THURSDAY MAY 3, 2012, A SLEEVE STUFFED WITH STOLEN TOILET PAPER
It was another terrible night’s rest. I barely slept from the constant coughing, and sneezing going on in our room...and when I was just at the point of dozing off again, one of the Dutch girl’s who had been having a late night conversation in the room the night before, decided to jump off of her bunk, bang into things, and scream “FUCK” in a loud whisper. I was aggravated to say the least, and it seemed that fast as I fell asleep, two hours had gone by and I, alongside the rest of the room, was quickly woken up when Dutch girl #1, got out of bed and decided a little before 7 would be a good time to pack up all of her shit, giving little care to anyone else in the room.
There was zipping, crinkling, more zipping, more crinkling, the ruffling sound of clothes being packed and unpacked. Violent throws of trash loudly thudding into the tiny plastic bin. It was ridiculous. Then Dutch girl #2 woke up. She yawned and stretched; a loud cry from the pleasure of a morning stretch. I understand, but when there’s 6 other people sleeping, it’s the time to keep your mouth shut, no?
She proceeded to get out of bed, in her lacy black undies, and as she bent over to pack up her stuff, I opened my eyes, to see a black piece of string tucked away into her ass. What a way to really wake up! When the two were done talking, slamming lockers, packing, coming in and out, and finally gone, it turned out that they just sat downstairs for an hour or so, not even needing to pack at that ungodly hour. With everyone in the room awake now, we decided to get up and maybe do something.
Eefke and Kirsty met up with a guy from the hostel who was going to look into overnight treks in Colca canyon, and I stayed behind and did a little writing. When I felt I had enough, I went downstairs, meeting a nice English girl named Rosa, and had a bit of a chat with her before Pete (the sick and sneezy one from our room) joined us. He had showered and was feeling much better. We sat there waiting for at least an hour, before we all started to get antsy and decided we were going to meet the girls at the market. Just as I began to write them a note however, they returned and we set out in a giant group, adding one more before we left, for a total of 6. At the market, while we all sat drinking juice, Nancy (overwhelmed by the number of us exceeding her amount of allowed chairs), began juicing. A man from our hostel spotted us and sat down with us to have a chat. His name was Salva and he was from Spain. A few people not wanting to wait, went to other women, while Kirsty, Eefke and I stayed loyal to our favorite mujer de jugos, Nancy.
Pete ordered first, We told her to give him something for his cold. She added “alfalfa” leaves to his juice, different from the alfalfa I know, it was just a flavorless green leaf. Then she added honey, and some different fruits and handed it to him. He let us all try it. It was delicious! And would hopefully help heal him. I asked for a few things, in which Nancy responded and asked if I had ever tried guava. I nodded, and she made me a special one with that. Sweet and filling, I was quite happy with my last juice, and said good bye to Nancy until the next time, asking her to remember me. She nodded and we walked away.
The boys headed back to the hostel, while we girls decided what we wanted to do. Just as we were walking out however, we noticed some of the sales women at the exit eating something wrapped in plastic that looked quite delicious. It was fried yucca stuffed with different fillings and after Rosa got one with some green herbs and cheese, Eefke got one solely stuffed with cheese, and we were all hooked. I got one to share with Kirsty, asking the woman to put a little salsa on ours. She warned me that it was hot, I smiled and told her it was ok, and about a third of the way, Kirsty, full from her empanada and her juice, left the rest to me. I was full, but it was so delicious, I couldn’t help resisting and ate the whole thing. I slightly regretted it after as the dense fried ball of carbohydrate and fat sat in the pit of my stomach, but my head was happy from the sensations my tongue was sending it, and it all evened out.
We walked for a bit in a direction we hadn’t yet gone, and after going a few blocks, a woman waved us down, and came close to us to talk. She warned us the neighborhood was peligroso (dangerous) and to take cuidado (caution). She asked where we were going and when we told her it was just a walk, she told us it wasn’t the place, it was not safe. We walked back down the street we came, seeing her at the corner telling us to turn, thanked her, waved goodbye, and continued in our path. We had just come up the street and nothing had happened, we would be fine.
We stopped into a little shop where I noticed some locks and asked how much. The old woman sitting there simply told me no.
“No puedo comprar este?” I asked, pointing to a lock I saw. Once again she told me no. Did I do something to offend the old women in the shops here? Did I smell? Did they just not like tourists? We walked on down the street looking for more where I stopped into the next shop. A teenage boy was behind the counter helping an elderly woman and I waited patiently until he could help me.
