Lost in Cuzco

Lost in Cuzco

During my first day in Peru last August, my mushy brain and I kept stumbling over simple questions. I had started at sea level 20 hours before, endured a cheap-flight marathon through five airports, and crashed in a hotel room at Cuzco’s oxygen-starved 11,000 feet. Altitude sickness mixed with jet lag: the greatest sleep aid known to man.

After resting most of the day, though, I felt up to a short stroll around the block to keep alive my streak of getting 10,000 steps a day.

I’m not known for my navigational abilities, and I joked to my husband before I stepped out on my own that if I take four lefts, I couldn’t possibly get lost, right?

First street, left. Second street, left. On the third street, a little half-street didn’t seem quite right, so I walked on before turning. After my final turn, nothing looked familiar, so I walked in the other direction.

I’m not known for my Spanish abilities either, but before I got hopelessly lost I decided to ask for directions.

I summoned up the courage to ask a street vendor, “¿Dónde está el Hotel Prisma?”

She scrunched up her face in confusion. My accent must have been way off.

“¿Dónde está el Hotel Prisma?” I repeated, louder.

She still looked confused. “¿Hotel Prisma?”

“Sí,” I said. Look at me, having a whole conversation in Spanish.

She pointed to the building behind me. She must want me to ask in there, I figured.

“Gracias,” I said and turned.

I crossed the threshold before I realized I was entering my own hotel.

It must have been the altitude.

Although exhausted, I waited until 6 p.m. before going to bed for the night. I set the hotel alarm for 8:30 and sunk into oblivion.

The alarm sounded, and I complained to my husband that it felt like I had hardly slept, that I could sleep on for hours.

“Ya think?” he said. His teasing-me smirk was all over his face, but I still didn’t get it. He pointed to the pitch-black night outside the window.

Ah, it was 8:30 p.m., not 8:30 a.m.

Like I said, the altitude.

I sank back into sleep with 12 hours stretched out before me. The hotel’s thin walls shared every conversation, barking dog, and slamming door. Still, I slept on, waking frequently and falling back to sleep.

When a shrieking woman woke me at 1 a.m., though, enough was enough. Was she fighting? Did she just get engaged? I couldn’t tell through the cobwebs of sleep.

I cracked the door open. “Miss,” I said into the darkness, “could you please try to keep it down?”

A man replied, “There’s a rat in our room.”



“Can I help?” I said.

“We called reception.”

“OK, sorry.”

I got back into bed and listened to the drama unfold for the next hour.

The woman occasionally let out more shrieks, followed by “Sorry, sorry.” I heard violent bangs and pictured the night clerk bashing at the rat with a broom handle.

Eventually, I drifted back to sleep, still interrupted by barking dogs and now the probably imagined scurrying of a terrified rat that had taken refuge in my room.

I slept on, dreaming of a place without rats, where four lefts are always right.

Related post: Hiking the Inca Trail

About Marcy

I blog about trying to get out of my comfort zone, completing 101 things in 1001 days (and beyond), and writing my memoirs. My book: Timid No More.
This entry was posted in Scene from a Memoir, Travel and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Lost in Cuzco

  1. And then you said “if I take four lefts, I couldn’t possibly get lost, right?” I laughed out loud. Yeah, right! I can get lost between the bathroom and the kitchen in my OWN house. For the geographically-challenged, logic has nothing to do with getting lost 🙂 On the up side, we do get used to being lost and deal with it better than other people. We know, from experience, we will eventually get back home. Now the rat — THAT would freak me out.
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  2. Abby says:

    Lost in Peru. There’s an adventure! Now that I think of it, it could’ve been much worse. Still, rats? The yucky side of adventure. I would SO be shrieking too.

  3. Peter says:

    really, a rat on the hotel room? i couldn’t picture myself if I could fall asleep that way… especially because my wife would force me to seek and destroy it:)
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  4. TDashfield says:

    WOW! What a great story. And the hotel was right behind you lol. I almost made it to Peru with my sister but chickened out. Hi from Sharefest

  5. Talk about an adventure! I found the same thing after such a long flight – I think I slept for fifteen straight hours.
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  6. Reading this left me feeling tired and disoriented. So glad you didn’t get lost. So wish you hadn’t mentioned the thing about rats.
    that cynking feeling recently posted..Wait until yesterdayMy Profile

    • Marcy says:

      I really dread long flights and that awful feeling. My longest flight was to Thailand, and I came back only a day before returning to work–I was a mess for over a week. Peru was the same time zone, so it was mainly our never-ending flights that did us in.
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  7. I had a bat in my room in Costa Rica. Oh! And frogs in the drain at the really low rent place I stayed at after that. Thank goodness there wasn’t a rat — yikes!
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  8. Aisha says:

    What a perfect excuse! I’m not rowdy at 1am in hotels, but I’ve got a really big family and most of them will love that rat excuse! Thanks for a great post!
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  9. Jen says:

    Oh no! A rat? I’ve had a cockroach in my room in Costa Rica and that was bad enough. I can’t imagine a rat.
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    • Marcy says:

      Ewww! My boys found a scorpion hiding in their dirty clothes on the floor in Morocco. I guess that was the worst of the worst for me. I burst out crying after my husband crushed it (some culture shock and other ailments were going on at the time).

  10. Rachel says:

    Haha, I’ve definitely woken up after only a few hours of sleep wondering why the night seemed so fast…I’ve also done the opposite, wondering who turned on the lights in the middle of the night, only to wake up and realize it’s the sun. :/
    Rachel recently posted..Saltiest Day 2.0My Profile

  11. Rob says:

    Marcy, This is so funny! Even the worst jet lag and altitude sickness would not let me fall asleep knowing that rats roamed freely in the hotel 🙂
    Rob recently posted..Music – The Universal LanguageMy Profile

  12. Karen says:

    Marcy, I love your posts. They always make me long for travel and adventure – not for rats or scorpions though – never for those.

    It’s hilarious that you asked for directions to your hotel when you were standing right in front of it.

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  14. So glad I found your site! I absolutely love your travel posts. Fantastic! This story is why I don’t go out into new cities on my own. I at least must have a map. Because I get lost at the mall! Looking forward to the rest of your Peru posts!
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