The completion of four days hiking on the amazing Inca Trail from Cuzco to Machu Picchu was being celebrated with lunch at a restaurant down the mountain in Aguas Calientes. I was on a high, having finally seen the famous Incan ruins with my own eyes! In fact, the whole trail had been a magnificent hiking experience and one that I would recommend to anyone that enjoys a walk in mountainous terrain.
I had managed to convince myself that my ability to speak Spanish was adequate enough to order lunch for my husband and me. This was in spite of the fact that prior to embarking on the Inca Trail, I had already tried using my best Spanish to book another night at the hotel in Cuzco for our return, only to be met with blank stares. A fellow guest came up to me, laid her hand on my arm and asked, “What is it you are trying to ask, dear?” I explained the situation to her and she approached the reception staff and said in very loud, slow (American) ENGLISH that the Australian woman wanted to book another night. They understood her. Clearly my Spanish wasn’t so hot!
But I digress. Back to the restaurant in Aguas Calientes. I happily ordered the fish meal and pineapple juice for both of us ….. or so I thought. I looked over to our hiking guide and she was shaking her head rather vigorously. The waitress was looking somewhat bemused. I replayed my order in my head. What could I have possibly said or done that would cause such a reaction? As you could imagine, I turned fifty shades of red when I realized my error. A language blooper of monumental proportions! I had ordered, and I still cringe with embarrassment when I think about this, “jugos de niñas” rather than “jugos de piñas” – “juice of girls” rather than “juice of pineapples”. I spared my husband from the excruciating details and waited until we were hundreds of kilometres away in Puno before I elaborated.
I’m sure they are still telling the story in Aguas Calientes, so I thought I might as well share it with fellow travellers. The truth is, I have enjoyed telling this story to friends, as embarrassing as it is, because it always gets a laugh and, even better, it encourages people to share their own embarrassing moments.