Saturday, August 13, 2005

Rotting in Cusco

Adi, me and Lee on the steps of the fountain in Plaza de Aramas, Cusco (Taken by Arik)


Trying to recover from the long walk to Aguas Calientes, I discover what pain in the knee is for a traveler like me. While I was trying to "fix" this problem, I and Lee were rottening little by little, getting sick and basicly getting out of our minds in touristy Cusco. Lucky for us, we had Shay to raise our spirit and maintain our sanity...

Surprises I
My father told me many days ago that being flex means being able to continue living like nothing had actually happen. Thus, Surprises, I learned, are part of life and the faster you accept them and react to them (if you can) the more you could manage them, and of course, continue with your life as best as you can.
When we returned from Aquas Calientes, tired but glad, we woke poor Adi, all sick and feeling not to good. On her way back to her bed (and back to her dreams), she told us that the house lady is not pleased with us, coming back to the hostel one day later than we were supposed to come originally, and as a consequence, she decided to increase the accommodation rate by 50%. Really? That`s nice of her, I thought out a loud. Chris went to the showers, and half an hour later we two made our way for a breakfast (as I described in the previous entry). When we returned I went to talk with the house lady, already accepting the fact that I should find my self other accommodation places.
Talking with her, I understood that actually the reasoning for the raise was not our schedule but more the fact that "all the other hostel charge 15 to 20 soles, and it is unaccepted that I will charge less than the common rate". I tried to explain her that the whole of us is expected to stay several weeks in Cusco, and if she would not maintain the same rate, we would have to leave and find another hostel, which not only charges less than she demand, but also includes a nice breakfast. She was not impressed, and told me that this is it, and I can go and accommodate my self in another hostel.
With that in mind, I knew I had to work things out, and also talk with the gang. As Chris was due to leave the next day, it was only Adi, Lee and me sleeping in the hostel. I found the girls awake, an told them what`s the situation. Even though this decision, which was infuriating, the girls were not sure they want to leave the hostel. I decided that I would check other hostels, not only because of the raise, but more as a fact that I could not reach a stable agreement with this house lady: and what if she decides we should pay more, or would move us to a worse room? It started to smell fishy, and I didn't want to stay and realize im sleeping in a fishing boat. I had enough of this things, time to move on.
Lee joined me and we surveyed the area of the Plaza, checking different hostels and hospedajes. Quite quickly I got the picture that accommodation DID raised and was now around 15 soles a night, if not more. Even so, I still remember Barak`s invitation, stating that his hostel charges a mere 13 soles, and that includes a breakfast. The only catch, it is an Israeli hole, and I do HATE Israeli holes. But, when things get rough, you should get tough. So, we walked past the Plaza up Calle Shapy to the notorious Hostel Hurinary. The two story hostel walls were covered with Israeli`s thanks cards, employing their pictures (of course) with the very nice and helpful staff.
The staff showed us the place (kitchen and five showers, three of them connected to the same gas heater and the dormitories) and assured us that they can find a place for the two or three of us. As we were exploring and thinking, we saw that the joint was packed full and people were keeping on coming. We thanked them for their time, registered ourself, and went out side thinking. We were not sure Adi would like to move (even though she suffered from the stairs that leads to the current hostel we were sleeping in), so we decided that we gonna decide the day after, the same day Chris leaves for Puno.

