With all this philosophising, you might be wondering where I actually am and what I’ve been doing. No? Well I’m going to tell you anyway.
I’m currently in the town of funny woollen hats with alpaca patterns, ear flaps and bobbles. I’m in Cusco, the only city in the world where people – tourists and locals alike – are quite happy to look as ridiculous as possible. Every street, cafe and shop you see them bobbing around. Don’t get me wrong, I love a silly hat and I have partaken in the alpaca craze with a rather smashing jumper that will blast this Christmas out the window, some knitted legwarmers and a poncho. I just can’t help but wonder how it became acceptable for grown adults to dress in multicoloured wool and think they look cool.
Other than that, Cusco is not as tourist-battered as I had been fearing. Shops and cafes sit subtly among the colonial architecture and narrow cobbled streets. I’ve spent the past week and a half or so down in the Sacred Valley, staying with Peruvians in Urubamba, a small town where only one or two tourists stray for lunch inbetween treks in the surrounding mountains or sightseeing tours of the Inca sites that abound. So I was prepared for the worst coming up into such a tourist hub as Cusco – the centre for visiting the world wonder Machu Picchu.
It feels less intrepid to see parent-look-a-likes on their two-week adventure package holidays; it’s a shame that everything here is twice the price; and it’s a bit annoying when trying to learn Spanish that every shop and restaurant shouts out in English; but what I find most ridiculous is my fellow travellers in their gaudy knitwear who don’t make eye contact. Hello? We’re having an amazing time somewhere wonderful, can we not at least acknowledge each other with a smile of recognition, or do we have to pretend we’re not the only two Europeans standing in this queue?
I’m heading back down to the valley, where I can build some proper relationships with people who are here a bit longer than it takes the dust from the Inca Trail to blow off their boots.