Gaining Altitude in Cusco
Trip Start Dec 29, 2008
16Trip End Feb 24, 2009
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These buses are fairly comfortable, with reclining seats and foot rests and there is a (smelly) loo on board, but as you can imagine , we didn´t arrive bright eyed and bushy tailed in Cusco at 5.30am the next morning!The hostel touts all rush up to meet the bleary eyed travellers who stagger off the buses so we just plonked ourselves down in the bus station to wake up and consult The Lonely Planet. One of the touts actually came from a hostel we´d earmarked, and he arranged to ring ahead so that when we arrived at 6am there was someone to open the door and let us in.
Cusco is a busy town, full of visitors gasping their way up and down the cobbled streets and getting used to the higher altitude before setting off to Machu Pichu or doing the famous Inca Trail.The main Plaza is grand and surrounded on all sides by beautiful buildings. Many of these buldings are resting on the foundations of Inca palaces which were demolished by the conquering Spanish. The enormous stones fit together so perfectly and have no mortar to hold them together.
Apparently there were so many palaces because when an Inca King died his mummy lived on in the palace together with all his servants ( alive) and the new Inca king would have to build himself a new palace.... and so it went on. At a special festival once a year the mummified Incas would all be brought out into this square to preside over a feast of drinking and merry making, with the servants all calling out for more booze and women on behalf of their mummified head of house. Well it´s not quite like that today but the streets are still full of merry makers and plenty of places for them to drink.
We were also witness to a big demonstration in the plaza... young , old, smartly dressed and traditionally dressed demonstrators waving banners and followed by the riot police. We were told it was something to do with dissatifaction with the government and broken promises of financial help to the country people.
We spent three days in Cusco and wandered up above the town , and along rthe streets, and found good places to eat. Our favourite breakfast was cinnamon porridge and fresh fruit with yoghurt on a little balcony overlooking the street.
People watching was very rewarding ! The ladies in traditional costume with llama trailing along behind them accosted tourists under our balcony and we were amused to see the ladies taking charge of the cameras while the tourists posed with arms around the neck of the long suffering llama.We also had a great time in a market buying hats for blue-ginger, and looking at the piles of fruit and the amazing collection of potatoes. Excuse my understanding of Spanish numbers but I think one old lady selling potatoes told us there were 3,000 varieties of potato in Peru ( or was it 300?)
In addtion to bars, restaurants and shops there are also many trekking agencies in Cusco, because this is after all the place people go to before they set off on a trek.Oh no.... I hear my sister groan..... you didn´t. Hmmm , well this is how it happened:
The Inca Trail itself is fully booked months in advance anyway, and is very expensive, so that wasn´t an option. "Are you ready for another little trek?" asked Lisa. So we went into a trekking agency and made enquiries aboiut an easy trek, saying we´d found Colca Canyon rather a challenge, especially for me.
So we were sold an EASY trek of 4 nights and 5 days. The most difficult day would be day 2 when we would go through the Salkantay Pass at over 4,000 metres, but then it would be all downhill and through tropical jungle and to hot springs and day 5 would be at Macchu Pichu, and then we would get the train back to Cusco.EASY.
We were delayed setting off by an extra day because of the ´mobilisation´- the result of the demonstration we´d witnessed in the Plaza. All roads were blocked by the country people with trees and rocks and no one could leave Cusco. From what we could understand they´d been promised tractors and equipment for far farming, but nothing had been forthcoming from the government.
Dear reader... if you are of a nervous disposition and like me , have a fear of heights and rushing water, you may want to skip my next blog !