Surprise II
The next day was a busy one. Chris was packing his stuff, and I decided that whatever the girls decide, I am moving and that`s final. So, after the both of us packed, we got out with Lee and fixed to meet after I finish the checking in.
When I arrived to the hostel, I gripped that for the time being there is no room for me, as people where still in the room. "They are suppose to leave at noon, so come later and we gonna fix ya with a bed after they will leave" told me one of the stuff, Victor, in a semi fluent Hebrew. I threw my stuff in the deposit room and went to meet with Lee and Chris, which had their breakfast not far from the plaza. We wanted to celebrate Chris departure (after he bought the ticket for Puno). The day passed nicely, with bright sunshine, and a breeze and after eating a Hamburger at Martha`s place, we went to write our diaries. That evening we all went to have a last drink in Paddys Irish bar and parted from Chris that climbed the taxi and drove to the bus station for his bus. It was a little sad moment, and we hoped that plans wont change and that we gonna meet again in two months somewhere in Argentina.
As I was new in the hostel, I didn't know nobody (accept for Barak, which was due to leave in couple of days for Huaraz at the north) and I didn't tried to communicate with nobody, keeping a distance. First, check the board, than make a move, I always liked to say to myself. Quickly, I gripped that even tough it was a ISRAELIDA there, the staff was VERY nice and the showers were more or less OK (the first shower I cursed so much I think the whole building heard me shouting about the damn cold-hot water pressure getting all the way from that extreme to the next…crazy!). Another characteristic of this hostel was the fact that half of the people were sick. No, not mentally sick (well, some I think were on the verge) but coughing and shitting their hearts out. Late at night, when all was quiet (an almost non-existent situation), a man can hear coughing symphony for a whole five minutes. Summarizing the whole idea, it was a heaven for the infectious agents, from Bacteria to Virus.
The same day Chris left, when I went down the stairs from my old hostel to the plaza, I started to feel what would be a health problem: pains in the lower-front part of my left knee. At first I discarded it as a mere tired knee after going up and down more than 3000 steps only three days ago, but after couple day that the pain didn't passed, and actually was getting even more painfull, I gripped that Ì have a problem, and the faster I manage it, the healthier and happier I will be.
Couple of days after Chris left Cusco, I decided that it is time to talk with a Dr. and Mauricio was the best choice, even though it`s responsibility was only to Israelis in Bolivia. Calling him I advised with him what I should do, as he is also an Orthopedic expert. He advised me to rest a bit and if the pain still there, I should get some anti-inflammatory pills and rest more. I was not in a mood to rest in any case, but I took his advice and tried to walk less than I usual walk (which was almost the same as normal). After a day that I felt really shit, I got on a taxi and went to visit the local private clinic in Cusco. After parting from three dozens soles, I saw a nice Dr. which told me that I might have an inflammation in the knee, and apart from prescribing some anti-inflammatory pills, she ordered me not to move for the next days. I took the pills and her advise and finally did what people told me to do.

MAN, when are we gonna get the hell out of Cusco?!
Well, the weekend passed sitting most of the time on my ass, reading a good book, and listening to music. Once I felt better, I started to walk more, but little by little the pain returned, even though it was fainter and also in a different location. I decided to return to the clinic, only there I met with another Dr., which English was quite a challenge for him (he talked English as well as I talked Spanish). I felt it was a bad idea to consult with him, but I was already there after a 20 minutes ride in a taxi, and I was not in a mood to return the day after. Bad decision!
