This is not a resort. No one is here to provide you with luxuries, much less necessities. The streets are not being tidied for you. There is no careful curation of what one sees; the ugly bits hidden away or avoided entirely. This is very real and very unapologetic. The tiny taxi - an entrepreneur with a car and some stickers - drives us to our hospedaje past even tinier Andean women and their small children setting up daily wares in slop-filled rail-way tracks as stray dogs munch casually on piles of trash. A man crosses dangerously in front of the fray of traffic with a whole cow carcass, larger than he, slung over his shoulders; a true back-packer. Cusco smells of meat and smoke and cobblestone dust. And just a tiny bit of shit. This is not a resort. This is the beginning of the dirty road.
It is easy to be discomforted by this alternative way of living. We both admit to the temptation. Why does our room have no windows? Why is "agua caliente" a euphemism for "cold as tits shower"? Why are so many children selling plastic figurines and toilet paper on the corners? But to judge is to be on the outside looking in. To experience fully is to really enjoy what travel has to offer. The scent of Cusco isn't a bad one - it's just different. The children are gorgeous; rosy cheeked from the high altitude sun and full of life. The women who watch them (or don't) are resplendent in long ruffled frocks, colourful printed shawls, two long braids tied together like a hoop behind their backs and topped with handsome fedoras (that no man should ever try to pull off). If you frown upon the piles of mismatched fruit on the corner you might miss the best fresh juice of your life. If you chose to visit one of the unfortunate gringo-magnet establishments - f$%k you Starbucks - you'll be missing out on something new and an opportunity to observe more sides of a different world. Who knew our favourite meal would be a simple breakfast each morning in San Pedro market? A smiling girl would prepare us a bun with huevo, palta, tomate, and a café con leche for the equivalent of $2. We'd sit on the little bench in front of her booth at a folding table snug next to a family of four and watch the market come alive for New Year's Eve. We could let the dirt floor bother us or we could accept it and keep our eyes up, ready to soak in whatever this city could throw our way.
And so we did. New Year's festivities are of massive importance to the locals of Cusco as well as the tourists from Peru and abroad who flock here to take part. If you adorn yourself in yellow you will prosper in 2015. If you wear yellow underwear you will be even more prosperous in 2015. And as two young Uruguayan men told us at 11:58 pm; if you kiss someone at midnight while wearing yellow you will be invincible in 2015. At 11pm the Plaza De Armas is a tulip field of yellow. Little children are still awake and setting off roman candles three times their height as adults shake bottles of cheap sparkling wine into the crowd. In anticipation of the great fireworks at midnight, the locals' homemade fire crackers go off at your feet adding to the excitement. Suddenly it's quite maybe possibly January 1st - the clock on your phone is the new ball drop - and different pockets of the square cheer at different moments. A split second later and the Spanish colonial stone around us is lit with a bang from above as stranger embraces stranger. Tradition insists the revellers must run counter clock-wise around the square en masse and after a lap as the crowd finally slows the "selfies" begin and with it a new game of "how many can I photo-bomb?" Someone has drawn glasses on a stray mutt. Everyone is beaming, no one speaks the same language, and no one cares. Tonight is the beginning of a very good year.
What is Dirty Roads?
We are two girls, dedicated to an elevated travel lifestyle. We trek the Earth with camera and pen in hand to document an experience. We believe in respecting the land and the indigenous cultures we encounter, tasting authentic and delicious handmade foods, challenging our world views, seeking incredible beauty, and above all going beyond our nerves. Travel is not travel without a dusty face.