We have officially left the farm and landed back in Cusco, Ciudad de Todos. Tomorrow, we get picked up at 5 am to start our five day/four night Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu. Today, we celebrate the access, variety, and vegetarian-friendliness of all kinds of eats. We got here with transportation eons cheaper than our reverse Cusco-Puno route: a bus for 40 soles ($12) each. I was a bit worried about this transportation choice (“Every fourth bus goes off a cliff,” my dear father said semi-seriously before we left), but the route was mostly flat, the driver was safe, and the chairs were huge and plush.
Our last days in Chucuito were spent mostly alone. Anja, Santiago, two locals, and the only other remaining volunteer journeyed to Pocoyo for three days. Pocoyo, we learned, is yet another property of theirs, but there they house cows and mostly wild and free-roaming horses in a location full of wilderness. They drove the 70 km there with the infamous truck, which only fits three people in the front so the other two simply rode in the back. Meanwhile, we became in charge of all twelve horses. Three times a day, we trekked to each location to let the horses out, provide more water, or bring them in. Naman also found a local medical clinic and spent a few hours every day shadowing the doctor and his patients, who only spoke Spanish but he somehow understood. The first day was rough, our timing was off, and we ended up at Occupampa in the dark and frazzled. We worried that the electric fence at Chojo Chojo was not working because on several different occasions, Valiente bit the top string with his mouth and almost pulled it apart. At the same time and for the whole week, Ratty was in heat so anywhere we went, hordes of dogs followed her and us. When we went out to lunch at a local restaurant, a dog peed on my ankle. By Thursday, we established a solid routine, but we also expected our comrades to return in the morning. When 4 pm arrived and they were not yet back nor had they communicated with us, we brought all of the horses in once again, an almost two-hour process. They finally arrived that evening, we said our bittersweet goodbyes, and we were off at 6 am the next morning.
In Cusco, as aforementioned, we have mostly been eating. At Organika, our favorite goat cheese salad full of vegetables from their organic farm in the Sacred Valley (!!!). At Tacomania, enchiladas and burritos and beer. At Qucharitas, homemade Andean mint ice cream with mango, strawberries, brownie, and chocolate chips. At a random bar, my first Adios Motherfucker (tequila, gin, rum, vodka, blue curacao, and sprite…surprisingly, it was pretty weak). Now, at Chia (a vegan restaurant!) a creative smoothie, Andean chaufa, mini ceviches, and “sushi” rolls with mango and strawberry wrapped in coconut.
And, because this week has been quite calm, a forgotten story from Chucuito:
On our second day there, a volunteer invited us to Puno for a pizza dinner before she traveled to Cusco for a week. We agreed to go with another volunteer, who knew how to get to Puno via colectivo so we trusted her. She is also 20 and fearless, but we learned that later. Around 6:30, in the dark (it’s winter here), we walked to the main road, the Panamericana, and attempted to hail a colectivo. But none were stopping, until finally a bus pulled over. She asked the driver the fare, which would be 1.50 soles (50¢), the same as the colectivo, so we hopped on. We emerged into a scene of mostly local and traditionally-dressed women holding bags of all shapes and sizes, illuminated by overhead blue lighting. We sat and waited, but when ten minutes passed with no movement and we realized that they were loading the bus with stacks of eggs and probably a lot more, our comrade got impatient and we hopped back off.
Once back on the street, a random car pulled over and asked if we needed a ride. The driver was male and we did hesitate, but he had two children—one quite young—with him so the volunteer (again, far more experienced than us with Chucuito-Puno transportation) led the charge inside the car. Had the young child or Naman not been present, I would not have agreed, but alas, we really did ride in this random car all the way to Puno. At one point, the driver stopped suddenly on the side of the road, got out of the car without explanation, and just when we feared the worst, he opened and closed his hood, got back in, and kept driving. We made it to Puno just fine and took an auto taxi to meet the traveling volunteer. I know that my mother will vehemently and passionately disapprove this decision, but what could we do? We were noobs! Followers! Baby volunteers! We wouldn’t have even found the street without this volunteer! Anyway, we were and are fine, and we haven’t done anything nearly as stupid since!
And tomorrow, we go up up up.