In any case, after parting from another 35 soles, he saw me and heard my lovely story. In his broken English, I gripped that the pain and sensitivity I felt in the last days was due to the inflamed nerve and I had two treatment options: receiving 3 injection, one each day or taking pills for a month till the nerve recovers. I had a bad feeling about the whole thing, but I decided that I will go for the injection, as it had a much faster effect than the pills. We agreed that the Dr will visit me the same day for the administration of the injection and in the meanwhile I should take some pills in order to complete the whole treatment. Great!
Alter being late for a 30 minutes, the Dr. arrived finally to the Hostel. I don't know what passed me through my head to have the treatment in the hostel, infested with so much bacteria and viruses, but I was not working with my head. Going up, I had the room for me and my Dr. (sounds sick, I know..). He pulled out of his briefaces the syrienge and the medication ampoules: two, actually. One was the Vitamin mix (Vitamin B2, B12 and another one I cant remember now) which were suppose to help rebuilt the damaged nerve and the other ampoule was an anti-inflammatory mixture. He asked my premition to open the glass ampoules, as they systematically injured his thumb while he pop them open. And then it hit me, that this guy is not a proffestional. HOW THE HELL CAN YOU OPEN A STERILE AMPOULE INTENEDED FOR INTRAMUSCULAR ADMINISTRATION IN A NOT STERILE ENVIROMENT, DE-STERILING THE AMPOULE WITH A SHEET OF BLANKET??
But, I was too anxious to finish with this damn thing, I shut up. The shot was supposed to be introduced into the muscle, above my right cheek of my buttocks. With a 10 ml needle (and for all the non-biologists/medics out there, it is a GODDAMN BIG NEEDLE!!!) he inserted the mixture, giving me hell. For some reason, when I asked him if it will be better to lie down, he told me it doesn't matter (sure it matters – the muscle is short and it hurts more!). I think the whole hostel could hear my scream of pain, and even the Dr. looked at me with a worried look. He left, telling me to rest a bit. And damn, did I need a rest! The pressure of the administered mixture was high inside my muscle and the pain almost paralyzed the length of my right leg. After an hour I finally could get up, cursing the moma and papa of this Dr, going even further in history to his great-great ancestors. I knew that this will be the last time this guy will get near me with a needle. Going down to the lobby, I found out that the Dr was working his needles not only on me but also on a pneumonia-suffering guy, which also got an injection as a treatment. GOD DMAN DR, HE INJECTS EVERONE WITH EVERYTHING!!
Next day, I was supposed to meet the Dr. so he would give me the prescription for the medication, but as I was waiting for more than 50 minutes after the time fixed for a meeting, I got pissed off (as you all know me) and went to meet with Adi and Lee, hoping I will meet this Dr again in the Hostel. Well, I did met him, three days after when I was looking for a battery and saw him in a pharmacy, purchasing medication (more injections??). I didn't tried even to understand where the hell he was when we were suppose to meet, and I stick to the sole purpose of my ambush: prescription and receipt for the insurance.
As time passes, and I found my self a full month in Cusco, I have started to be nervous, agitated and depressed. I wanted to just take off, especially after I have received my package I was waiting for. Lee`s package, on the other hand, did not reach her hostel, and I had a word to keep, besides the fact that I enjoy traveling with her, and didn't want to split our partnership before it even set out of Cusco. Also, I noticed that Lee herself was getting agitated, and we both felt that we start to loose the rush of exploration and passion for travel. We were suffering by each passing day, and due to my health problem, we couldn't have toured other remote parts of the city.

