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We spent most of the next morning having a good look around for a cheaper, better hostel it was like looking for houses asking the price then looking at the room then trying to know them right down on price as we will be staying here for 2 weeks, we eventually found hostel with a kitchen and a private room for 4 pound each per night..grreat I can cook curry!
Cusco (which is Quechuan for Belly Button) has a total of 7 plazas altogether and is one of the continentīs oldest continuously inhabited city. It has so much to offer tourists, massive Inca-built walls lining steep narrow streets, narrow cobblestone roads, no better place to stand still for a couple of weeks and prepare our legs for the mighty Inca Trail to Machu Pichu.
We threw ourselves right into it and headed to visit Qarkancha which was an Ancient Inca Convent, some of the Inca structure is still in place but most of it fell in the earthquake of 1950. The structure of the Inca walls is amazing, each stone hand carved into place to fit into the next perfectly with no space in between them, it reminded me of Egypt and the pyramids because you end up staring at the walls thinking how the hell did they move them perfectly into place.We spend best of 2 hours looking around the site.There is an area of Cusco called San Blas where we walked up and found a great coffee shop which was run by an American guy who gives all his profits to local charities and they offered us the best range of teas and cakes so we made ourselves regulars while we were based here, it was a great place to hang out and chat. On the way back we passed a famous 12 sided stone which is an old Inca brick which has 12 sides.
Trying to fill and pass some time while we are here for 2 weeks hasn't been easy, we made a rule that every time we passed through one of the plazas we would sit for a while and spot some celeb look a likes. On an evening when we passed through the main Plaza there would be touts trying to get us to have a free shot on an evening to get us in their bar but because I was still on antibiotics we refused. Until Saturday night came when I finished my tablets we headed out to try and get drunk for very little using the free shots on offer, we walked round the plaza once, twice and on our third walk round it became clear that there was no freebies on a weekend so we ended up hugging a beer for a couple of hours, we also sat outside a 5* Hotel one day just watching the people come and go trying to imagine how lovely the hotel room must be, its like being a student again! We have spent 2 hours or so in a book swop shop to swop our books once read. Every weekend there is something to celebrate here and both Sundays there has been a festival in the main plaza, where people of all ages dress up and march around it, they all represent different dance schools colleges etc and it is all presented to the mayor and some other officials. What a great atmosphere it is, the bands are playing there is fire crackers going off in the streets and people are singing.
Strengthening our legs we headed up to a hilltop called Saqsaywaman ( Sexywoman called by us gringos) meaning satisfied Falcon in English. There is an Inca site at the very top of the hill which overlooks the whole city, only 20% of the ruins exist to date as the Spanish took most of the stones down to Cusco and built the main cathedral using them, so as beautiful as the cathedral is its a shame the ruins have been messed with. We had a great day exploring the site, sliding down old Inca rocks and scrambling through Inca caves they carved out beneath the ruins. We found a market which we bough all our fruit and veg from also spices to which we made many curries which I am sure nicely scented the clean laundry which was hung out at the same time!
We also found by word of mouth an art museum which was full of children's art, they people that run the museum visit small villages outside of Cusco working with the children who have no schooling, they are give paper and paint and are shown how to use the paintbrush and are left to express themselves, design Peruvian pattern for textile, paint their family etc and 80% of their paintings are shown in the museum, chatting the owner he explained to us that these picture are their imagination they are just given the tools and are left to run free with their ideas hence not art but an expression. We also watched a dvd showing us footage of the volunteers working with the children, it was so sad, some of these children ranging from 3 -14 years old have never seen a mirror before, so when they were given a mirror to look at themselves them they would pain a self portrait. These children have nothing in the way of toys games and yet how happy they are. We gave a donation and were given a lucky stone from their village, I left thinking they needed that stone more than I did!
We took ourselves out of Cusco for a day trip, and caught the local bus to the village of Maras which was a couple of hours away, we visited the Maray Inca Ruin, the bus was cheap and clean and took us through the Sacred Vally which is beautiful, it was quite funny because there was the bus driver and his side kick who would usher people on and off the bus he also had a clocking in card which at various stops had to stamp in a machine, we guessed the had to run to time when we noticed a group of children trying to get off and the driver wouldn't wait for them, so he started driving off whilst they were half off . At the bus stop we had to get a taxi up to the ruin so as expected there was taxis waiting when we got of the bus. I finely negotiated our fare with the driver and got in the taxi, once we were in a family then jumped in too mum and child in the passenger seat and a child in the boot...yes that's right BOOT! They were obviously getting a ride on our fare, we didn't pay any more that we should have so just sat and smirked the whole way. Half way up we stopped outside a woman's house puzzled then a woman comes out with fuel and a funnel/tube to fill his car with petrol...obviously the local petrol station!
Moray is amphitheater-like terracing, there is different levels of concentric terraces carved into a huge earthen bowl, each layer has its own micro climate so it is believed that the Incas were experimenting with growing different crops in different temperatures, so beautifully made.
The weather changed by the end of our second week it started to rain a bit, so we though lets go white water rafting, I have wanted to try this for years and years. We headed to Rio Urubamba with a group of 14 other people, we were given our safety talk and equipment and had a trail on calm water where the instructor got us used to his instructions on haw to paddle and how fast we must obey him or there could be trouble. We then headed down stream where we passed through a total of 8-9 rapids grade 3, it was the most fun thing we got soaking wet and the feeling of not quite knowing if the boat will hit a rock or flip was a real rush, the guides were great fun and we all had a right laugh, then when we finished we all sat in a sauna to warm up. This I will defiantly do again maybe in New Zeland.