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12/04/2011 / ingmarelgrifo

The only ´gringo´ in Espinar

Dark clouds gathering above the basketball ground

Another blog in English for the international crowd, and in order to gain two free hours of private class at Amauta Spanish, Cusco! More picas on FB.

“I´m a poor lonesome cowboy, a long long way from home…” Everyone must know the last words of horseback hero Lucky Luke as he rides away in another sunset. These words actually give a fair description of the feelings one might have riding into Espinar, the capital of the Peruvian province of Espinar, but with the appearance of a one horse desert town that seems to have little to offer. All this might be true, and Espinar is undoubtedly many times poorer and less attractive (to tourism) than Cusco, the city also awarded me with another special Peruvian experience.

Extranjero entre amigos Peruanos!

Not in the least because I was in fact the only foreigner in town, the only pale faced and blue eyed furthermore. Not a tourist in sight (which was a huge relief after two weeks in the Latin American gringo capital Cusco) and all eyes seemed to be on me, people shouting “gringo”, “bébé” (?) and all that. In fact a gril at the fair suggested at my age it was about time to have some hijos (children) and added she was more than willing to have them. Which considering her age would be highly illegal…

Actually gringo is not a nice thing to say to a Dutchman, since it implies that I have the American nationality and ofcourse I´d rather die than… But what the hell was I doing in this southeastern Peruvian coldspot? Simple: I accompanied the basketballteams of Cusco and nereby Urubamba on a trip to a tournament in Espinar. Why? Because that´s what my volunteer work here consists of, yes: lucky me again.

End of the road for this poor battered bus

So we left the hectic city of Cusco on friday afternoon with a busload of youthful and talented basketball players. And you can stop thinking about touring cars and other luxurious stuff; like the mountainbike trip this trip started as we embarked on a public bus. A slightly bigger bus at the slightly bigger interregional bus terminal, but that prooved no guarantee for a prosperous or speedy trip… Within two hours the bus broke down in some tiny village. Not a good prospect if you have a four more hours of road ahead of you. To make matters worse it quickly became obvious (and slowly even more obvious) that the bus could not be prepared to a roadworthy state, which considering the poor state of most provincial roads here, should not be surprising. It was disappointing nonetheless, especially because we learned that a substitute bus would be put on course immediately, but had to come from Cusco and therefore take two hours to reach us.

Taxi for 8? No problema!

Oh well. Not the start we were looking for, but no disaster either. We had a look around town, ate some, drank some, consumed some more and the basketballkids enjoyed themselves with all kinds of computer and card games. The sad thing is the sun disappeared at six, so we were robbed from great views for the rest of the trip. We arrived – after a very bumpy ride, no asphalt for most of the mountainous ride… – around midnight in Espinar. We got ourselves transported by taxi (eight guys in one taxi no problema! But the bottom of the car nearly didn´t make it over the many roadbumps) to Hostel Itala, which is definitely not recommended. And I´m not saying that because the promised Wifi didn´t work…

Cementing the third floor...

To be honest there isn´t a lot about Itala that does work. The toilet in my room was broken and I mean literally broken, the light bulb in the private bathroom went out with a blast, the bed had obviously been slept in (considering the amount of black hair and dirty sheets), and we were without water most of the time because they were constructing the third floor… The latter meant that the hostel was far from waterproof, which we noticed the next day. Nevertheless: a private room was nice. We immediately went out for dinner, which turned out to be a ricey and meaty affair in a very rundown but nice restaurant.

Nelly congratulating the Cusqueños after their win

Next morning I got up with very little sleep (never forget your earplugs in South America!) and we went out for breakfast. Actually it wasn´t as easy as that since nobody seemed to know where we were going or supposed to be… A few misunderstandings about the place for el encuentro (meeting) and/or desayuno (breakfast) later, and a very big but pleasant breakfast, we set course for the local basketballground. There it turned out there was a lot of sunshine (but no shade) and that the boys from Cusco weren´t up to their game yet. They were beaten at it by a youthful local team, which was led – to be fair – by a senior and superior number 10.

Urubamba ruling!

Afterwards the Urubambinos (boys from Urubamba) showed them how to win a game beating first Espinar and later the jungle boys from Puerto Maldonado as well. And with impressive performances I might add! Then Cusco got their revenge against a more senior but less inspired team from Espinar and beat them fair and square. Way to go boys!! All of this left profe (profesora) Nelly very proud and celebrations were in order! No beer allowed on excursion though and besides… a thundering rainstorm cancelled all celebrations and the rest of the tournament as well.

Espinar without electricity but still dry

To be honest: I was just typing away on my blog (read: Facebook) in the internetcafe when the first thunderblows struck and all lights and computers went out. When I asked the guy if he was thinking about restarting he looked puzzled. Then I asked him if there was another internetcafe nearby and he looked even more bewildered and explained to me this meant all electricity was down in the whole city of Espinar… Since it wasn´t raining yet, we head back tot the basketballground. There it did start raining and I mean pouring with rain. But we still had to get the basketballnets down from the ring and since I was the longest human available I was asked to cut them down, while lightning struck elsewhere in Espinar. I felt so brave… (NOT).

Apocalypse dawning on the marketplace...

We ran back to the hostel (no cabs around) in the strangest, darkest weather I remember ever seeing. When we arrived lights were still down and rain was pouring in from the third floor which ofcourse still lacked a roof, so we had to find our slippery way by touch and lighter… When electricity was restored we learned that there were not as many rooms available as last night and we had to move in to one anothers rooms or even beds. A number of chaotic scenes and minutes followed, before the profe decided (praise the lord) we were taking the nightbus back to Cusco. A good thing, especially since there was no bus service on sunday morning. We just had time to consume some pollo a la brasa (chicken) and buy some water. The busride back was a bumpy as the first one, but more scary because every ten minutes we encountered a big truck woth flashlights carrying stones from some quarry (mine), after which the bus usually had to drive backwards for a few meters. Scary, to say the least. But we got back in Cusco inside 5 hours, said our goodbyes and thanks for a great trip!

Cusco squad winning against Espinar

You can find more pictures of the more than legendary bb-trip on Facebook.

In the meantime my buddy Jonas and I arrived in Aguas Calientes (Machu Picchu pueblo). We took a very very bumpy and (because of the daylight?) more scary minibusride from Cusco to Ollaytantambo and got on the train there. The train prooved way more comfortable and unimaginably beautiful, best ride for me ever!! Now were awaiting our tourguide who is gonna explain what we can expect if we go up to Machu Picchu early sunday morning. Needless to say we´re syked (psyched aka really excited) to go up the sacred and (for instance) well preserved Inka site, which was never found by the looting Spanish hordes and in fact only discovered 100 years ago!!!

We are the champions!

Voedselhulp? Nope, gewoon uitladen op de markt in Espinar

Veel kruiden en andere waren

en zelfs poolbiljart op de markt!

Net niet van de vrachtwagen gevallen: meloenen

Espinar - Cusco

Backed by the team

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2 reacties

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  1. Joslyn / Dec 4 2011 11:53 am

    After reading this you just wonder what those guys ant the NBA are complaining about…
    Nice job coach Griff and congratulations on your winnings!

  2. ingmarelgrifo / Dec 6 2011 7:41 pm

    Thanks a lot Joslyn amigo! And you´re right: they´re awesome at their game, up to NBA standards in my book 🙂

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