Shay`s Fear Factor
I have not mention this, but the same week I moved into the Huinary hostel, I have met with Shay (24), Lior (22) and their friends, that were also sleeping in our dormitory.
Shay is a great guy to hang out with, full or stories and great smile, which helped both me and Lee forget about our misfortune to be stuck in this city. Shay, however, have a difficulty to get a firm decision. In the last two weeks, we had saw him debating whether to do a piercing in his ear lobe (which he did), whether to do a bungee jump (also done..) and, the spontaneous decision to join me and Lee on our journey up north.
The bungee jumping was on his mind for a long time. Obviously, bungee jumping is not a walk in the park (more like jumping into the park, literally). Jumping off a 122 meter elevator, hang in the midest of the cool Andean air, with only two steel cables holding the whole construction, one could not hold himself not thinking about the risk of getting splashed into the cement, face down with a semi-horror amazed face. Actually, there is more risk of getting run down by a car in Plaza De Aramas, then to be smashed to a flesh lump in the course of a bungee jump. But most logical minds looses their capacity to think in any logical way when birds fly beside you and the level of the adrenaline in your blood is way beyond the standard scale of any modern hospital laboratory. If you are wondering how the bugee jump ever evolved, check this out, taken from a website (
According to legend, the sports got its first jumper around 1,500 years ago. This happened when a tribal ran away from her enraged husband who tried to kill her. However, when she saw her husband gaining in speed, she climbed a tree and perched herself at the top. But the husband was behind her even there. As a last resort, she tied her legs with few vines and jumped on, thereby giving birth to a new and exciting adventure sports.
By the way, if any one of you is intrigued what are the forces and the physics of the game, try this link:
Lots of people do it every day, especially in the high season in Peru, and it is a "must" in Israeli terminology. Shay, however, didn't want to do it because it was a social "must", shay wanted to do it because he felt it is something to be dealt with. The almost utter fear he would meet face to face in the next few years, if not in his all life. Now, if he would have talked or thought about it half he actually had, he would jump the next day he decided he wants to do it. But, Shay is a thinker, and he thought and debated it for a whole week (!) till he finally found the courage to hand in the cash (which is not, btw, cheap, around 50 USD!). He tried to persuade everyone he met to go with him, but everybody had their reasoning of not doing an unreasoning act: Adi was not interested, Lee had little cash spend on a 4 sec jump and me…? Well, I was more concern for my back/knee health, and agreed that I will join him if a doctor in Israel would ensure me I will walk without orthopedic problems after flying down over 100 km/h (an event which is almost equal to occur as the chance of squashing down in a bungee jumping).
While he was thinking about the Bungee, another dilemma popped out of no where…piercing!
The piercing thing was on the headline after Lee and Adi decided that after 20 years (at the least), it´s about time to make an earring. Shay longed for a piercing for quite a time, so the four of us cramped into a closet-size clinic and while the girls were having there ears done, Shay was debating. Sizes, kinds and location were prime subjects, but the biggest one was, whether it would fit him. All of us told him to go for it, that it would suit his character and that he would be happy with it. The three of us maybe doesn't sounds that much, but it is still 100% of the witnesses at the location of "crime". Thinking and thinking, he decided to think about it more and maybe do it the day after, even after Lee encouraged him that if he will do the piercing she will join him for the jump.
Finally, after a day of thinking, we all joined Shay when he was pierced in his earlobe, and apart from taking his pictures, we also supported him and joined his joy of seeing himself ion a different and new aspect, with something dangling from his left ear.
Passing this wall, shay faced a bigger one – the jump. After more debating and talking, he finally approached me one evening, a yellow voucher as his proof of no fear, declaring a cash transaction for a 4 sec fall. I greeted him and we all decided to join him so we could see him fall 100 meters and having the time of his life. Eventually, it happened only a day later, when the skies cleared a bit, and we all cramped into a taxi and drove 11 km up north to the Adventure Park, residing between two hills.
Around 10 am, we were the only company in the site, and quickly Shay was finger-printed, signing a "I-relieve-the-company-of-any-injury-bla-bla" disclosure and strapped with a Petzel harnesses to a 100 meter long bungee cable. Hoping into the elevator, I guess his heart was so pounding that it was hard for him to actually understand what the hell is going on. The elevator slowly went up, and we all shot our stares to it, waiting for the brave act.
Finally, through the lens of my camera, I saw the door slides aside and waited for Shay to pop his head out. Well, he didn't popped his head but his body was quickly off the elevator, falling like a long stone through the air, calling something on the way which I missed in the rush of things, and ten seconds later I could see his smiling face looking at me from a 20 something meter, finally after the back movement of the fall and stretch had stopped. I am sure this act of fear (or no fear) would have changed him for ever.
He embraced all of us, full of energy and adrenaline, smiling so wide I was about to look for a can to catch his teeth from falling of his face. This was not the end of the day, however, as he was strapped again for the slingshot maneuver, or what is fondly called, the "Superman" stunt. With no fear factor included, this stunt is pure fun: The elevator went up again and a bungee cable was tied to the bottom of the elevator as Shay was tied on the one hand to it, and on the other hand to a metal ring embedded into a 20 meter long cement walkway. Getting higher and higher, the cable pulled Shay a foot above ground while a string pulled him back to earth. Finally, the elevator reached it´s peak height, and on the count of three, the back string was released. Shay, still talking to a group of Israelis that just came to see the jumps for the kick of it, was shot in an accelerating speed almost straight into the air, spreading his hands like a little spider connected to a sewing string, tossing from one side of the elevator to the other, sounds of joy echoes from the near slopes. When he finally got to a stable position, I noticed for the first time the sheep and local shepherds that continue their ordinary life in an obsolete indifference of the unnatural acts that were held a mere 50 meters away from them. This is high contrast hit me finally, that even though we are in the Cusco district, the famed capital of the Inca long gone culture, we were actually the farthest from the Peruvian culture, not to mention the Inca culture. Tourism has driven the area originality and history atmosphere far up to the 21st century modernization and thrill necessities. It was a bit of a sad moment for me, realizing that even after the fame ruins of Machu Picchu, it was at end, all a matter of money. Sad but true.
We all returned in the same taxi that brought us to the location (only this time the Israeli girls joined us too) and after riding the back of the Toyota, I was glad to be on the solid bricks of Plaza De Aramas.

