This blog post is a little earlier than it should be, as I should be on a trail on my way back from Choquequirau (for those unfamiliar, the article that started our journey: http://travel.nytimes.com/2007/06/03/travel/03inca.html), four days into the five day hike. However, I caught a cold about a week and a half ago, then a few days later got some kind of stomach infection, so the cold got worse from me not eating much. Voila - no five day trek for me. By Saturday afternoon, I was in bed, and Monday we called for a doctor (house calls are normal here - I wasn´t on my death bed or anything). Now I´m all medicated and feeling mostly better, and tomorrow night, Jeff should be getting home tomorrow to tell me all that I missed! I have gotten a book and a half read, socks and pants mended, and two pairs of pants hemmed. So there´s that. And I´ve learned a bit of fun cultural stuff about sickness in the Andes.
Our host mother, Maike, has told us about some of the interesting differences between Peruvian medicine and our medicine that she´s discovered since she´s been hosting students. First of all, Peruvians tend to consider doctors good only if they prescribe western medicines -and- local herbal medicines. Apparently, my doctor wasn´t too great, because he prescribed three western medicines, oral rehydration fluids (yuck!), a bland diet, and three cups of herbal tea with each meal. At least there were some herbs in there somewhere - whew!
Hot water and herbal tea are good for everything, but only specific herbal teas for specific ailments - coca or boldo for the stomach, but boldo is bad for a cold, so no boldo for me. Manzanilla (chamomile) or anis for the cold, neither of which have any effect on the stomach. With nine cups of herbal tea prescribed per day, though, I´ve got all the flavors covered. Besides boldo, of course.
Today I was told that I had to either leave for the internet cafe before three o´clock in the afternoon, or after four, since from three to four there are strong winds that bring lots of viruses and sickness. Well, then. You´ll all be happy to know that I made it here by 2:30, and it is now a little after four, so I´ve been inside and away from the winds. Oh, and I was told at lunch that my zodiacal sign of Taurus says I should have many headaches, but not so many problems with colds. My head, however, is feeling just fine...
I don´t have any new pictures to post for you, since Jeff has been taking his camera along in Cusco and I´ve been leaving mine behind, and he´s got his still now. But I can tell you what we´ve been up to. That way, when we post pictures later, the blog post won´t take hours to write up...
The last couple weeks of school got basically entirely taken over (except the weekend trip to Machu Picchu) by a five page paper and a 20 minute presentation I had to do for my university credits. There were still things we really wanted to see around Cusco, though, so I snuck out on my studies one day to check out Moray and Salinas, about an hour drive from town. Since we were trying to get to see the ruins between lunchtime and dark, we only has about three or four hours. So we decided to forgo the local transportation and all its switches and waiting, and get a taxi to take us to each place. It was more expensive, sure, but it was still only about $30, and the taxi driver had his family with him. His wife and 2-ish year old girl were there in the station wagon when we got in, playing in the back. When we took off, they left the little girl in the back and the mother rode in the front seat. We rode that way for a few minutes, with us turned around making faces at the little girl, until we accelerated to go up a hill and the little girl rolled over backwards. She was still in sitting position, just on her back, with her feet up in the air, looking at us like, "Now what?" Not a peep, though, so we couldn´t help but giggle. The parents asked if she had fallen, stopped the car, and the mom brought her up to sit on her lap in the front seat (this country has no carseats, for sure - seat belts are still a few years off, I believe). Every time we got into a "Peruvian traffic jam" of animals being herded in the road, the little girl would point at them and name each kind. When the dad asked us how to say "vaca" in English, the little girl repeated "cow" in a perfect American accent. I couldn´t believe how much patience she had with the ride, the car, everything. If only all children were so chill...
Moray is an archaeological site, Incan, of course, with bowl-shaped terracing. Apparently, there´s a large difference between the temperature at the top and at the bottom, although we didn´t notice it, and this difference allowed the Inca to use the terraces as an agricultural experimentation station. It was pretty cool looking, with Incan staircases all over the place, which are just rocks jutting out from the terraces at (large) step intervals. We kept joking about how long Incan legs must have been, which is only funny if you realize that Jeff and I would be fairly tall in the Incan world.
Near Moray is Salinas, a working salt farm that has apparently been used since Incan times. There´s a spring there with warm, -very- salty water, which flows through a huge system of mini salt pans in terraces on a very steep hill. They let water from the spring run into a shallow pool, cut off the flow when it´s full, wait about 30 days until the water evaporates (it´s quite windy, which helps), and then scoop up the salt. It´s pretty thick, probably somewhere from one quarter to one third of the original depth of the pool, I´m guessing. That´s -very- salty water.
After my big break of freedom from papers and presentations on Friday, I felt the need to do some fun stuff, despite feeling like I was coming down with the stomach bug. Saturday, we went to Tipon, another archaeological site about an hour from Cusco. It was absolutely beautiful. Again, it was mostly terraces, this time in open rectangles, with channels running along the bottoms of the walls and waterfalls in the corners. The stonework was incredible. There were two places for showering, one for most people in Tipon that looked pretty good, and one for the Inca king that had three spouts and a grand channel leading to it. And the best part was - almost no other tourists. Peaceful. Aaaaaaaah. Unfortunately, I couldn´t handle all the walking that day (which is how I finally completely opted out of leaving for Choquequirau the next day), but Jeff and our roommate Sarah did. I got to see a fair amount, though.
So for having no pictures to post and for not having done anything for the last four days, this has become an awfully long blog post. I´ll be off now to get some more mundane work done, then be back to my bed. Hope all is well, and I can´t wait to see Jeff tomorrow!