Two Women, A Llama and The Bird


This blog entry about the events of Friday, December 26, 2003 was originally posted on December 27, 2003.

DAY 69:  I was having breakfast at the cafe across the street from the hostel when I noticed the same two women I had noticed at various places in town almost everyday.  They were two local women who dressed in traditional Andean clothes that walked around with a llama, asking tourists if they wanted to take their picture for a small fee.  The Ecuadorean group in the cafe ran out to pose with them, while I stayed inside and finished my yogurt, fruit and granola bowl.

ON THE STEPS OF THE CATHEDRAL, I bumped into Lara again — another one of our seemingly regular, but totally random run-ins.  She was feeling a little better and together we booked a non-random rendezvous for a bus tour of the Sacred Valley the next day.

Lara’s stomach was slowly returning to normal and she just wanted some chaufa de pollo (Chinese chicken fried rice).  I brought her to a Chinese place I noticed a block away from the main plaza.  The food only helped a little, so she went back to the hostel to chill out.

IT WAS ALREADY MY FIFTH DAY back in Cusco and thus far, I had only really explored its world-renowned party scene.  I figured it was time to see more of the city and explore its world-renowned history scene.

Cusco, former capital of the Incan empire conquered by the Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, still retains artifacts and buildings from both historical eras.  Using the Lonely Planet map, I gave myself a walking tour of the sites in the city, starting with the ruins of Qoricancha, with its museum showing how it used to be an Incan fort until the Spanish built a church on it.  I walked down the main road and decided to look for the South American Explorers office near a park fountain, but again they showed me their disorganization; they had moved offices to the other side of town.

No matter, I walked crosstown, stopping at the Plaza San Blas along the way.  It was near there that I noticed the two dressed-up women with the llama again, looking for a tourist to give them money for a photo opp.  The way I figured, if you’re going to ask me for money to pose for a picture, you might as well do something for me.  So when they approached me, I told them I’d snap a photo of them if they flipped me the bird (just like many of the later drunken photos from my bon voyage party).

Explaining to The Women With The Llama that I wanted them to pose with their middle finger up was a bit of a challenge.

“[Yes, but you must do like this,]” I said, showing them my middle finger.  One woman was clueless while the other pointed up her index finger, hesistantly.

“[No, the other.  Like this.]”  I flipped her the bird again.  She switched fingers without a clue as to what was going on.  The other woman just stood there with a look on her face that said, “Dammit Shirl, you just had to pick this guy didn’t you.”

“[Your finger.  Like this,]” I continued.  I was really determined at this point.  Not only were they looking at me funny, but so were the other tourists walking by.  Slowly the other woman raised her middle finger.

“[Yes, that’s it!]”  I felt like I found the cure for cancer or something.  I snapped the shot of them (photo above), middle fingers up as they gritted their teeth in a manner to say, “Shirl, this guy better pay up.”  I did, at the great tip of five soles each.

I WENT ON MY WAY to the new South American Explorers office and lo and behold, they failed to impressed me with their third and final office on the backpacker trail — they were closed for the holidays.  I did a book exchange a local coffee shop instead and continued my self-guided walking tour, to the Plaza del Tricentenario and the Plazoleta de las Nazarenas — where The Women With The Llama were and stared at The Guy Who Had An Weird Fixation With Fingers.  I huffed and puffed up stairs to the Iglesia de San Cristobal, which overlooked the city.  It was there that I met Brian, an Ernst & Young employee on vacation from his home in Dallas, Texas, when he asked me to take a photo of him and the city.  I asked him to take a similar photo of me — alongside other dressed-up people, flipping the bird of course.

It was Brian’s first trip to South America, but he was just doing a Corporate American quickie trip for one week — the same way I did two years prior:  fly to Lima, then Cusco, stay a day, hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu for four days and three nights, ride back to Cusco, fly to Lima, then home, get back to work.  I had encountered him on his one acclimitization day before his Inca trek, and he joined me along the rest of my walking city tour.  We walked to the south end of Cusco, visiting the Iglesia de Santa Teresa with its Virgin Mary and child with Andean features, the Municipal building, Plaza Kosipata, Plaza San Francisco, Iglesia de San Pedro and the central market.  I told him about my travels thus far and travels to come and he was jealous of me — the same way I was at another traveler when I was in his shoes two years before.  The table had finally turned for me — dreams can come true.

We walked through an indoor market, which led into an outdoor one that sold anything and everything, including sandals made from old tires and fan belts.  Brian was glad to be in an area away from the tourist-ridden Plaza das Armas, and took photos of people just leading their regular lives in Cusco.

Brian and I had a drink at the backpacker pub Mama Africa back in the main plaza, before he went off to his group orientation.  I gave him information about The Blog so that he too could travel vicariously back at this Ernst & Young desk in Dallas.

