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Published: March 7th 2009
Street girl in costume with puppy to entice tourists to pay her soles and take her photo. View from Norton´s balcony
Hey, cyber travel buddies, tomorrow we leave Cusco for Lima, and a couple days later I fly to Buenos Aires. If I am offline for a few days don´t worry. I doubt there are new photos to take in Lima.
I have a few final pictures to upload from Cusco, and will add some more from trip to Bolivia.
The city feels different now that schools are open. My hotel is beside a school and I hear morning songs and children laughing in the playground. I was tempted to visit...but no....don´t want any official part of trip.
Yesterday and today I have been doing the teacher thing by telling street kids to go to school instead of selling things in the Plaza Armes. Several have reassured me that they will go on Monday, and some said it was a holiday this week, and one asked if I was a teacher at her school. I do not have the language to lecture them about the long-term benefits of an education verses the short-term perks of making a few soles. Realistically, I do not think they make much money at all because there are so many street hawkers compared with tourists.
Girls back from church
These schoolgirls were marched into the cathedral yesterday morning. There are various colours for school uniforms.
I rarely see any sales. From my observations, downtown Cusco is made up of thirty percent people doing daily things like going to school and work, 30% tourists, and 30% street hawkers.
The city seems to be perking up. One negative that I´ve seen is police with large dogs chasing away the thin street dogs. Maybe it is nicer for tourists to not see thin dogs, but my philosophy is that they should have just as much chance trying to get a crumb from the tourists as the rest of the lot. Personally, I wish the police would put some effort into encouraging the street kids in costumes (can´t ignore them) to get back to school.
This morning I sat on the cathedral steps and deflected about 50 offers of merchandise. Gorge sat beside me and we chatted for awhile. It was good for him to see how many people approached me with cigarettes, dolls, jewelry, gourds, etc. I suggested that instead of someone´s printed cards he was selling that he make big signs or t-shirts with NO GRACIAS on it, he would make a fortune. We both laughed. I asked him from where did all the street
He sat and chatted with me, reassuring me that he would be in school Monday. I told him if he printed tshirsts with ´NO gracias, I don´t want to buy it´he would make a fortune. He laughed.
hawkers come, and he said the mountains, pointing at the houses on the slopes. His father shines shoes in a market and his mother has a stall there (in hills). I lectured him about school and praised his English. He said he´d be in school on Monday and that he had two more years and then he would be in the Academy with his older brother and sister. I did not buy his cards but I gave him a sole. I really hope that he finishes school. Maybe it is my Western prejudice? Maybe kids in Gorge´s postition have no choice but to try to raise money for the family? I don´t know, but I wish him well. I think he will be more reflective about approaching tourists. A busload of tourists from Japan pulled up in front of us, and I encouraged him to get to the new people before the other hawkers. He did.
Today I met up with several Canadians. Some I met in Puno and gave advice about curry restaurant in Cusco; and that is where we found each other. They liked the restaurant (see past blog) and discovered that you can call anywheres around
If you sit too long, or look at someone´s merchandise, a group of street hawkers will approach you hoping to make a sale.
the world for free there. Remembering my attempts to call home in Istanbul, I declined the offer. But for all you travelers in South America who read this blog, go to the Indian Restaurant in Cusco if you want to have a good, cheap meal and call home.
I think I left you cyber travelers in Puno waiting for bus ticket in my last blog. ´Betty¨did show up at hotel that morning with ticket, and escorted me to station to show me where to pay the tourist tax to take the bus (seems for all trips at that station, not just the international ones) and then left me at my gate. The bus was a comfortable doubledecker, and she did get me a window seat up top, BUT it was not a direct bus. We stopped at many towns and lots of people got on and off. We got to see the roads of typical towns, which meant mud and not pavement. Also, I noticed on my ticket the payment stub had been removed so I do not know what the original price was for that ticket. I refrained from asking fellow tourists what they paid because I did
Winners & Losers
Children in school uniforms cross the street, passing kids in costumes.
not want another irritation. Concentrating on the nice hotel I was going to, and resign to sit on a bus for 6-7 hours, I packed treats and water and pastries to keep me nurtured.
Oh, and when I arrived at Cusco´s bus station I took a taxi with driver who had photo i.d. and when we got to the hotel he charged me 8 soles. I gasped and said the ride cost me THREE soles when I went to the station. He looked a bit embarassed but insisted that ´registered taxis´cost more than the regular ones. He came down to 6 soles and I paid it mainly because I had the coins and I was eager to get to the shower. When I asked the receptionist she shook her head and said only 3 or 4 soles to the bus station. Travel Tip: Before you get into a taxi, even the registered, ´safe´cabs, ask the driver how much it will cost. When I get tired, I forget the lessons I learned along the way. When you use the currency converter, the amount of money that I am bitching about is tiny; but it is the principal of the situation.
Lone Money Exchange
Private tour bus companies take tourists to their money exchange office in Bolivia BEFORE they go to border office. I suspect they make money on the exchange.
The problem in Peru is that there are many bus companies competing for tourists and using slick travel agents to get people into their isolating systems. There seems to be no standards, and many times the prices listed in travel books are out of date. There seems to be a spiraling inflation for tourist transportation and sites. Eventually there will be a negative reaction and tourism in Peru will dwindle. I can see Bolivia being the country of choice, it is right now with the budget, long-term travelers, because there are less organized tourist companies and policing systems. The bad thing about the less organized travel systems in Bolivia is that safety standards are low; for example the piers and access to tour boats are really rustic. You have to be nimble to climb into the boat with your backpacks and I did not see any of the staff rush to help people get into their boats.
As I type this I realize that entering Bolivia from Peru means that you have to get on their gravy train because the bus companies take you through the impromptu police road block where you pay a sole, then they take
Coming into the city with merchadise to sell
you to a lone money exchange office in the backstreets of town before you go to the official border crossing where there are many exchange offices. You line up and go through Peru office, then you walk across the border to Bolivia and go into their offices. There they divide tourists into two lines, one Americans, the other everybody else in the world. They make the Americans pay $130 u.s. to enter the country, everyone else goes in free. Wow! Apparently the u.s. gov´t is pressuring Bolivia for whatever and so Americans pay a hefty price to get in. Maybe that is why there were mostly tourists from Europe, Japan and Canada going through?
I met two women from Russia who work for Proctor and Gamble in Moscow. We shared some memories about significant hockey games, in the 70´s Canada beat Russia, and in the 80´s they beat us. I asked about their county now, comparing it with case studies in the textbooks at home. We had lunch while waiting for next transport, they were continuing to LaPaz, I was waiting for my boat.
A final note about the carnival and Bolivia.....yes, it was still going on at
Navy, blues, beige...there are many colours for school uniforms in Cusco
Isla del Sol the night I got there and on the bus ride back to Peru. From what I hear from travelers in several S.American countries, the water balloons were laced with black or orange paint. Some people got covered in fishguts. I suspect these communities did not have much of a police presence. So....you take what you get....many police in Cusco and other Peruvian touristy spots for the price of very slick tourist companies that will take whatever profit they can get from you. Or you can enjoy the freedom of Bolivia and cheap prices, and avoid any carnival street party, which is difficult in the towns, as I learned in Urubamba.
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