As I sat on the quick one-hour flight from La Paz, Bolivia to Cuzco, Peru I can’t help but notice how stunningly beautiful Lake Titicaca was. I began to regret not taking the more scenic land route which would have let me explore the area in depth. However, recent protests and road blocks in the border town of Puno, Peru had forced me to seek a more secure route from La Paz to Cuzco. This obviously made the most sense as the main purpose of this holiday was running the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru and there was no way I would miss the opportunity. Also, I tend to get easily riled up and likely would have felt compelled to join in any protest I may have encountered so that I could truly “live like a local” while traveling.
|Airplane for Flight from La Paz, Bolivia to Cuzco, Peru|
Upon arrival in Cuzco I was immediately greeted with the usual “Welcome all ‘ye tourists, please give us your money” greeting I had come to expect (only much, much worse as celebrations for the 100th anniversary of Machu Picchu’s discovery were in full swing).
|Mural at the Airport in Cuzco, Peru|
I passed through all the song and dance and was immediately greeted by a taxi driver who didn’t speak any English. I proceeded to half speak Spanish to him and negotiate a cab fare that didn’t seem to be an absolute rip-off based on American standards. Upon arrival at my destination, I breathed the usual sigh of relief that comes from taking a South American taxi and not being kidnapped or forced to withdraw all of your money from the ATM (it was also a nice change to not get offered cocaine first thing upon entering the taxi, which happened every time I took a Taxi in La Paz). After parting ways with the taxi driver I made the uphill hike to the hostel I had hoped to spend the night, Loki Hostel. It was booked solid. Goddamnit… Its times like these I wished I was the type of person to plan ahead a little, but what’s the fun in always knowing your next move? I decided to check out the hostel across the street and ended up booking the night there. In the end, it made no real difference as I could have slept in a dumpster and not have known the difference…But we’ll get to that later.
The hostel I chose had a pretty amazing view from the rooftop terrace.
|Rooftop View from Hostel|
After checking out the view for a bit I felt compelled to make the one-mile trek up 1,500 vertical feet to the Cristo Blanco (White Christ) statue at the top of a hill overlooking Cuzco. The only obvious reason I could think of for being drawn to Cristo Blanco was the overwhelming resemblance between the two of us.
|Me and Cristo Blanco|
On the hike up to Cristo Blanco, I met another American, a guy by the name of Guy. He was a teacher from California who was in Cuzco for a Spanish language immersion class, I think (I’ve drank a lot of beer between now and then so my memory is a little hazy). Regardless, he was pleasant for conversation so I kept him around. After taking numerous photos that are likely to earn me a spot in hell (see Jesus photo above), we decided to head on down the hill and put down a few beers (this was around 3 PM).
Naturally, we went into the first establishment that appeared to be a pub because we wanted a beer and we wanted it now, damnit! The place turned out to be a chicheria, which is just a fancy name for a place that serves chicha. Now, you might be asking “what the hell is chicha?” Chicha is a type of fermented maize (some kind of grain) drink at around 3% alcohol content. This particular chicha was made with the setup seen below, so you know it’s the “good stuff.”
|Chicha Making Set-up|
So, after a few glasses of chicha with my buddy Guy he decided to leave (it was now around 5 PM). I imagine after watching me put down several large glasses of chicha very quickly he saw the direction the night was heading and wanted no part of it. I can’t say I blame the guy.
|Guy and I Enjoying Some Chicha|
Of course, I decided to stick around with my newly made Peruvian friends who spoke absolutely no English. This meant only one thing; I had to get drunk enough that I could speak and understand Spanish…Game on! One thing I knew for sure, if I was going to get to this level of drunk I had to quit drinking this goddamn chicha. Nothing against the taste of the chicha, I actually loved the stuff. It’s just that chicha is so damn filling that it’s damn near impossible to get drunk off the stuff. Most people think that Guiness is an incredibly filling/heavy beer, but chicha puts it to shame, hands down. I decided that it was time to switch to beer.
After polishing off four half-liter bottles of beer my Spanish had went from the level of a functional retard to nearly proficient. After downing a few more chichas and another liter or two of beer I was speaking like a native. I was now starting to see the direction the night was heading (much like Guy had seen earlier), decided that I was beyond drunk, and it was time to head back to the hostel (it was now around 8PM).
One of my newly made Peruvian friends showed me the door, spun me around a few times, kicked me in the ass, and said “good luck” as he sent me on my way back to the hostel. Good thing I have a knack for directions when I’m drunk and had no problem stumbling back. I was about one minute away from my hostel when I hear someone shout, “Hey, Jesus!” I turned to find my friend Xander (I had met him in Bolivia on the “Death Road” bike ride), who I believe was surprised as hell to see my stumbling around the streets of Cuzco alone and drunk off my ass.
I have no real recollection of the next few hours, but I believe he convinced me to join his group for a few drinks as the 100 Year Anniversary of Machu Picchu celebration was kicking off shortly.
|Fireworks at the 100 Year Anniversary Celebration for Machu Picchu's Discovery|
I do remember declining drinks initially, but an Israeli girl who was not nearly as drunk as me, but very drunk none-the-less, kept giving me her drinks. After hopping from one place to another for what seemed like an eternity, I finally wandered off aimlessly in search of something to eat (I hadn’t ate anything ALL day to this point, but I had drank enough to inebriate a small village). I settled on some street vendor food, which upon ingestion made me see signs of God (or maybe just Cristo Blanco?). After eating, I realized that in my drunken hurry to find food I had lost Xander, the Israeli, and everyone else in the group…Well, shit…I took this as a sign to “call it a night” one more time and made my way back to the hostel for the second time that night.
I had walked no more than two minutes, trying to make my way through the huge crowed at the Plaza de Armas, when I was stopped by another group of people. To my knowledge I had never met these guys before, but I had been pretty drunk for most of the day and probably wouldn’t remember if I met them anyways. I recall something along the lines of “hey, you look just like our friend only you have a little longer hair and a bigger beard.”
|Me and the Guy I Look Like, Sort Of...|
So, they wanted to do a few shots of Pisco with the “guy who looked like their friend, sort of.” The last thing I wanted at that time was more booze, but I’m not one to offend people (especially locals) by refusing to imbibe. “Pour the shot!” I soon regretted saying that, because straight Pisco tastes eerily similar to tequila, which I absolutely hate with a fiery passion. Of course, it didn’t just stop at one shot, or two, or three…I had at least five shots of Pisco (that I can remember). Now it was most certainly time to call it a night and head back to the hostel…
I had finally escaped the Picso Pouring Pervians and made my way out of the Plaza de Armas. I was heading down a side street towards my hostel when out of nowhere, “Hola! Cristo Blanco!” I turned to find my newly made Peruvian friends from the Chicheria. Oh dear…I don’t think my body is physically capable of any more at this point, but after a little Peruvian persuasion I join the group for a few more drinks. Fortunately for me, they were only drinking beer at this point, which I had determined I could handle at least of few more of. I don’t remember much from hanging out with the Chicheria guys: a few beers, bumming a cigarette or two, taking a piss or three in the roads, and maybe a stop at a street food vendor…That’s about it.
After what seemed like a life time I finally escaped the guys, but I would see them again in the days to come. I eventually made it back to my hostel (this time with no stops) and fell face down on my bed around 4 AM for one of the best nights of sleep I had during my entire stay in South America. I’m assuming the alcohol made it a little easier to sleep through the typical problems presented by the altitude. I woke up around 8:55 AM. Checkout time was 9 AM. Son of a…