Actually, maybe this is only second to my 2004 visit to the Philippines (23 hours of travel + 4 hrs for a family reunion immediately after). Neverthless, on June 6, I was in the air at 12:00am EST and did not return to my homestay until 11:30pm, Cuzco time.
So this is what went down: (Apologies in advance if some things don’t make sense since I am running on little sleep).
When I arrived in Lima, I went through the usual immigration procedures. Running on 4 hours of sleep on the plane, I accidentally told the officer that I would be in Peru for 8 months (ocho meses) instead of 8 weeks (ocho semanas). When he told me, in Spanish, that I could only stay 6 months without a visa, I was really confused. Thankfully, he was very understanding of the blunder and simply smiled when I corrected myself. The rest of my layover was interesting. I attempted to bring my check-in up to the gates, ended up buying agua con gas which exploded on my pants, got a whiff of some awful fish stench (Lima is by the ocean) and met 3 girls who were also traveling alone and going to Cuzco to volunteer. Unfortunately none of them were in my school, but it was nice to know that I wasn´t alone.
|arriving at the airport in Cusco
Arriving in Cuzco was thankfully painless. There was a porter who helped with my bags and we were able to immediately find my ride. Unfortunately, my ride was waiting for other people and I was waiting in a car for an hour and a half with the driver who only spoke Spanish, but nevertheless entertained me with Peruvian music. Finally, 2 more passengers from England arrived who were very nice. We chatted until we were dropped off at our home stay in different parts of town.
My host family extremely friendly and welcoming. They speak very little English and encourage using Spanish at the house. I met their other homestay person who is from Germany and had been in the house for 3 weeks. My homestay mama had me drink mate de coca immediately and fed me a delicious meal of egg soup, a special Cuzquenan dish with potatos and cheese, chicken with an unknown sauce and carros, beets and platanos all doused with lime. After that, I took a cold shower (misunderstood directions on how to get hot water) and went to sleep with wet hair (my blowdryer didn´t fit the adaptor).
I woke up to the sound of a guy, who kind of sounded like my sister´s boyfriend, which threw me off. He was a third homestay-er and from Utah. It was good that he was around because my homestay mama was able to send us into an unofficial taxi without fearing for my life. Since it´s only 3 soles to get to the main plaza (a little over a dollar), we went there and trudged up the hill for a block and a half to get to school. Let me tell you, 10,500 ft is no joking matter on your first day on an uphill hike. But.. I managed without too much huffing and puffing and arried at the school where we met many different people from other countries (though many seemed from Holland and the U.S.).
They sent us out on a walking tour with a guide. Why they have us walking so much on the first day in high altitude is beyond me. Though, it was nice to see and hear more about our city and chat with the others along the way. Cuzco is such a beautiful beautiful town. I mean, I heard this before. However, I didn´t realize just how much until I came here. Halfway through our tour, my housemate managed to smell churros and had it in the brain for the rest of the tour. So of course, when the tour was done, we rounded up some other classmates and went on a quest to find the churro stand. We finally found after a very roundabout way and only had to pay .50 soles which is approx 20 cents. It was amazing. After, we had the others in the group lead and we ended up towards the more artsy district and had some drinks at El Nomade. By that time, it was past 8. We waved goodbye to the group but since my housemate hadn´t spoken to his family in ages, we decided to find an internet cafe. We stayed for an hour or so and only spent 4 soles (just under 2 dollars)! I´m really loving the prices in this town!
After, we decided to find food and returned to the churro stand in search of a burger. Sadly, it closed, but there was a nearby pizzeria. I tried Inca Kola for the first time. It was not too sweet and definitely tasted like sweet fruity chewing gums do, but it was enjoyable. We took our pizza and sat in front of the cathedral… chatting about politics, which was happily a painless conversation. We finally decided to leave because it was getting cold!
Overall, I think a lack of sleep is a small price to pay for fun times with good people. Now, I am just waiting for my Spanish class to begin. It isn’t until the afternoon. Boo hiss.. but whatever. I will find something to do. 🙂