I held up Eefke’s lock and asked if they had any like hers. He shook his head.
“Este?” I said pointing to a small black lock. “Cuanto Cuesto?” He pulled the lock down and handed it to me.
“2.50” he said. It was a done deal. I now had a crappy black lock, but a lock that could fit the lockers at that. Rosa now deciding she may want one, stopped into the next store spending 50 sol cents more than I, to buy a far better lock. It’s ok, I liked my shitty one.
We walked back to the hostel, where we sat for a bit, before I went with the girls and their tall Russian friend Andre, to go check out different prices for the trekking trip. When Andre and Eefke had nearly finished booking theirs at one place, Rosa and Kirsty went to check out another. I stayed with Eefke and Andrew in hopes of visiting the church, however not wanting to pay to see their museum, we’d have have to wait until later when we could just check out the church for free! We went to get some coffee while waiting for the girls. Let me tell you, the Cusco coffee company swirming with tourists serving Starbucks like drinks, could kick their ass. Their coffee was far far tastier, as I learned from drinking the (highly reccomended by Eefke) cinnamon frappe.
If I wasn’t full enough from juice, and a fried yucca stuffed with cheese, I was now about to burst from the cream and sugar syrup in my coffee drink. Hopefully we’d walk it off! Andre talked about going to the cinema. He listed all of the movies out, and said there was a theater in Cusco. Neither Eefke nor I really enthused with the idea, we tried to sway him away from it.
“How about a movie at the hostel?” We asked him. He was not sold. Back at the hostel, Kirsty and Rosa walked in just after us, and after discussing it, none of us wanted to go to the movies, but rather the supermarket, so they could stock up on goodies for their trek. I just wanted to walk. We broke the news to Andre that there probably would be no movie, and he wasn’t too thrilled; though he did come to the supermarket with us. Rosa, who didn’t want to join us, in the end decided to come, complaining the entire time about why we were walking so far, why didn’t we just go to a little street stand, and finally when we were in the store, about how she liked the small stands better. Well, then love, ya shouldn’t have come!
While the girls went straight for energy bars and cookies, Andre headed for his water and vodka. We shuffled through the store until everyone had gotten their goodies, and headed back to the hostel to watch a movie someone had put on. "Burn After Reading" ended ubruptly and had me saying “WHAT THE FUCK DID I JUST WATCH?” when it was over.
The girls went out for dinner and I sat on the couch, waiting the longest hour for a taxi to come and pick up Rob and me. Though his bus was a half hour later, he decided sharing the taxi was the best idea for him, and even thought about trying to change his time to my bus; we’d sort that out when we got there. When 6:45 came, the girls were not back, and our taxi had not arrived. The woman at the front desk called, and I saw her face sitting there in disgust as the guy put her on hold, and then never bothered to pick back up.
“Creas que es mejor se vamos aya?” I asked pointing to the street.
“Si.” She said. Then proceeded to tell us it would be cheaper too, but to make sure he was actually licensed and had a a radio. We walked to the street corner, stood on the edge of the sidewalk and waved down every taxi, that eventually drove past us. Finally, the tiniest of taxis that ever could be, stopped and we tried to fit our bags in. Rob didn’t see a radio or a license, though the rosary beads hanging from his front mirror made me feel ok about him, however the fact that Rob did not, also paranoid me, and being that we were having trouble fitting our bags in, and were now scared, we let him go. We now had even less time.
We continued the waving down process, finally another small car stopping for us. He had some sort of number on his windshield. That probably counted for something. Rob was not sure of the situation, but being that the guy had stopped his car, gotten out to help us put our bags in, gave me the price I wanted without having to barter, and we were running late on time, I told him it’d be fine and we hopped in.
“Radio?” Rob asked the guy, using his hands to show a walkie talkie like radio being held in his hand and going to his mouth.
“Si!” the driver said enthusiastically as he raised the volume to his Peruvian folk music. I couldn’t help but laugh.
I figure if you start conversations with people and make them like you, you have less of a chance of being hurt in the end, because whether or not they want to “drive you down back alleys” as Rob had told me, they still have a conscience.
I asked him about traffic and Peru; if he was from Arequipa, and if he’d traveled anywhere. His name was Hilberto. I liked him. I watched Rob’s face as we went down narrow streets. His entire body tightening up in fear of us about to be slaughtered, our organs sold to feed Hilberto’s family. Once again I laughed to myself. The best was when we turned a corner onto a dark dirt road. It was right before we hit the station. I knew this because I went the day before. Rob however was quivering inside, I just knew it. To calm his nerves, I made sure to make it clear.
