a brave new world in cusco, peru: high-tech local handicrafts and the ghost of an incan warrior


After the spectacular day I had in Machu Picchu and a night of guinea pig tasting, the next day was a free day in Cusco. I had heard that among the best things to do with some free time in the city is to take a comprehensive city tour of all of the important Incan sites in the area. So, on a sunny afternoon, my LA travel buddy and I decided that we would take an afternoon excursion, traveling back hundreds of years to witness the glory of the Incan Empire before the Spaniards brought destruction and disease, ending the once glorious civilization.

Among the many sites: Korichanca, Q’enqo, Pukapukara, and Tambomachay, was one that, to the ears of native English speakers, sounds hilarious. As the Spanish-speaking guide gave her assertive commentary, she stated, “Spanish-word-Spanish-verb-Spanish-word-Spanish-word-sexy-woman-Spanish-word-Spanish-word.” Sexy woman? What kind of tour was this? This was one of the few things that made my LA travel buddy put down his faux-Dan Brown novel that he was laboring through throughout the trip. As it turns out, Sexy Woman is actually Sacsauhuaman, an extremely important Incan site. She did not disappoint.

As we were in transit between two of the archaeological sites, the bus made its way down a tree-lined country road, not a building in site. At that moment, I noticed a Peruvian guy, probably in his 20s, along the side of the road and thought it was a strange and desolate place to try to hitch a ride. As luck would have it for him, the bus slowed down, and we picked him up.

What I thought was just a hitchhiker making his way to the next town turned out to be much more – a brave new world in Cusco. This 20-something Peruvian was trying to sell the passengers a local handicraft, but not just any. This handicraft was of the high-tech variety.

As he boarded the bus, he took out a 17-inch PC laptop and booted it up. After we heard the familiar Windows XP boot-up sound [part of the Esperanto for PC users], he grabbed the microphone from the tour guide and began in broken English, then Spanish, then broken English, etc.

His name was John [not Juan, but John] and he was selling interactive DVDs of Cusco, Machu Picchu, the Incan Empire, etc. From what I could gather from his quick delivery, this interactive DVD was part of a university project he was a part of, and he was selling the DVDs as a result.

Holding up his laptop, John showed the passengers the 3D interactive reconstruction of Machu Picchu, where you could navigate around the site like a video game. The DVD also contained thousands of amazing photographs of important Incan sites, and an interactive map that could be clicked on to then reveal more in-depth information about a particular site.

The DVD also contained re-enactments of Incan rituals, and at one point John became very animated when he was talking about an Incan warrior being shown on the laptop screen. As luck would have it, just at that moment I snapped a photo. The photo looks more like John was scared by the ghost of an Incan warrior that had somehow shown up in Windows XP to come back to the twenty-first century and reclaim former Incan lands [starting with Sexy Woman].

John sold some of the two-DVD set for 25 soles [approximately US$10.] to interested passengers and when he was done, the bus stopped, again in the middle of nowhere, and dropped him off again on the edge of the road.

What ever happened to the simple weaved bracelet or the Alpaca scarf? Apparently the Peruvian locals have entered the brave new world of high-tech local handicrafts. I should have told John that Windows 7 is much more stable, and even the ghost of the Incan warrior might like it better.