Friday, 18 April 2008

Clay was feeling even better this morning, still sticking to toast and cereal, but he was better. Good enough for our ten hour train ride to Cusco. The same couple who had been on the boat and in the car with us a couple of days ago was in our train car today. We seem to be following each other. The train car was lovely, our seats were wing back chairs, we had a table between us where we could play cards, and later eat lunch, and soft music was playing through the speakers. We got way more than we bargained for when we booked this ride, I was expecting some good scenery, but I didn’t anticipate how nice the actual train would be.

As we passed out of the city and into the country, we noticed scarecrows made out of bits of trash attached to two sticks. Plastic bags rustled from the “arms” of the scarecrow, maybe the rattling scared off the birds just as well as our straw-stuffed versions. We saw pigs rooting around the edges of Lake Titicaca, women in bowler hats, and llamas. I saw a young boy riding his bicycle across a vast field, and three women in colorful garb walking from nowhere to nowhere. They had on layers of petticoats and bright clothes on their backs holding large bundles. What time did they get up this morning, and where were they going? By this time we had traveled quite a bit out of town, I couldn’t see anything nearby but fields. They must have been walking a long time.

During the ride we passed right through the center of a Saturday market, with stalls lining both sides of the tracks. It was amazing, the color and hustle and bustle. The train had a car on the back that was open, so we could hang off the end and take pictures and wave at people. Some of the vendors actually displayed their goods on the tracks, stacking them low enough that the train wouldn’t hit them. I guess there was a lack of shelf space! We saw everything from apples to books appear from underneath our train car as we slowly chugged forward.

The kids we passed were so excited, they waved and smiled and called after us, and we all waved back. I think the kids were my favorite part of the whole ride, they just seemed so thrilled and I loved their smiles. The train even offered entertainment, and a complimentary pisco sour, the national drink. The kids sipped lemonade while we watched a band perform and a woman spin around and around, up and down the train car. Her skirt billowed out like a colorful mushroom, revealing an embroidered petticoat underneath, and she smiled and smiled while she spun. I would have stumbled over and thrown up if I spun that much! She eventually grabbed people to come and dance with her, Clay and Benji were nabbed, and Nate actually went on his own accord, always willing to get up and jam, as long as not too many people notice.

The name of the band was Pachamama, which means “Mother Earth”, something the Incans worshipped. They were really good, we bought a CD so we could use it as a soundtrack for the pictures on this part of the trip. In the afternoon the bartender showed us how to make a pisco sour, it’s way too complicated for me but they do taste good. After they made their sample pisco, they passed one cup around the train for everyone to try. There was no way I was going to put my lips on that cup after it touched fifteen others, don’t these people know about germs! I looked for the couple we’ve been following, to assure them Clay didn’t drink out of that glass and at least his germs hadn’t been added to the mix, but they weren’t around.

In the afternoon a father and his daughter came to entertain us, the man played his guitar while the daughter danced and smiled. She had a beautiful smile and her father’s face was priceless, he was very proud of his pretty daughter and it showed as he watched her dance. Between entertainment, watching out the back of the train and admiring scenery and taking too many pictures, the kids played DS (we struck a deal the day before, they got four hours of the ten to play their video games), and we played lots of cards. I read to the boys out of a kid’s book on the Incas, hoping they’d absorb some of it before we visit all the Incan ruins.

When we arrived in Cusco, we met Michael, who transferred us to our hotel. He is a nice guy, it came up that he was a Christian and had visited Waco with his pastor, we liked him and were sad to find out that this was probably the only time we’d see him. We’re only in Cusco one night, then we meet the guide who will drive us through the Sacred Valley of the Incas and on to Machu Picchu. Michael told us that his football team had won the local championship game today, he’s the goalie, and once he got us all checked in and situated, he headed out to join his teammates to celebrate.

Clay claimed he was feeling good enough to walk into town and find a restaurant I had read about, so we set out, after making the kids put their shoes back on. It seems these days we do a lot of that, they just start to get comfortable and we’re telling them to pack it up and move on. It is something I will not miss, this moving around so much, so fast, without time to just sit awhile and take it in. There’s just so much to see! We walked down narrow little streets, too narrow for a car, to find the main square. Two huge churches were all lit up, a fountain splashed in the middle, a big statue of Jesus was illuminated on a hilltop, and people were walking everywhere.

Clay noticed a man listening to us as I got out our map and called out the address we were looking for. I didn’t notice him, but a few minutes later when we were walking on the street and had trouble finding the restaurant, the same man called out to us and gestured to the right place. The restaurant had changed names, but the address number he pointed out was the right one. He hung around outside as we went into the restaurant, Clay realized he wanted a tip, and sure enough when he went outside and handed him a little change, the man thanked him and went on his merry way. A little strange, but a creative way to make a little money, I suppose.

We got pizzas and pasta and as we finished up, a homeless-looking man appeared at the window next to our table, making signs that he was hungry. We held up Benji’s leftover pizza, and the man shook his head and rubbed his finger together, as if a little money would be appreciated more than the pizza. The owner of the restaurant went out and fussed at the man, trying to drive him away. But he came back a moment later and the owner went out again. After clearing our table, the owner went back out to where the man was still standing and handed him a lumpy bag, with Benji’s pizza I assume, and shooed him away. This time the man left. I was glad someone would enjoy what Benji could not finish.

I am so glad that Clay is feeling better and things are getting back to “normal”. It was fun to see the town of Cusco by night, and though we leave in the morning we’ll be back for another couple nights in just a few days. Staying in a place one night is a bummer, you can’t really unpack and you don’t get to really see that city, we’re glad we’ll be returning.