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PERU | Wednesday, 8 October 2008 | Views [1119] | Comments [1]

Cusco is a really special place, for lots of reasons. We just wandered around for the first day, trying to get used to the altitude. At 3400m it´s pretty high here, and as our hostel (which is lovely and cheap, my favourite combination!) can only be reached by climbing giant steps, we have been getting our practice in.

Firstly the architecture is amazing here. The invading Spanish basically built all their main buildings such as churches and the like on top of the major Inca temples, so there are lots of buildings which still have the original inca foundations and walls, down to the images of the Sun and the Llama on the actual stone chacas (kind of like blocks or bricks) The Chacas never had any cement of anything added to them and allegedly the massive stones were all cut to shape using water, but the ability to do died with the Incas.

It´s a place with a lot of spiritualty - shamanism, catholicism and throwbacks to the pantheism of the incas are all sort of intertwined and somehow compatible. It´s also totally full of gringos and very touristy. Joe, a friend had recommended we visit Paddy O´Flahertys, the irish owned pub at the highest altitude in the world (supposedely there must be a higher Irish pub owned by French people somewhere!). Apparantley it´s great craic! So on we went for a few drinks, me slightly sheepishly I always think there is something a bit wrong about going to Irish pubs...

Well, Joe was right - the criac was might and we ended up meeting a lovely couple, Kirsty from Oz and John from Ireland. So we engaged fully in the nocturnal, alcohol based activities that Cusco has to offer. At one point, on going into a disco we had 10 touts all bargaining with each other to get us in. I think we ended up with 10 free drinks on teh way in. How they make money I have no idea.

There is also a bewildering array of "stuff" going on. Treks, mountain biking, jungle trips, river rafting, ruin visits, spas, massages, Handicraft markets, people dressed as Incas, people just dressed as themselves ... you name it someone in Cusco is selling it and hoiking toursis in. We also needed to decide what to do.

Once again the nice people in South American Explorers gave us some great advice and we decided that Claire would be better off doing some spanish classes sooner rather than later and I would take the opportunity to do some trekkking or biking. So that all had to be organised. Then we decided that a trip to the jungle would be cool too. But of course everything was at the same time so I had to shop around for a trek that came back before we have to leave for the jungle, so actually it was all very busy organising stuff. And having some great meals although we´re gonna hold off on the guinea pig for a few days yet.

So Claire went off to do her spanish course, and is doing the deep immersion therapy 5 days of classes and staying with a family. But I´m sure she´ll write about that herself.

So i´ve been left to my own devices before the trek starts tomorrow. As John and Kirsty were in a different Hostel I changed and went up there. I decided to walk it with the big bag rather than get a taxi. A decision I very soon regretted. It was way worse than getting to our nice cheap one. And it was a monster of a hostel. 190 beds. Of which 13 were in my room. I wasnt a fan already. Locked my stuff in a box under the bed (number 13, and the only one in the room that wasnt a bunk) and went wandering. Saw the shop with the most blankets I have ever seen and had to buy one. Another potential regret as it´s lovely and soft but bloody big and heavy. May be posting that one back from somewhere at some stage.

The guys had suggested a theatre show later and I said why not, despite not really understanding what it was.  John and Kirsty´s description was limited to well it´s kind of a bit of music and a story of the incas and maybe a bit of magic aswell.

Actually it was an amazingly professionally depicted story of the andes from pre inca through to modern times and shown through performance dance, music and a fair amount of crazy acrobatics. It was really really good and while I can´t say I now understand the intricacies of incan culture I do understand a wee but more about their gods, the condor, the mountains, pachamama (mother earth).

Wandered back to the hostel afterwards and there were a good 150 people in the bar, living it up. I declined further debauchery and tried to get an early night. First time in a bog dorm in about 10 years I wonder how this was going to go. I inserted ear plus, covered eyes ith mask and read under my covers by torch until ... I went to sleep. Great I said until mick and paddy from Tullamore poured themselves into their bunks at about 3 am and then had a shouting match at 6 am over who was drunker. Couldnt get back to sleep with peoples rustlings and stomping.

I checked out almost immediately and went staright back to the original hostel. Would I like to stay in a dorm? No thanks!

I think the issue was that I sent stright from near hotel style stright into the heart of hostel darkness without even attempting some form of acclimatisation. Like with the altitude.

back in the style to which i have clearly become accumtoned, I went on a wander up to Saqsaywaman (the names of things are cool too!), an inca ruin a 30 minute stroll from town (if it was flat it would only take 5 minutes!). Rather than shell out $16 to go on to the ruin itself, I went for the $4 option of a horse ride around some of the smaller ruins, the temple of the moon and a sort of inca quarry. Choice of shorts and sandals very quickly regretted as the heavens opened and I got totally saturated. Now the proud owner of a heavy duty plastic poncho.

As I was wandering around the temple of the moon, i was a bit disappointed to see a couple of other gringos, but hey, so was I here so i just kinda wandered past them trying not to listen to their guide´s talk. (My "guide" was 14 and not exaclty endowed with a vast knowledge of the history ogf the significance of the place, but he did ok to be fair to him)

I glanced back over to the gringos having passed them out and one of them starting waving at me. Must be someone behind me. Nope - no-one there. I had a closer look. Completely unbelievably it was Denise, who I had starting working for Deloitte with about 7 years ago.

I already knew it really is a small world but I wasn´t expecting that. To meet a former colleague I havent seen in quite a while at the very little known temple of the moon, 3 or 4 miles out of Cusco. Thats what its all about i guess. Keyboard seems suddenly to have lost the ability to create apostrophes and exclamation marks. Just when I needed them too. 

So perhaps to a Peruvian cooking class this evening that Claire´s school is running. And mountain biking and hiking for the next 3 days. And then the jungle for a week... How could there be a complaint about thatªª BTW ª is what I get instead of an exclamation mark.

Hopefully Ill get time to describe the trek before we head off again.

Tags: cusco, disco, horse riding, inca ruins, irish pub, theatre




Hi there trekkers
delighted to read of your travels. keep them flying!! i'm sure it is of no interest but Munster and Leinster won their first matches in heineken Cup!! Thaqt sounds bizarre where you are - I know I know!! Love to you both

  Jack Oct 12, 2008 7:43 AM

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