I haven’t been in Cusco long, but already some interesting quirks are making themselves known. Life in a new place always comes with associated learning curves and surprises (like in this post from November 2012 about settling into Puerto Varas, Chile; and this one about the inverted seasons; and this one and this one about acclimating to Valparaiso), so it should come as no surprise that Cusco has it’s own learning curve.
The first thing that stood out about Cusco really jolted me. No really, it did. Because I electrocuted myself. IN THE SHOWER.
How is this possible, one might ask? I certainly didn’t get into the bathtub with a lightning bolt, nor do I consider myself a risk taker with electrical currents. It happened during my celebratory first shower on our first day (first HOUR) in Cusco. After that 22 hour bus ride, I was more than ready for a hopefully hot shower.
Once inside the thankfully warm shower stream, I looked up at the shower head and noticed there was a sort of lever that looked like it could control the water stream. It was coming out pretty weak, so I thought, hey, we need industrial grade water stream if possible, folks.
I tried moving the lever but it was sort of loose. So I grabbed the shower head, to steady it against my water-stream-adjustment.
Turns out, Cusco (at least the shower heads I’ve seen so far — certainly every apartment we visited during the house hunt had them) uses electric shower heads. Instead of an external water heater system (in Lima and Valparaiso, it was gas), the shower head itself heats the water as it comes out.
Awesome. Does anybody else feel like this is an extremely bad idea? I mean, I know the gas system has its own risks and dangers. Probably water heaters too. But for F’s sake — this seems like we’re tempting fate just a little too much here.
But hey. If all of Cusco does it, it must be fine, right? Probably nobody has died. Probably.
There’s just one simple rule in bathing in Cusco, from here on out.
DON’T FREAKING TOUCH THE SHOWER HEAD WHEN ITS ON. FOR GOD’S SAKE.
The next quirk became readily apparent the very first night we moved into our apartment. Late that night, we noticed that a very unsavory smell wafting from the bathroom. We figured it was perhaps a problem with the toilet, and resolved to inform our landlord about it.
Then we noticed that when you turned the faucets on, nothing happened.
And then we noticed this again the next morning. And then the next afternoon. And again during the next night.
In fact, all of Saturday, we had water for about 4 hours of our waking day. (We did hear the water pipes shudder to life soon after we went to bed, around 2 AM. “WATER’S BACK. Just in time to not use it!”)
This was disconcerting. We asked the landlady why this was — she said it was normal, that the water was cut most every day, but only for a few hours at a time and then it came back. It was for water saving practices, since there’s either a shortage or global warming or all the tourists. We didn’t get a clear answer.
Indeed, the water does disappear everyday. It tends to be available in the morning, goes away around noon, and then comes back again (maybe) in the late afternoon, and then sometimes at night. We’re still gathering data to form a chart about WHEN we can expect the water to be there. This can become a problem when one has to, you know, bathe for work. Or wash the dishes in order to eat something.
Upon move-in, we noticed lots of containers of water laying around. Not the drinkable water you buy at the stores, but just plastic jugs full of tap water. It confounded us, to say the least, but now we get it — helpful tactics for when the water disappears and you need to flush a toilet or wash a dish.
And this explains the unsavory smell as well. We’ve noticed it again, and it happens when the water’s been turned off for several hours. Without the running water, shit starts to get funky.
Acclimating to the rhythm of Cusco is an ongoing adventure. More time will tell what further surprises await us! And don’t worry, I’ll blog all about it.
Editor’s Note: I found an excellent blog recently written by a woman living a lifestyle similar to mine. She just moved away from Cusco after being here 5 months, and she blogged about surprises in Cusco as well, which had me nodding in agreement after less than a week here.