I can`t quite believe it, but this trip is nearly over. Four and a half months (almost) sounded like a really long time when I set out, but it's flown by ... and at the same time, here I am in July, about to head off to the Galapagos Islands for my final leg of the trip, and March and Antarctica seem like a lifetime ago.
I owe you a post or two -- I just got back from Puno, Peru, and it`s an interesting spot and worth a few words. But I`ll do that later. In the meantime I wanted to catch you up on plans for the next couple of weeks before I head home; I haven`t had Wi-Fi access for the last few days and internet access has either been very expensive, or slow (or both), so I haven`t spent any time here.
Anyway, here`s the scoop ... I fly from Cusco to Quito tomorrow (via Lima, with about a four-hour stopover), arriving in Quito about 10 at night. I`m crashing at a hotel near the airport (so decidedly more expensive than my $3-a-night Bolivian lodging) as I have to turn around and head back again about 5 a.m. to catch a 6:30 flight to the Galapagos. I spent 8 days there, flying back to Quito on the 11th (another early flight I think), and have a few days left in Ecuador before I fly back to Toronto on July 15th ... via Houston, and Cleveland, arriving about 14 hours after I leave Quito.
In the meantime, I`m back in Cusco for a night. I found a hostel right on the Plaza de Armas, the main square, and I went out only briefly to stock up on everything I`m running low on (shampoo, sunscreen, toothpaste) as I`m not expecting to be able to find much in the Galapagos (or if I can, it will be expensive, probably). Then I got back on the laptop -- yay! free Wi-Fi again! -- and have been slowly and laboriously uploading pictures while typing away here. (It`s a glamourous life we backpackers lead, really.)
I took the Inka Express tourist bus from Puno today, which stops at a few sites along the way -- Incan ruins at Raqchi, for example, and yet another colonial church in Andahuaylillas (they call it the ''Sistine Chapel of Peru'' -- I wouldn`t go nearly THAT far, but it is pretty striking). Some of the towns we passed through seemed desperately poor -- I can`t even begin to imagine living there! -- but the people were friendly. No one appeared to resent the rich tourists blowing through town for a hour or two (perhaps it`s just that they hoped to sell us lots of stuff), but I couldn`t help wondering if they really were as happy with their lot as they seemed. If you grow up in a situation like that, if it`s what you`re used to and what you expect ... do you not feel the lack? Is contentment more about expectations than about what you actually have?
Okay, never mind the philosophical tangent. I head to the airport about noon tomorrow, and catching a taxi will be easy (they circle the plaza in droves) -- I am now savvy enough about Cusco taxis to know when I`m being ripped off, so I expect it will be pretty cheap. (My taxi driver tonight from the bus station tried to charge me 7 soles for the ride -- about double what it should cost -- but backed down really quickly when I turned away to find another taxi.)
I`ll probably write here again tomorrow, one last time before I head off to tropical isles ... and then will take an enforced break, since I doubt I can find Wi-Fi cruising on a catamaran in the Galapagos Islands!