Thursday, July 7th – The 100 Year Celebration of Machu Picchu’s Scientific DiscoveryThe Colombian boys and I rolled back into The Flying Dog at 3:30 AM. So after a scant amount of sleep I decide to make the most of the available light and get up. I take a cup of very strong coffee and my moleskin journal and go sit on the front steps and try to write down as much as I can remember of the past two days. I don’t want to forget.
In that moment I say:
Sitting on the dusty step
Outside The Flying Dog
The sun warming me outside
Café warming me
Buzzing tired from only four hours of sleep
But no headache
Just the happiness of being
Juan Jose and Diego are heading to Aguas Calientes to stay one night then head on to Machu Picchu. They settle their accounts and put their backpacks on. “Are you going to miss us?” Juan Jose asks me. “Claro (of course),” I reply. “I’ll miss you too,” he tells me. How did we make friends so quickly? I really am going to miss them. We all hug goodbye. “Cuidate (take care), chau (ciao),” we say. They’re still lingering in the hostel lobby and I have a lunch date so I head out.Several weeks ago I’d met a British traveler named Matt at a party in Lima. He happens to be in Cusco now and we’d arranged to get together for lunch. “Let’s meet at the Statue of the Ninth Inca in the middle of the Plaza de Armas at 1:45,” I suggest.
So around 1:15 I make my way to the Plaza. When I get there I realize what a mistake I’ve made. Today is the 100 Year Anniversary of the scientific founding of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham in 1911. The place is packed. PACKED.
I can’t figure out how to get to the statue, they have it blocked off and people are so thick, even with my Lima crowded bus practice there’s no way I can make it through. I skirt the Plaza trying to see if I can see Matt. No use. I walk past the dancers with their black masks. I walk past the dancers with their long noses and gilt dresses. I hear someone call my name. It’s Mei! She’s in the plaza with some of her new friends and happened to see me. We exchange pleasantries and arrange to maybe meet again on Sunday. I have a hope that if she can see me out of the masses that maybe I’ll find my British friend.Matt has my number but I don’t have his. I decide to go send him a Facebook message from an internet café around the corner telling him I’ll be standing in front of Gatos Market which is much less crowded. Maybe he’ll get that and we’ll manage to meet.
I wait for forty-five minutes. I’ve gotten to the point where I wonder if I’ll even recognize him if he walks past since I’ve only met him once before. It’s getting late in the afternoon and all I’ve had in the way of nourishment is coffee. So I decide to go get lunch on my own. I head back to Choque Chaca Road to a vegetarian restaurant a few doors down from my hostel. I eat some carrot soup, a salad, veggie lasagna and a fruit compote. Then I check my email on the hostel’s computer. Matt had responded only nine minutes ago saying he’d meet me at Gatos Market.
With a glimmer of hope I run all the way down Choque Chaca, down Hatun Rumiyoc and come to a screeching halt in front of the store. Matt is there! Still waiting. I give him an enthusiastic hug and tell him how glad I am we finally connected nearly two hours past our original meeting time.
He’s practically dying of hunger. I regretfully tell him I ate without him but that the food at the vegetarian restaurant had been great. So we go back there. He gets the dinner fare since the lunch meal is over. While we visit he shows me pictures of his trip to Machu Picchu and we talk of poverty and extortion and life and energy and even dire warnings.He tells me that while he was waiting next to Pachacuti (somehow he’d been able to get near the statue) he’d run into an Israeli girl he’d traveled part of his route with in the square and she’d needed a quiet place to sleep since she was feeling unwell, so he’d taken her to his hostel and while he was there he’d checked his email and gotten my message.
I feel there is some kind of magic in this place to make things all work out in the end. We truly are on Peru time, so what’s a couple of hours of waiting?