Trip Start Apr 18, 2010
100Trip End Dec 20, 2010
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Where I stayed
Bugger. Just as I was getting the hang of the Spanish essentials along comes another language for me to completely fuck up.
This is the reason I skipped through Colombia and Ecuador quite quickly, I wanted to get to Peru because these cultures interest me and I like looking at broken shit and Peru has lots of broken shit, a lot of which pre-dates the Inca Empire. Oh, and "Inca Empire" was what it was called once the Spanish rocked up, the Incas themselves called their empire the Tawantinsuyu.
Cusco itself was said to be founded by the first Inka (meaning ruler, the K was changed to a C with the arrival of the Spanish), Manko Qhapaq, who came out of Lake Titicaca and was given a golden staff by the Sun God, Inti, who told him to found the empire where ever the staff sunk completely into the ground. This site happened to be where Cusco stands today and so the empire was born, grew, was conquered by the Spanish and is now packaged and marketed so perfectly that every damn thing is out of my price range.
Yep, Cusco is a gorgeous place with plenty to see and do, just be prepared to scare the living crap out of your bank account.
On account of the fact that Cusco is around 3300 masl you're meant to take a couple of days to acclimatise, get used to the thinner air, drink some mate de coca (coca leaf tea) and just generally chill out while your lungs adjust to the new air quality so me and Chris, a fella in my room, went to look at an Incan wall because how strenuous can looking at a wall be?
There's a couple of original walls in Cusco built by the Incas that the Spanish built on top of and
You find it and marvel and take photos and a quick reality check later you realise you're staring wide eyed and slack jawed at a big brick. I gotta admit, masonry generally doesn't get me wet but like the relentless tourist I am I still posed for the photo.
Of course you'll find locals stood next to it selling postcards and souvenirs, shouting "Don't touch the stone!" if you get too close and giving you tidbits of information whether you ask for it or not and expecting a tip in return. I recommend you carry a pocketful of S./1 coins when out and about in Cusco, you'll be charged every time you ask a stall holder or a local for a photograph or if you ask for information. Photography can start getting pricey, especially when a group of kids in traditional dress all jump in for a photo and want a sol each. Sneaky buggers. They're learning young but hey, at least they're trying to earn their pennies instead of just beating you up for your spare change and a packet of crisps like they do in the UK, and to be a fair a sol is fuck all. By the end of the day you find yourself taking surreptitious snaps of locals from the back or when they're not paying attention. Stalker? Me? What?
Anyway once we'd got our fill of wall and crammed our brains with as much wall related knowledge as a brain can take (and notice the smaller stones at the bottom of the wall and how the wall, like most Incan walls, slopes inwards, both techniques for withstanding earthquakes. Hey I paid a sol for that information, I'll be repeating it for free as much as I can) we flicked through the Lonely Bible to find something that was a) open on Sundays, b) didn't require an overpriced boleto turístico which Chris didn't want to get and c) wasn't a church or a museum.
So we decided to walk up to the Cristo Blanco, the white statue of Christ on a hill overlooking Cusco. Yes. Up. On our first full day at altitude. Clearly breathing is overrated.
We climbed up the millions of steps to get to the statue before collapsing at the top to admire the view which was none too shabby.
The Cristo Blanco isn't anything to get Rio De Janeiro worried though, he looks a bit out of it, either the altitude was getting to him or Big J was a different kinda high.