EVER SINCE I MENTIONED THE VILLAGE PEOPLE’S SONG “Y.M.C.A.” to Lara at the Tambomachay Incan ceremonial bath site three days before — when we thought it might be funny if people posed in the letters in the four distinct window frames on the upper tier — I had this notion that perhaps I would try and get a traditional Andean band to play the disco hit with their pan flutes, drums and churangos.  It became my on-going joke with Lara, and then The Ohio Boys, but there never seemed to be a band when we needed one.

I was eating by myself at a restaurant on the Procuradores pedestrian mall near my hostel when I noticed that a trio was going to perform for the patrons.  As the group set up, I asked Roy, the drummer and churango player that didn’t speak much English, if they knew other non-traditional songs.

“[Do you know ‘Y.M.C.A.’?]”

“The Village People?” he said, followed by singing the first two letters.

“[Can you play it?]”

“[No,]” he answered, thinking I was just playing around.

AFTER THE TRADITIONAL ANDEAN TRIO PLAYED a half an hour set, I tipped them two bucks and asked again, “[Do you know ‘Y.M.C.A.’?]”  Carlos the guitarist sang the first three letters and even did the “Y” pose.

“[Can you play it?]” I asked.

“[Tomorrow,]” Marcos the pan flautist butt in.

“[Seriously, tomorrow,]” I said.  “[I will bring many friends.  I will pay.]”

“[Yes, tomorrow.]”

“[Seriously?  What time?]”

Carlos the guitarist checked with the manager.  “[8:30.]”

As the trio left to do another gig at another place, I heard Marcos the flautist starting to try and figure out the notes for the chorus.  Roy the drummer and churango player had the same look on his face at The Two Women With The Llama gave me earlier in the day.

Next entry: The (Andean) Village People

Previous entry: Catch Him If You Can

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Comments for “Two Women, A Llama and The Bird”

  • MOM:  Happy birthday!  I will call on New Years.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  12:04 AM

  • Day 69 FINALLY!!!  Next milestone: Day 169.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  01:39 AM

  • Love how you got the natives to flip the bird..

    you’ll have to video tape the trio playing ymca!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:23 AM

  • haha..when i first saw the picture, i was gonna IM you and ask if they had their her middle finger up !!!

    i read on..and she enough she does. you’re crazy!! hahahha!!!

    (i’m jealous)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:25 AM

  • NEW USERS:  Still having technical difficulties with the other sections of the site… Stay tuned…  Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:37 AM

  • LIZ:  There’s three llamas for you! 

    Interesting tid bit:  Did you know that llamas aren’t indigenous to the Machu Picchu region?  They were transported there, simply for tourism photo opps…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:43 AM

  • damn it.. erik what’s 67 + 2?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  03:21 AM

  • Yippeee!!!!!  Llamas!!  I was so excited when I jumped on your page - and cute ones at that wink LOL - now those women will be running around giving people the bird.
    So since you’re spreading tidbits of info (no I didn’t know that) - where did they llamas come from?
    btw great city pics!

    Posted by Liz  on  12/28  at  08:39 AM

  • erik, the pics are great.
    middle fingers and the number 69 = the best forms of communication.

    -senor putain

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  11:28 AM

  • Erik - apparently there is a House of Snakes (referring to decoration not contents just in case you were worried) north of Plaza des Armas (and I know I’ve gotten the spelling of this wrong) - have you found it?  Is it cool?  Just and idea in case you’re itching for another mission smile

    Posted by Liz  on  12/28  at  12:32 PM

  • LIZ:  Not really itching for a mission… what I accomplished in the next entry satisfied me enough.

    Thanks for the plug for my blog on yours!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:22 PM

  • FRANCIS:  SIXTY NINE! 69 69 69

    “I’m just like any man. I put my pants on one leg at a time—except when I do, I make gold records.  More cow bell!”

    (The Ohio Boys brought this up the other day.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:24 PM

  • nice. 2 great american tradition embedded in the ol’ andean culture. what’s next? maybe you can add some french tradition in the mix too? like the french fries and french kiss?

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  02:31 PM

  • Haha LP, French fries and French kiss…. that’s funnY! - Glad your back

    Day 69 already! Only 89 days until my trip!!! YEAH!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  05:25 PM

  • hey erik! cannot wait to catch up, i’m back in colorado. messed up all the files at robin’s job wink shhh don’t tell her! ha ha

    DTella: the trip was good and peter is a TRIP! smile

    hope all the readers had a good chirstmas and looking forward to a great new years! ... it’s snowing in the Rockies so i know i will

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  05:46 PM

  • NikkiJ - Send that SNOW ova here please….

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/28  at  06:52 PM

  • it IS funny to get the locals to flip the bird. even more humorous to me that they don’t get it or is that just mean? smile

    Markyt… i’ll see what i can do about that snow!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/30  at  03:32 AM

  • Still behind on the BLOGS.  I can’t believe that you made those old women flip the bird.  There’s just something wrong about that!!  It felt like my grandma was doing it!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/05  at  10:05 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
The (Andean) Village People

Previous entry:
Catch Him If You Can


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