Planet Hiker
2005-01-01 New Year's Eve in Cusco, Peru

There was still and hour and a half left before midnight yet Plaza De Armas was illuminated by the firecrackers that were being continuously shot in the air. Watching them fly up in streaks of bright colors was a lot of fun, but the sounds bombs I just could not get used to. Even if I were to notice that someone is lighting one up, the plaza was too crowded to jump out of the way.

Since I did not know anyone in town to spend the New Year's Eve with, I decided to just walk around till I get tired. All of a sudden, some guy jumps up to me, introduces himself as Orlando and proposes that we walk around together. Apparently, he also did not know anyone in town and given the time of year, the idea of walking around with a stranger was less ridiculous than walking around alone. Since he did now come off gay, I agreed.

It turned out that he was from Columbia and was spending a short vacation here in Cusco. As the conversation progressed, I learned that he is a chemical engineer and that he is working on developing environmentally friendly materials. We were hitting more and more intriguing topics but at some point, it became too difficult to hear each other as there were so many detonations, that it felt like a single continuous giant explosion. Gradually, the night turned into day as thousands of pyrotechnics shot up into air. Somewhere in the distance the official fireworks were being displayed, but they were barely differentiable against the lightshow that was all around us. Sparkles of red, green, yellow, and blue saturated every inch of the airspace and we were smack in the middle of it.

And just when I though that things could not get any wilder, a group of partial nudists, wearing yellow underwears, ran past us, pushing their way through the crowd. Orlando was quick to explain to me that it's a local tradition to wear a yellow underwear over the pants and run around the plaza 3 times to bring good luck in the new year. He then added that it works even if you don't have a yellow underwear. Normally, I am not big on doing silly things for the sake of tradition. But, starting a new year with some exercise sounded like a good idea, so we joined the river of moving bodies, trying to match its speed in order not to get trampled over.

At the end of our third lap, we sat on the curb of the street and not 3 minutes passed by when 3 beautiful women approached us. "See, I told you it works!" exclaimed Orlando. Of course, there were 3 of them and only 2 of us, which normally spells trouble. But one of them was falling over drunk, balancing out the equation just right. Being proper gentlemen, we invited them to join our curb and proceeded to entertain them with jocks and stories I no longer recall.

Soon, we all agreed that it just wouldn’t be right to spend this night without dancing. Thus, Ofelia and I drove the drunken girl, Elser, home and then met up with Julia and Orlando in a dance club, where we danced till the sunrise.

This is out curb! Elser, me, Ofelia and Julia:

And here is Orlando himself: