Peru, final chapter
Paul and I retrieve our backpacks from the hotel storage room then go to the pool to relax until it is time to make our way to the train station. We are traveling to Poroy station on the edge of Cusco which will take nearly four hours. We aren’t on the scenic side of the train this time so a good part of the time outside our window all we see is just the side of the mountain. It doesn’t really matter as after we have eaten our beautifully presented snack of cheese, nuts, raisins and Kinua cake the staff on our car has an evening of entertainment in store for us.
One of the stewards dressed in a dazzling costume similar to those we saw in the Ollantaytambo festival dances up and down the aisle. There is a group of Japanese on the train and two of the women jump up and stop his dance long enough to have their photos taken with the gyrating performer. Next the dancing dynamo chooses a young woman near us and gets her to dance with him. When the one man show is over us passengers reward the fellow with well-deserved applause and cheers.
A beautiful woman kicks off the next part of the show by using the aisle as a fashion runway as she models a beautiful shawl she is wearing over her work attire. The Japanese women reach out to touch the shawl and one of them decides she must try it on. Once she has the shawl on the middle-aged woman parades up and down the aisle completely hamming it up. The Peruvian woman regains ownership of the shawl and returns to the front of the train, disappearing behind the cloth barrier only to reappear in a couple of minutes modeling a gorgeous coat. After the woman has showcased a few more articles of top of the line clothing the curtain is drawn back and a tall man with GQ looks steps out. He has a woolen scarf wrapped around his neck and dramatically strikes a pose. The women on the train react with whistles, clapping and laughter.
After a while the two Japanese women can’t bear it any longer and invade the curtained area of the staff. Soon one of the self-proclaimed models reappears from behind the curtain doing her best to prance down the aisle. Due to the rocking train motion she finds the normality of walking challenging and is bumping into seats quite often. I have no clue what she was modeling as I am too busy watching her antics. She has everyone howling with laughter which is the reaction she was looking for of course. During a lull while the fashion participants are changing clothes one of the Japanese men decides to model his Peruvian hat. His hat is a wool stocking cap with ear flaps and the small man with a huge grin plastered on his face, struts down the corridor lifting and lowering the ear flaps like a bird trying to take flight. Everyone finds this hilarious and the laughter booms throughout the car.
Naturally this fashion show is put on in hopes of selling the clothing to us tourists. When the show is over the staff pushes a luggage cart laden with items of the modeled clothing down the aisle. Their intent is to start the sales at the back of the train car and then work their way to the front. When they reach the Japanese folks midway down the aisle the cart comes to a screeching halt as the women eagerly begin to look over the clothing. I lost count of the times one of the train crew would hurry by our seats to their compartment and return with several plastic bags in order to wrap up clothing items that the voracious shoppers are purchasing. Paul and I are facing away from the buyers but the woman sitting across from us keeps us up to date on the feeding frenzy. I glance back now and then, half expecting to see clothing flying into the air as the enthusiastic customers dive into the cart offerings. When the Japanese are finally sated the cart rolls by us devoid of much of its original load. Our companion reaches out to read the price tag on a shawl and tells us the sticker price is 250 bucks. We know via our friends’ account that the mid-calf length coat along with shawls and sweaters are packed away in the carry-on luggage of the Japanese. We all agree that the train staff probably earn a commission on the clothing they sell and this is the reason for the happy laughter that is drifting out of their curtained cubicle.
We arrive at Poroy after 7 p.m. and once we gather our backpacks among the pile of luggage we walk the gauntlet through the drivers waiting for their customers. When it is apparent that no placard is embossed with the name Miller, Paul utters “not again” and I too echo the sentiment. I look outside the train station and see a thin man hurrying towards us carrying a placard in his hand. He sees us staring at him and raises the white cardboard which has our name scrawled in black across the sign. Thank goodness because I was not looking forward to another episode like we experienced in the airport. It seems our driver was unable to find a parking place close by and we walk several hundred yards to where his car and several others are parked. There are no street lights and our driver has hired a young man to guard his car while he came to get us.
When we get to Maytaq we go through the same procedure that has become rote for us. We receive a warm welcome from the staff, retrieve our luggage and return to the room we have been in three out of the four times we have stayed here. We eat some of the carry over food from our Machu Picchu lunch for supper. We are both very tired but must pack all we can before we shower and retire for the night.
Paul and I are up by six this morning and finish our packing before going to eat breakfast for the last time in the Maytaq hotel. We truly enjoyed this clean and friendly hotel, well except for the momentary money misplacement, and express our appreciation to the staff. Our driver arrives and we leave for the airport. The flight arrives in Lima before noon and a driver is waiting to transport us to the Allpa hotel, the same hotel we stayed on our first night in Peru. We arrange to leave our luggage for the day and then go to eat dinner at the hotel restaurant. Since we are next to the ocean I decide to have scallops which are beautifully presented and extremely rich. Paul had macaroni but it doesn’t remotely resemble the American dish although this version is delicious.
We are booked on a city tour of Lima at 2:30 this afternoon to kill time until our 10:30 flight. When a man enters the lobby asking for a party of two under the name of Yoone we shake our heads. The man appears to be perplexed and makes a phone call. He approaches us again and asks if we are the party of Yoone Crenshaw-Miller. We say yes still puzzled by the Yoone part until the light bulb goes off for Paul who figures out he is saying June (my middle name). J in Spanish is silent after all.
We are taken to another part of Mira Flores where a tourist bus is waiting and we join a large group of visitors climbing into the bus. The people are a mixed group of Spanish and English speakers so our guide must explain all of our stops twice, poor guy. We go to one of the many art museums in Lima to look at the best Incan artifacts we have seen on our trip.
Our next stop is the main square of Lima where we follow our guide who plays a wooden flute so we can keep track of him in the crowd. I’m not kidding you; most guides have a flag they hold above their heads so I guess our guy wants to be unique. The city square does not impress me anymore than the city itself. The most interesting part of the square are the police lounging along one side of the street holding protective shields. Our guide informs us that they are always here as people often come to protest near the presidential mansion.
We climb aboard the bus and proceed to a Franciscan monastery and tour the catacombs. It is musty, claustrophobic and creepy to see all the human bones and skulls in the enormous pits where people were buried. I am glad to see daylight and enjoy the pigeons that cover the ground around the monastery. Occasionally the birds all take flight which is a fun thing to see. One of the couples at Manu told us they had spent two days in Lima and it was at least one day to many. I concur as there is no historic charm in this dirty crowded city of eight million! We are trying to make our way back to the Mira Flores district where all of us on this bus are staying and the trip takes two and a half hours. We move a couple of blocks and then sit for five or ten minutes while the traffic cops direct the traffic with flashlights. Good Grief.
We finally arrive at our hotel at 7 p.m. and walk around the area close by our hotel to see if we can find a fast food place to buy a quick supper. We see a McDonalds and figure why not but after Paul checks his supply of soles, a whole 20 soles, our plans change. We can’t buy much with that so we return to the Allpa and we each order soup handing over our travel card to pay for the yummy meal. Why are soups so much better in foreign countries than what we have here in the U.S.?
Our driver arrives at 8:30 to drive us to the airport and as we are checking in the young man helping us informs us our flight has been delayed an hour. As the fellow is issuing us our tickets he says “this won’t work” and explains that we would only have 30 minutes to catch our flight out of Houston. He is right, on an international flight just to get your luggage and go through customs will take longer than that. The man changes our flight out of Houston to one that is an hour later than the original flight giving us an hour and a half in-between flights. There are other people on our flight who didn’t have a check-in person as alert as ours and do have only 30 minutes to make a connecting flight. It ain’t going to happen.
When we reach Houston there is a lot of grumbling among the long line of people trying to get through security and I’m one of them. They only have one processing line open and the workers are clowning around with no effort to expedite the process. Finally after at least half of the line has crawled through this slow line someone decides maybe they really should open another security point. When I get to the table I remove my shoes, belt, money belt etc. and deposit the items in plastic tubs shoving it onto the conveyor belt along with my back pack. I exit the x-ray booth and am shuffled over to the side for a pat down. Aw crap, I forgot to take my passport out of my pocket. When the woman begins patting down my pant legs I can feel my trousers begin to slide down my hips. Since I am in the spread eagle position all I can do is give a yelp. The woman immediately ceases her action and asks what is wrong. I tell her I’m losing my trousers due to the fact I have no belt on so she allows me to pull them back up and is a bit gentler as she finishes her task. My loose slacks are the result of the weight I lost on our Peru journey, all that walking for hours in a day paid off. I wish I could say that those lost pounds had stayed lost, sigh.
Paul and I make our flight with time to spare. When we arrive in KC all our luggage shows up and the car starts right up, all is good. We stop at Legends on the outskirts of Kansas City and have a meal of hamburger and fries at Five Brothers. This eating a great burger on our return to the states has become a tradition for us. We feel a satisfaction in seeing our pastures full of grazing black cattle as we near home. Taz races through the yard to me as soon as I call and for a brief moment allows me to pick her up and pet her as she purrs loudly. As much as we loved this adventure in Peru it is good to be home.
That’s all! Nancy