After four nights days as a snoring guest, it was time to go to Cuzco for a while. Back I went to Jorge Chávez airport to catch a flight. It's a tiny little airport, and there's not a lot to do. Fortunately, I didn't have a minute to think about this, since I was hounded by a fellow with a Brazilian accent who wanted to book me a lift and a hotel in Cuzco. They would have a card with my name on it and everything! I told him I wasn't interested, but he had even less to do than I did, and preferred to hang all over me like a cheap suit.
I have to admire his positive attitude. I told him "No, thank you", then "No", then "Leave me alone" – but apparently anything short of a speeding bullet is a "Yes" waiting to happen. Being fresh out of speeding bullets, I walked away from him mid-sentence. I walked up and down the length of the airport, with him walking up and down after me. I asked him if he knew what the word "tiresome" meant.
I had read in my guide book that there's a common gimmick in the airport. A person in Lima collars passengers, and then calls Cuzco to tell them who's coming. They give the names, and entertain each other with extremely unflattering descriptions of their marks. Sensing this was coming, I told him my name was Ralph.
Finally we got on the plane. I read my guide book for a while, and looked at my neighbor's guide book. Though he wasn't speaking in English to the person next to him, the guidebook was in English, and I decided to take my chances. My neighbors were a Swiss couple. Dominic was Italian-Swiss, and Esther was German-Swiss. Dominic was a lawyer, and had an obvious talent for languages. He spoke Italian and German, and had worked in South Africa for a year. His English was flawless. Dominic said that they didn't have a hotel either, so we would look together. As an Italian, he felt it would be best to bargain when he got there. The biggest crime in the world, he felt, was to accept the first offer you're given, and I can't see that he was far off the mark.
If Jorge Chávez Airport is small, Cuzco International Airport (that's right!) is the size of a beach cabana. As we walked out to look for a cab, I heard a few people yelling, "Excuse me! Ralph!" in my direction. The three of us found a cab driver and got in the car. Being the Spanish speaker in the group, I got to sit up front and make small talk with the driver. He said he just happened to have a friend who owned a wonderful hotel, and (what do you know?) he could get us a nice price. We did stop at the hotel, but the wooden boards nailed across the glass door weren't quite to our liking. He was clearly annoyed, but we made him drop us off in town. "Never take the first offer," said Dominic.
We went to one or two more hotels. They were booked, but the people at the desk told us about still more hotels. Finally, we had a lead that there was a homeopathic doctor was opening up a resort. The resort wasn't set up, but the rooms were finished, and he might be renting them out. We found a clean, bright, new place, and they were asking very little for us to stay there. It was perfect. We checked in and then took a walk.
Cuzco has an altitude of 3600 meters, and Lima is at sea level. All the advice said to take it easy the first day. Just sit still, and drink mate de coca, which is a tea made from coca leaves. Don't walk around, and whatever you do, don't eat meat or anything heavy. So, we took a long walk around Cuzco, and sat down later to a nice meal of beef stew.
We took our walk just as people were going home from work. For transportation there are small vans. As the van goes by, someone shouts out the destination and people pack in. The vans never completely stop, and there are all kinds of arms and legs sticking out. We saw the local brewery, some modern buildings as well, and generally took in the local buzz.
After dinner we hung around at the hotel and talked to the owner, and then went to bed early. In bed I gasped a bit, but the cold, night air was nice, and I was asleep in a short time.