I suppose I was feeling cocky like a local. I didn’t feel the need to consult trip advisor. Cuzco was becoming familiar to me. By now I had been living almost seven weeks in Peru, my second visit to this spectacular country.
During my previous visit to Cuzco I had spied a premises that looked like a good deal for accommodation purposes. Peruvian people are shrewd when it comes to parting with their money. There was a two-tiered system in place when it came to pricing and I was keen to keep my spending to a minimum, this was no fancy holiday, it was a journey with a purpose.
It had been agreed that I would return within a week to Cuzco to see what could be salvaged of a disastrous affair. I was slow to realise that I should have been gone with the wind to Machu Picchu, anywhere but here, as I was left to my own devices from the start.
The accommodation was a hell-hole. The room I had bargained for had been given to someone else. I was shunted into a hovel with no window. A makeshift room with walls that were creeping with squalor and close sounds of grunting and hocking. I was freaking with the prospect of staying a night in this room by myself. It just couldn’t happen. I hit the dazzling streets of Cuzco and went from door to door enquiring for vacant rooms and favourable rates.
Many of the hostels were fully occupied. I was being fussy, I wanted a private room. It was not looking good. I almost took a room in a converted convent but it competed with the hovel for the wretched feeling it provoked in me.
Along the way I separately met two male backpackers who were also seeking accommodation. We exchanged details of the premises we had already sussed out. Since I was more familiar to the city, they each asked me to recommend a place to eat that was inexpensive. Later the three of us met at a Peruvian diner that is not normally frequented by travellers. I introduced the two young men to each other, one Canadian, one Dutch and when I was finished my meal I left them to each other’s company.
It was Sunday. And Sunday’s in Cuzco are eventful. Plaza De Armas was thronged with people celebrating armies and officials. Men in large numbers paraded with medals and pride whilst ordinary people thickly lined the perimeter of the square. Brass bands and lively dancers added their contribution to the spectacle. As a tourist the previous year it had all seemed so grand and formal and intriguing but now I was not so impressed by this dominance of male ego which seemed staged to prevent any contradiction to its force.
I had pushed through the background of the crowd on my quest to find a room and it was getting tiring. The light was draining from the sky as the sun swiftly descended beneath the mountains. The air was cooling rapidly in this high altitude location, I had to give in to an alternative solution.
The moment I entered the door of one particular hotel, I felt welcomed. The young man at the reception asked me where I had learned my Spanish. When I mentioned Ollantaytambo his eyes lit up. He had an affinity with this little town, good memories, although he revealed days later that his reputation at the time had not been good so he asked me not to mention his name there.
I asked him about the rates at the hotel. It was way beyond what I had been planning on spending but I was running out of time. Without too much haggling he provided me with a very special rate the only condition was that I must take the room immediately. I was moved in within twenty minutes much to his surprise having returned to the hovel to retrieve my backpack and relieving my tongue of the disgust I felt for the place.
I breathed a sigh of pure relief that night as I slept securely in my room. It was a simple, traditional hotel with a basic luxury but I was being minded by angels as it turned out, for the staff in this hotel were destined to provide a kindness that is uncommon for ordinary folk serving the needs of others. I was truly grateful and when I think of them I send blessings in their direction.
I spent at least five days in Cuzco this time, but I cannot account for all of them. It is probably best that it is so.
©Caroline Cunningham Author Of Wild Star Landing (Blog)