Note: Clapping and laughing does NOT make your protest more effective
Day 111: Cusco, Peru
“Tewnty-five dollars?!” We squinted at the sign posted behind the reception desk to be certain that we had read it correctly. The manager came out and confirmed the price, we thanked him for his time and high-tailed it out of there!
Bummer! Cusco was freezing (and we along with it) and it was 7:30AM. We didn’t know where else to go and had no city map. We knew it would have to be the old walk about to find another cheaper hostel as we shrank deeper into our thin jackets. Just second after we had left, the manager came hurrying back outside and said, ”OK, OK. I suppose…I will give the room to you for…for 25 Soles.”
We looked at him, incredulous at what a huge price drop he was willing to give us. There must not be anyone staying here, we both immediately thought. We exchanged sideways glances to see each other’s reaction but of course we would take it! It was 7:30AM, freezing outside, and we had absolutely no prospects of any warmth in our near future. We filled out the little form and hurried up the stairs to the room. Shucking off everything but the bottom layer of clothes we climbed into our bunks and burrowed into our blankets to escape the unheated building and the seemingly ever-present frigid air. We napped for a few hours, trying to recoup from the wretched bus ride and suffered through inhumanely cold showers in 40 degree weather. But at least we felt (and smelled) a little better.
Starving to near death, we circled the town for something that looked cheap enough to eat. We settled on a little pizza place on a side street that served us undercooked, rotten-cheese-and-mystery-meat pizza. It was unquestionably the worst pizza we’ve ever had and could only suffer through tiny slices. We knew better than to eat what smelled like gym locker socks but in Peru, there’s none of this sending back your food because it’s truly unbearable undercooked (with the exception of chicken in Arequipa…which we also should not have eaten). Immediately after we choked down the putrid garbage, we regretted it terribly.
We had to buy the several packs of gum just to get the rancid taste out of our mouths. Finally, after 4 pieces, it was mostly gone. Making our way to the main square, we came upon the leftovers of the protests that had inhibited our bus travel two day ago. But to be honest, it was hard to tell that it was actually a protest. Our stomachs were voicing stronger rebellion than the 250 or 300 people surrounding the square. They were clapping, cheering happily, and laughing loudly as they intermittently spoke into their bullhorns and waved their banners. It’s understandable to want to have a peaceful protest but it’s another thing to treat the protest as a lighthearted, fun, cheery event.
It was a beautiful sunny day with an azure sky as we sat in the square watching passersby and pigeons coo-cooing at each other over bits of food carelessly dropped on the ground. We were approached by vendors of everything from postcards to earrings to drugs.
Leaving the square almost empty-handed after a few glorious hours of acting like old retired men, we meandered around the square in search of something else more suitable to eat. And there, beaming brightly between a tour company and shop with alpaca goods was Bembo’s–the most fantastic fast food place we have ever experienced! And one of the best meals we’ve had in all of South America (kind of sad, really). Bembo’s is a burger and fries kind of place but the inside is decorated like a chic pop art restaurant with funky couches and cushy armchairs next to cafe tables. Not to mention how incredibly fresh and delicious the food is! It’s like gourmet fast food and the burgers are massive. Of course no meal in Peru is complete without Inca Kola, the tutti frutti flavored soda the color of nuclear urine. Mmmm, muy sabroso!