Hello. I´m back in civilisation after 4 brilliant days up in the Andean Highlands. I´ll put all about the Inca Trail in a seperate blog and focus this one on my days in Cusco and Ollyantaytambo. As I said before I quite liked Cusco as its a very beautiful place. Our hotel has absolutely fantastic views over the city which I´ll really miss when we set off for Puno tomorrow. Its great, although this time I´ve got to climb a horrific 122 steps to get to my room as its way further up the hill than my room before the Inca Trail.
Cusco isn´t all great though. Being a tourist city its full of conmen trying to rip you off. For instance we attempted to climb up to the giant Christ statue overlooking the city but the main path was blocked by a group of threatening idiots insisting we had to pay 70 soles for the privelage and go for a horse ride. The price was soon down to 20 soles but they had no authority to charge us, and after much deliberation we decided to turn back and head up to the statue the tricky way through the forest. It was worth the scramble for even better views of the city than from our hotel. Another downside of this place is the hordes of street sellers and people trying to flog you massages by waving business cards in your face. It really winds me up, although all street sellers pale in comparison to a 6 year old girl who tried to sell me an alpaca hat. She spoke remarkably good English and followed me for about 200 yards swearing at me, whilst repeatedly kicking my heels and whipping my back with the hat. Then she went off in a strop. This place is also full of dogs and therefore dog muck. The dogs themselves aren´t a problem. Since they´re all strays they pay absolutely no attention to humans. Some of them have even learned to cross the road properly using the green hand.
I visited the Inca Museum to try and learn a bit about the Incas that dominated this region in the 1500s, but everything was in Spanish and it was basically just a load of pots anyway. The next day, after lunch at an English pub (where I´m going back this afternoon to watch the England game) we set off on a 2 hour private bus trip to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and the small village of Ollantaytambo. Saw a couple of interesting things on the way which typify the workings of South America. First of all we were stopped by a group of people running out into a 4 lane road. Once all the traffic stopped we realised what they were doing when they all turned round to catch a massive tree which was being cut down, and they swiftly got it off the road and we were on our way again. Brilliant simplicity without health and safety. Even more amusing was a guy working on a drain in the middle of 60kmph main road. He´d just picked up some small rocks from the side of the road and placed them in a circle around the drain to divert traffic round him onto the pavement. I´d be impressed if he was still alive now!
On arrival at Ollantaytambo we had a short walk round the street system, which is still original Inca design, and went in a local persons house, which was swarming with guinea pigs, considered a delicacy in Peru. I´ve not tried one yet. We climbed up to an Inca site overlooking the village for sunset, which was fun in my flip flops, and then went to a charity run restaurant on the square for some terrible food. I´m getting quite fed up of Peruvian food. They do nice soups but eat so much chicken and rice, and its getting a bit bland. The national dish, beef, chips and rice based loma saltado, is really nice but you can´t have it every day. I hope we get some change in Bolivia next week. Anyway that was our last night in a hotel for 3 nights as the Inca Trail exposed me to the horrors of camping for the first time since the Lake District in April!