Tag Archives: haggling

Busco Cusco

(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
Cusco.  I woke up that first morning back with the altitude singing in my veins.  I looked over at Sarah and sighed as I got up from bed, knowing that our stay would soon be coming to an end.  I took inventory of my body.  I was covered, I mean covered, in bug bites, my hair looked like Chico had just given me a noogie, and it seemed that I still had part of a thorn lodged in my arm.  Basically, I looked amazing.  On the bright side, my stomach felt surprisingly settled.  And now, I was hungry.
Before we could go for lunch, Harol, one of the coordinators, picked us up with a taxi to go to tie up any loose strings at the office.  Side note: Harol is arguably the nicest person I’ve ever met.
When we got to Jack’s cafe I decided to make up for lost time and ordered the nachos loaded with meat, beans, and cheese.  Sarah and I reminisced over MLC memories and chatted with a couple of British tourists about their South American adventures while I cleared my plate for the first time in days.  Looked like the worst was over.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
After lunch, Sarah and I tried to find the travel agency Harol recommended, but when we reached the address there was a different agency there.  Tired and hot, we decided to take a look at what sorts of deals they had.  The woman helping us, Claudia, spoke great English and unfortunately for her, did not realize that I spoke Spanish.  “Where did I put my pen?  Oh my, what do I do next?  What do these people need now?” she said in Spanish to herself, not realizing that I understood everything she was saying.  Despite her confusion, she booked the train tickets, found us hired cars and buses, and made us a reservation at a cheap hostel.  It seemed that everything was in order, and after paying the bill, we arranged to pick up all of our tickets later that day.
On the way back, Sarah and I were bombarded with masseuses.  “Massage?  Masaje?  Pedicure?  Manicure?  Shine shoes?”  If I had any doubts about looking rough, they suddenly vanished.
Staying cool in the shade.  Notice the man with the
backward baseball cap.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
An old man peddling instruments asked if we wanted any pan flutes.  We said our no thank you’s, but as he turned to leave, I remembered the mouth harp that Juvenal had in the jungle.  “Do you have an icarro?” I asked him, not knowing at the time that the instrument was called a dan moi.   I described the instrument, and he nodded.  “Aaaa si. I think I have some at my shop.  Which hotel are you staying at?  I can meet you there with the instrument,” he said.  Erm.  No.  “How about we meet here at 6:00?” I offered.  “No problem,” he responded.  We shook on it, and the man went his merry way.
Sarah rested up in the room as I did some shopping at an outdoor market.  Beautiful tapestries and alpaca textiles, pottery and hand-sewn dolls, and jewelry and pan flutes decorated the myriad of stands.  “Señorita, mira aquí,” the vendors would say, trying to get me to stop and buy their wares.
A plump woman smiled at me and motioned toward her goods.  A gourd with a decorated nativity scene caught my eye.  “Do you have a smaller one of these?” I asked her in Spanish.  “No, no, señorita.  No smaller.  But I give you a special price,” she said temptingly.  From past experience I knew that every price was a “special price.”  Still, this knick knack was too nice to pass up.  She gave me a jacked up price that was still a reasonable one by US standards, so I didn’t bother haggling.
 “How do you like Peru?” she asked me.  “Oh, I love it,” I replied and went into the details of my stay.  “The jungle?  Dios mio.  I’ve never been,” she divulged.  “You’re not afraid to travel alone?”  “Not particularly,” I shrugged as she whipped out the day’s newspaper.  “Mira,” she said pointing to a young man’s picture on the front page.  “This boy, que guapo, so good looking, missing!  From the states!  Yes, yes, he looks dark, I know.  He’s Peruvian, but he lives in the U.S.  And now they’re bringing dogs to look for him.  Yes, dogs!  They can find people by smelling at things.  Can you believe it?  I hope they find him.  So guapo, so good looking.  And from the U.S.!  Que triste.  So sad.  So guapo.  So good looking.”  “Que triste,” I agreed, trying to make my exit after a good ten minutes of hearing the sad tale on repeat.
“Wait, come look in my shop!” she said as I headed toward another stand.  There was more?  We walked in the store behind her stand.  Oh, there was more.  I looked at the first row of shelves and much to my dismay, saw several smaller nativity scenes.  I sighed.  Lies, lies, lies.  I turned toward the jewelry case and saw some earrings my mother might have liked.  “Ah, you like earrings?” the woman asked.  “Mira, look at these,” she said, pulling out a pair bearing a condor, a puma, and a serpent.  “The symbols of the city,” she smiled proudly.  I smiled back.  She wasn’t going to let me leave.  I quickly bought the earrings and left the shop.  I looked at my watch.  Wow.  Twenty minutes had passed.  I shook my head and moved to a stand out of her field of vision.  I knew she was liable to chase me down.
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag.
The pigeons in Cusco are a bit handsy.
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
Finally it was time to make our way back to the travel agency.  “Um, Claudia’s not back,” another travel agent told us when we got there.  “Come back in 45 minutes, yes?”  When we returned another woman was sitting at Claudia’s desk.  “Here,” she said passing me her cell phone.  “Hi,” said Claudia on the other line.  “We have a problem,” she blurted.  Uh-oh.  “I made a mistake and bought the train tickets for a week from now,” she confessed.  “But I’m buying tickets for tomorrow now.  They will be for the middle of the day, yes?  But the thing is, I will have to give you the tickets tomorrow morning, okay?”  I agreed, not really having a choice.  Sarah and I hoped for the best and left.
We stopped in the Plaza de Armas to meet up with the instrument seller.  No mouth harps, but he offered up beautifully painted ocarina flutes.  They were so lovely, and I hated the idea that he went through all that trouble for nothing, so… I let guilt and consumerism get the better of me, broke down, and bought two.  One for me.  One for Sarah.
Fried Guinea pig, anyone?
(Photo cred: Erica Moutrie)
Later that night Sarah and I ate dinner with Harol at the fanciest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen.  My stomach was still feeling fine, and my appetite was alive and well, so once again, I stuffed my face.  A big mac.  Large order of fries.  A chocolate shake.  I was unstoppable.
After we had gorged ourselves, we made our way to a place Harol told us about called Inkateam that had salsa dancing.  After about 11:00, the dj started playing club music and locals and tourists started pouring through the doors.  The music was fun and upbeat, but- I can’t believe I’m saying this- lacking in hip hop.  Hmm was this homesickness I detected?
On the way home my stomach started churning.  Oooooh, no.  Oh.  No.  We took a break and sat on a bench.  Did I really eat nachos and a big mac?  Fries and a shake?  What was I thinking?  The plague doesn’t just disappear in one day!  Back in the hotel things got… worse.  I finally accepted the bitter, stomach turning truth I had been denying for so long: I had parasites.  Jungle parasites.