countin' the days

Monday, June 23, 2008

Muchas Chelas!

The actual trip from Lake Titicaca to Cusco was a bit of a nightmare. It was another one of those classic Third World bus journeys, where the aisles are so crowded that some stranger's ass is shoved in your face, the police hop onboard and start searching around for suspicious cargo (which they find), you take a pee break during the raid and end up running down the highway with your pants down thinking the bus is leaving without you, then once back onboard you'd bet the farm that you could run faster than the bus was chugging along. Aaaaaaah, South America. Not really anything new for me, but a whole new world for Desi. Nevertheless, we made it, many hours after our tickets promised.

After our first night in town, spent frantically searching for food at midnight and feeling uncomfortable in our cattle-call of a hostel, things started picking up for the better, and quick. We found our new home in Hospedaje Inka, a converted old farmhouse on top of a hill in the charming little artsy neighborhood of San Blas. The view down to Cusco below was reason enough to make the big breathless hike all the way up to the joint, but combined with free breakfast, amazing hospitality, peace & quiet, and the fantastic roster of other travelers also staying there, it instantly ranked as one of the best hostels I've ever shacked up at.

Within minutes we met Biggi, a German girl traveling solo through South America. Free-spirited, easy going, and tons of fun, Biggi would become our partner in crime for the next week, and my travel partner & kindred spirit for my final three weeks in Peru.

Desi & I had some mighty big plans when we got to Cusco, but things didn't exactly play out quite as we'd imagined. Machu Picchu was high on the list for her, as it is for most visitors to Peru, and all those who go to Cusco. Somehow, we'd mixed things up in our heads a little bit and hadn't realized that the ONLY way to get there would cost either hundreds of dollars or many days' worth of time. Sadly, Desi didn't have the time to spare, and by the time we figured all that out, it was too late to get it together. But in true Desi fashion, she just shrugged, laughed, and was over it.

Fortunately, over the course of several days in Cusco we'd discovered something else that would more than adequately bide the time: Chelas!! That's Peruvian slang for BEER.

Now, Desi & I are no slouches when it comes to the fine art of late-night alcoholic escapades, but partying in Cusco took things to a whole new level. Cusco boasts a thriving international nightlife where every single night of the week you can find spectacular live bands playing for free and hip bars throwing huge dance parties. Those Chelas are each over a liter in volume, and they hand them out for around $3 a pop at the bar. Add to this an eclectic group of travelers from around the world and the ever-present friendly locals (who will inevitably stay out later than you, every time) ... and you've got yourself one hell of a party.

My favorite night? The one where we started out with happy hour at Ukuku's, jumped back over to Siete Angelitos for some live reggae, then ran back across town to Ukuku's, where we spent so many hours shaking it down to the DJ's manic shuffle of salsa & American pop songs that we failed to notice the time ... until the bartender Cesar finally pulled us outside onto the balcony at 5:30am to prove that yes indeed, the sun was up. And the party was still going.

Man, there's nothing quite like having one of your favorite people in the world come meet you in one of the greatest countries in the world, where in one of the coolest cities in the world you finish off your 9 straight days of fun, laughter & antics with an endless stream of libations & celebrations.

Des: it was so awesome. Can't wait to do it again.

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