Superman? No way, just an ordinary man…
Well, time was passing by, and finally we manage to fix a date to leave Cusco finally, on Saturday afternoon. We would travel to Ica and afterward north to Pisco, Lima and Huaraz, the center of all outdoor fun in Peru.
But, meanwhile, while me and Shay were shooting pool, discussing how much Shay would like to repeat his Bungee jump, an option ricocheted that I might do the Superman gig (formally known as a slingshot, the highest in the world, it seems). Now, from the starts I have told both Lee and Shay that I am not gonna spend over 50 USD for nothing but a Bungee jump. However, and although I am SO curious to know how it fells falling down 122 meters, my knee kept me at bay, watching and craving. The superman act, however, has nothing to do with the legs, and thus I can do it. I want to do it? Well, I asked my self this exact question, and after seeing Shay I have thought it would be nice to experience the launch at an amazing speed. I thought a bit more, and finally, went to an agency and booked a gig, 55 USD. A LOT OF MONEY! But, as I said to lots of people, we have money for one sole reason: TO ENJOY IT!!!!
SO, eventually, Shay, Lee and me climbed the taxi and drove to the site (again) the afternoon of Friday (Poor Adi caught a stomach virus, only 36 hours before her departure to Costa Rica, and was at the time at her bed suffering from cramps). We had to do it quickly, because Lee wanted to do last arrangements and also to be with Adi in any case she needs to see a doctor.
Arriving at the site, the sun shone behind our backs, without no one around. We found the site staff working fixing the door of their little office. They asked us to wait a couple of minutes and while they worked the door, I already took off most of the things that can be slingshotted toward the road back to Cusco. Once in the office, I have signed a disclosure paper, relieving the site of any responsibility to anything happening to me (very reassuring I must add..) and even put a print of my right thumb, only god knows why (the lawyers among the readers might shed some light on this). I went outside, and was told that I should out aside my optics, as it might break due to a possible collision with the elastic 2 inch cable that connected me to the elevator.
So, barefooted I weigh my self (63 kg if someone is curious) and then the staff dressed me with a harness, clutching me tightly from my shoulders to my groin. Then, while the elevator (which is also used for the Bungee jump) went up slowly, I was connected to the 2 inch white cable, which was actually thousands thin rubber strings strapped together to form a very massive looking cable (and also very one!). So, from one side I was connected to this white cable raising over my head to the bottom of the elevator, while another short and thick cable connected me to this U shape steel rod, cemented into the ground. When the elevator reached it`s highest altitude (approximately, 120 meters), I was already hovering over the ground and waiting for the count to 3. My mind raced as to imagine how will be the launch, but suddenly, on the count of 3, I was thrown with such a force my mind was still waiting there on the ground below me. Going up so quickly I shouted in joy as I gained more and more altitude, forgetting the rule of thumb about altitude change: All things that go up, must come down. And hell, did I come down! As my body reached the peak of the altitude available by the sling, I felt how all my organs went down and the blood rushing out of my mind. Dreaded, I felt a massive negative G I have never felt before. Free falling with nothing to stop it, my only way to cope with this awful feeling was crying out loud with pain. As I gained speed going down I felt the effect of the G force until slowly I was slowed down, and then with powerful push, I was thrown up again, enjoying the positive G and smiling looking at the scene from some 100 meters above the ground, seeing tourist buses passing in the nearby highway and waving to them. But then, as I reached the max of this ascent, I started to feel again the change in direction, and again, I cried out loud. This loop happened once more time till my body lost all momentum and I was circulating around myself feet facing down as the elevator took me down to earth. Tears were already drying on my cheeks and eyes, as from the pain and shouting.
It was an exciting experience, even though I didn't liked too much (as you can imagine) as I suffered to much from the going-down parts. Good thing I didn't go to the Airforce...So, It seems that Superman I will not be in this life of mine, but at least I felt what it is to live, and this certainly worth the experience.

Well, that was the last attraction I did in Cusco..In 5 hours I will leave this ancient capital and move on to Ica, Pisco and to the nation Capital, Lima.

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