Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I´m ruined!

Today began what will probably be a few very busy days of ruin-visiting. I spent two days in Cuzco, which is very pretty, but extremely touristy. It´s also well-known for its nightlife, and when I went out with some people from my hotel the other night (one guys was celebrating his 21st birthday-!) this became apparent. At dinner the birthday boy ordered the Peruvian specialty, guinea pig, served whole, in its skin, with teeth and claws and everything! Afterwards we headed to the main square where we were flocked by bar employees offering free drinks in their establishments. Basically, if you don´t mind changing bars every so often, it´s possible to drink for free all night, with the added benefit of feeling like a celebrity surrounded by adoring fans every time you step into the street. It was completely crazy, but it was fun, and in one place I ran into two Israeli friends I had met in Ushuaia nearly four months ago!

Anyway, time for some culture and history: I bought the "Tourist Ticket" which allows me to visit about 16 different museums or Inca sites in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley, which is the name for the Urubamba Valley between Cuzco and Machu Picchu. Today I saw several ruins near Cuzco, the most important of which is Sacsayhuaman. Pronounce that carefully and you´ll get one of the reasons it´s a big hit with the tourists. It´s also a large and well-preserved Inca structure. I went with two American guys who enjoyed checking out the front of Sacsayhuaman, and then we climbed over a hill to see if Sacsayhuaman had a nice backside. Then we ran out of Sacsayhuaman jokes and walked back to town. After catching a bus, I´m now in the small market town of Pisac, where I´ll check out some more ruins and then head to the unpronounceable towns of Urubamba and Ollantaytambo, before heading to Machu Picchu on Friday.

Speaking of being ruined, I have a little dilemma. The other day in a restaurant a very devious and sneaky cashier managed to switch my 100 sole ($30) note for a fake one. I didn´t realize she had made the switch until the next day. I have since tried to pass it off in several other establishments, and my "oh no, ¿está falso?" and incredulous look are getting less and less convincing each time I have to use them. The most discerning Peruvians can tell it´s fake right away although it is extremely well-done. Others take only 30 seconds or so to figure it out. My dilemma is: should I continue to try to give it away, knowing that the less-savvy business owners or market keepers (the ones least likely to realize it´s fake) are the ones who need the money the most, or do I give up, keep the bill as a souvenir and count it as a contribution to the "corrupt Peru fund"? Keeping in mind that $30 is about equivalent to my budget for a day and a half or more, what would you do if you were in my situation?