Sunday, May 24: After breakfast we’re going for a drive (on the map see Urubamba–along the top by the river where the hotel is) down that curvaceous road you see on the map above, where we’ll enjoy again the scenic snowcapped Andes views surrounding us. Our first stop will be the Chinchero village where bartering skills are still in use so that we can practice our bargaining skills at the Sunday market where the locals bring their produce and handicrafts to sell.
Hubby should be a definite help since he grew up in India. I’m one of those timid tourists who, when a person asks for 1 rupee for a unique little sewing gadget, I’m likely to say “are you sure?” and hand him 2 rupees because it’s only a few pennies for me, and the guy looks like he could use a few hundred rupees instead so that he can feed himself and his family. In Peru it’ll be nuevo soles (a US dollar was worth 3.13 nuevo soles as of 30 December 2008). I do have a few notes from people who have been to Peru and who offer their advice so as to get a bargain without either overpaying or offending the locals, which should be helpful if I can manage to pull it off–that is, if I decide to buy something. There’s always the problem of fitting it in the usually already over-packed bags.
I tried to memorize phrases I might be able to use in the market, or at least add them to mytravel notes, like “Eso cuesta mucha plata” (that’s too much) and I know NOT to begin to bargain unless I’m really interested in buying the item. Other words I noted as probably useful knowing my digestive and (sometimes) elimination urgencies are: baño and S.H. or SS.HH (which are abbreviations for servicio higienico, or obviously hygeine service).
I remember when I was in the foothills of the Himalayas near Simla in India, I asked the guides for a bathroom, and they looked puzzled, probably thinking “oh these Americans! wanting a bath this time of day! I kept trying other words, all in English of course, and finally hit it on the head: “toilet.” Bingo, I got directions just in the nick of time. I’m sure there’s plenty more Spanish words or phrases that would be useful to know beforehand, but I’m planning to stay close to Marta if in case I get into trouble.
It has occurred to me, and maybe you’ve noticed this as well in your own travels, that somehow the more desolate a place appears to be or poorer and gentler the nature of the people, the more striking the beauty and resilience of both. Ironically both probably contributed to their plight. Let me remember this as we experience the local markets today.
After absorbing as much color and excitement of the Market as possible, we’ll go on to Maras where there are only two roads. One goes to the experimental agricultural center from the same period for a little learning session. Then I suppose we’ll take the other road, the one that takes us to an impressive complex of salt mines in an area called Qoripujio, which have been used for Peru’s economy since the time of the Inca. I read that mules still carry salt extracted from the natural salt mines through a narrow path, so there should be some great photographic opportunities here. All the time I’m sure I’ll be remembering Old Jack, the stubborn old mule from my childhood years, who worked hard but never had to pull a load of salt or anything half that strenuous his whole lifetime.