Mon 20 Mar 06

Slept in until 9 today. Luxury! Had breakfast in the hostel then headed out to wander some of the other spots on our tourist ticket and to book a bus ticket to Lake Titicaca.

The sun was blazing this morning so I bundled up a little to preserve my already scorched skin. After some initial confusion, we eventually located a bus station, roughly in the direction of the airport. Weaver figures out a reasonably good deal after Mark and I push him to find a bus where we can all sit up top in the front seat (supposedly better leg room). Thirty-five soles each from Cusco to Copacabana (about $10).

After paying for our bus ticket (for an overnight bus leaving Cusco at 10 PM), we visited some big statue, a mummy museum, and an art museum. I’m not super enthralled by any of this, but it’s nice to stretch my legs and see some slightly less touristy areas of the city.

Lunch was a fish restaurant, Los Abanicos, where I ordered the “meal of the day” (soup, eggrolly thing, and chicken with rice) for four soles). Four soles! This still amazes me. $1.30 American. And it was excellent.

We then walked back roughly to the vicinity of our hostel and killed a couple of hours playing cards and eating ice cream at a cafe. Weaver wanted to check out a traditional Incan dance presentation before dinner so Mark and I tag along even though nearly of us has any interest in this whatsoever. The dance is okay, but we sneak off during an intermission to go get some food.

It turns out to be one of the best meals of the trip. A narrow two-story pseudo-Italian restaurant just down the street from the Incan dancing. Quechen music playing, all wood decor, great food, lots of laughter. Mark and Weaver each drink wine while I chug a liter of lemonade. Everyone is mellow. Mark and Weaver decide to split a roasted guinea pig, which I gladly choose not to partake in due to its freakish appearance (though I did have one bite, kind of beefy I guess). They both feigned enthusiasm initially, but in the end agreed never to order than again. My curry lamb was excellent.

After dinner we caught a cab to the bus station and boarded a gigantic pink Pony Express tour bus for the overnight trip South. Our bus lurched out of the station and for the first half hour repeatedly stopped to pick up seemingly random passengers around Cusco. Passengers who disappeared into some windowless section of the bus. Our driver nudged the struggling bus up and down a few hills, all the while neglecting to turn on his headlights.

It all was a little bizarre and more than a little disconcerting. It also certainly didn’t help anyone’s confidence in our safety when i read aloud from Weaver’s Lonely Planet book that night trips between Puno and Cusco should be avoided due to frequent highway robberies and how Pony Express (the only agency named negatively) in particular had a high incidence of accidents in recent years. Then the rain started and I decided it was best to just try to fall asleep.

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