“Estamos aqui, no?”
“Si.” Hilberto responded. “Es aqui!” He said as he pulled up beside the side of the station.
“I could see ya getting scared.” I evily laughed as I said to Rob. At the station with a good amount of time to spare, we went inside to Cruz del Sur to ask about changing Rob’s ticket. He was told he’d have to pay extra, but the seat next to mine was free. He paid the extra 28 sols, and it was done.
Why was it, that I had been sacrificing myself of water all day to prevent myself from having to pee on the ten hour bus, but as soon as we got to the station I had to pee like a whale about to give birth? With everything done and out of the way, we wandered around aimlessly looking for the bathroom, Rob finally telling me it was upstairs. I trudged myself up, out of breathe from the altitude by the time I got to the top, and headed to what looked like a ticket office window.
“Necessito que pagar?!” I questioned.
“Si.” The man behind the window said.
“Pero, tengo una boleta. Yo pagado!” I said, telling him I had a ticket that I had paid for!
“Dame, puedo ver.” He said. I took out my ticket, he took a quick glance at it, handed it back to me, and with a slight cocky smirk, his hand gesture led me to the stalls. I no sooner realized why I had to pay. There was no toilet paper. Good thing I too had none. I did what was only natural, drip dry, and went back to Rob who was standing there, holding his massive bag as he waited.
We walked now to the terrapuerta, or the bus terminal where I assumed we would wait for our bus outside in the cold parking lot with a group of other people. I was wrong. Instead, it was an organized actual station area. There were barely any Peruvians as we had taken the more “expensive”, supposedly secure line, living in luxury for our 10 hour ride.
We walked up when our bus was called, and our tickets were checked. However we had forgotten (aka not known) to buy a tiny pink ticket to staple onto our bus ticket, as proof of our leave. Just another gimmick for money really, but we spent our 2 sols to get it and headed back to the man at the Cruz del Sur counter. The man checked our tickets, looked into our bags a bit, and we headed to a waiting room with the other passengers.
It was unlike anything I was expecting, or really ever experienced. This waiting room was filled with comfy couches, a place to fill up your water, and bathrooms, free of charge, and wait for it, get this, toilet paper! Yes, an unlimited (well... I shouldn’t go that far) but a great supply, of toilet paper! I was overly joyous. I pulled a backpacker, and stole a bunch of toilet paper for the ride. And soon enough, we boarded the bus. Little to my expectation, it was 2 stories. Yes a 2 story, double decker, stacked bus. I sat on the bus, in the last row, on the isle in between Rob and the bathroom. I had withheld myself of water for the entire day just to prevent myself from having to pee, and here I was, a sleeve stuffed with stolen toilet paper, next to a clean bathroom. I began to rehydrate. On top of everything, our seat nearly pulled out into a bed, we had a footrest, and like a transformer, our foot rest could fold up, and embedded into it, was a stationary table in which we could take out and put back for use when food was served. What was this magical bus we were on?!
I pulled my seat out immediately into it’s bed, and lay down. There was a blanket and a pillow, and in unwrapping it, I found it smelled like the best flowers ever. I immersed myself in it, in hopes of it maybe making my sweaty self smell better.
Within the first ten minutes of leaving the station in Arequipa, a skinny, high strung bus stewardess began handing out bingo cards. From what I understood of what he was saying as he handed them to us, the winner got a ride back to Arequipa, but seeing as we were for the most part travelers and backpackers on this bus, I didn’t understand what the point in this was but I decided to play anyway. After a few calls of numbers, I had bingo. I called out and the long fidgety guy working the bus standing behind me calling out the numbers grabbed my blue bingo card from me. He read over his numbers and mine, and realized I had won. Then the question was asked.
“Pero vuelves en Arequipa?” he looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“No. Pero me voy a Lima, puedo usar para este?” He shook his head and went on to call more numbers. After another 5 people had won, none of which were returning to Arequipa, I asked him again. Saying something along the lines of “C’mon man, just use it for Lima!” He didn’t find my humor as amusing as I did, and went on to yet again, call more numbers. Finally someone won who could actually use the ticket, and the game was over.
A movie with the ever so talented Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz was put on. I sat and glimpsed at it every so often, Rob playing on character, me the other, voicing what we thought they were saying. We talked for ages, realizing we were the only people actually having a conversation on the bus of quiet people, and finally getting tired, decided to try to sleep.