Cusco has been a splendid place to spend almost a week. I've had Andy for company on some of the days. Judith, Sergio and Juan on others. It's an easy place to just chill – sit around the plaza at one of the many cafes and watch the world go by. Nestled as it is in the Andes, it has a beautiful backdrop of mountains.
The nightlife is brilliant too. It always feels safe – well, certainly around the Plaza. The only 'hassle' is from the 'street kids'. I get to know a few of them – they're always at the street by my hostel. They 'work' at night – selling whatever they can to make some money. They're around 8 years old, the three of them that I get to know are true salesmen. They know how to 'overcome customers objections' having a ready answer for no matter how many times one says 'no gracias'.
There's a girl that hangs out with them – she's a 'tout' – handing out vouchers for admission to some of the nightclubs in town. We all talk each evening – and it's pretty cold out there. They have loads of questions for me: Where am I from, what do I work at, how long in Cusco – it's incessant and tempting to ignore them.
But I don't – I stay and talk to them a while. I end up buying some of their stuff each evening, finger puppets and gum mainly. I sell it back to them the next evening for half of what I paid. The tout – Vikki, tells me she's studying English, but can't afford to keep going to classes. I decide that it's time to practice my 'teaching' – we meet at 11am most mornings for two hours. She's determined to improve her English, which in turn will lead to a higher paid job. It can't be easy being out in the cold till 4am handing out vouchers.
She always turns up on time – with all her study books. We spend time going through her coursework and also practicing 'conversational' English. It's only a few sessions, because I leave soon – but I hope it made a slight difference to her.
Slowly but surely, Juan, Judith and Sergio also depart for their homelands – again with the promises to keep in touch. I have a last catch-up with Andy, he's been a good mate all the way from Buenos Aires. That seems so far away now.
I have a lunchtime flight to Santiago, via Lima. Again, I'm feeling a bit sad – it's becoming a regular thing – hooking up with people for a few days, then having to say goodbye. I've had good times with them. It's one of the consequences of solo travel I suppose.
Cusco Airport is small with just a few check-in desks. There's a flight seemingly every hour to Lima and literally hundreds of people trying to check in. It takes forever, but eventually I get away – on time and looking forward to finally being back at sea-level and being able to breathe normally again.
It's a short one hour flight to Lima, then a couple of hours layover before boarding my 'LAN Chile' flight to Santiago. I have to say, LAN are very slick. Their cabin service is first rate. Proper knives and forks – no plastic here. A real wine glass and Chilean wine served from the bottle. It's as good as most other carriers 'business class'. Very impressive indeed.
A bit over three hours later we beginning our decent into Santiago – the aerial view of the city at night is impressive. It's a big place. I'm on my last two nights in Latin America – really hoping they're good ones...