals and not too many tourists. Unfortunately, this image has drawn a plethora of tourists to San Cristóbal, and it's ultimately been the town's undoing. There are Internet cafés, tour agencies, hotels, and herbal medicine stores on every street corner. And every second person you walk past in the street is a fellow gringo. Not quite the simple, spartan, unsophisticated place I was expecting.
A group of 8 of us from the hostel went out to see a Mariachi band tonight. Entry was free: they were counting on making up for this by selling us plenty of Corona, and that they did do!
The Mariachi is the quintessential, stereotypical Mexican entertainment. A bunch of señores, all wearing their fancy suits (with their metal-adorned pants) and big sombreros. Playing guitars, trumpets, and violins, and singing old-skool Spanish love songs in operatic voices.