Haphazard Travels, Tribulations, and Triumphs
Well for the first and only time this trip, that damn graphic of Machu Picchu (henceforth known as MP) is accurate! Incan ruins, Through the Looking Glass train rides, nd Salsa Dancing! All in this update! (appreciative gasp) But first, I need to retrace my steps to where I left off. So on Tuesday the 5th I got up early, which was easy because the smog kicked the crap out of my throat. Oh sorry, being interrupted by the march going on outisde right now. A band from Bolivia is here. I could hear them over 5 km away, now they are right here and my body is vibrating and the ''fireworks'' they set of are like large mortars. Okay, back again. And on task. Took a cheap bus to Urubamba about 2 hours away from Cusco in the Sacred Valley. Only me and one other foreigner on it, then another small bus from Urubamba to Ollantaytambo where we were joined by two nice brits, Jeff and Chris with whom I had brekkie and then went and explored the ruins at Ollanytaytambo with. OT was the site of one of the few defeats of the Spanish by the Incans and it is easy to see why. Think a series of terraces and steep stairs which are perfectly visble and vulnerable to the walls over 3-400 feet above. Once you climb to the top there is also a ceremonial centre and a temple for the worship of the sun that was never completed. Just as interesting was the still working hydraylic system carved into the side of the mountain used for ceremonial baths. The Incans knew thing or two about stone, that's for sure. I had sunblock on, but obviously didn't do my neck enough and now have a massive redneck. (Start PG jokes here.) Jeff and Chris moved on after a late lunch and I hung around OT for the night. The train tickets (Aguis Calienties is only accesible by train) have gone way up in recent years. It cost me almost 90 USD to get a ticket from OT to AC and from AC back to Cusco. I did get out exploring and tried to ind a vaguely described Incan quarry up the valley. After seeing nothing but literally four locals, their children, and mules, I eventually gave up. But I did get some nice views of the valley! The next morning it was up early and to the train station to Aguis Calienties. It's amazing, in the space of maybe 20 minutes of train travel (in a two hour trip) you go from arid to rainforest environment. Aguis Calienties and I had a bad relationship. Everything is over-priced (think Whistler, this place is a peruvian Whistler) the locals, despite being completely dependant on tourism, take it for granted (which I guess you can do when you live at the base of MP). Hot water was a loose definition. Water cost 5 soles compared to one or two elsewhere. I even had one guy make fun of me behind my back like it was highschool or something! I really wish I had an elegant burn in Spanish, but unfortunately, I only knew enough to know he was making derogritory comments about me (well, my accent to be specific.) (Plus, I could see his shadow... the moron.) Anyways, gorgeous town with mountains rising virtually straight up all around, but crappy people. I decided to climb Putuchusi mountain that day because I had a few hours to kill and I needed OUT! Putuchasi looks across to MP. The climb was... intense. Probably the hardest I have ever done. Mainly because I was an absolute idiot and grossly underestimated my water needs in a tropical climb. The climb also involves several ladder sections, one which is over 500 metres vertical. At the top, you look down to MP. I was the only one up there which was nice. Except o course the bugs. I have some intersting bites with some ''interesting'' reactions to them. They seem to be going down now though. The bright side of that hike is that it convinced me to take the bus the next morning instead o climbing MP like a lot of people do. I'm glad I opted for the bus route. I was on the first bus and arrived before the gates the opened. The only guys ahead of me where 5 fellows who had spent 2 hours hiking. They did not look impressed. Entering MP I had heard you had to check your backpacks, but no-one was there to take it and I didn't want to waste time (first buses arrive 6 am, next buses hal past 7) so I just carried my pack in. It was amazing. I won't even try to describe MP in detail, but I had fairly good weather with the sun showing through and virtually no-one there for the first bit. It's a very impressive and picturesque site. By 7 am I had gone through the ceremonial half of the site (not actually that big compared with the more functional side.) Anyways, I foud myself beside the gate to climb up above to Huanapicchu and Waynapicchu. The gate had literlly justopened, and he sun was coming out, so I decided to go for it. This time I was glad I had my full backpack with the over 2 litres of water I was packing. I made excellent time and had the top of Waynapicchu shared between me and three others for a full 30 mins before everyone else started showing up. It was gorgeous 360 degree views. Waynapicchu is actually another Incan ruin built way above MP. It is crazy, the stairs and ledges are all literally you-fall, you-die and yet they built them! (And thousands of tourists come up each year too.) While we were up there, a condor circled past us several times. Then I went down, worked my way through the other part of the complex, including crawling through some cave areas, which, incidentally, I also had to do to get to Waynapicchu. I also hung out for a bit and did another short hike over to the Incan bridge which was a bit of a dissapointment. I was picturing a suspension bridge. What it really was a pile of rocks piled very very high along a sheer cliff forming a path along this cliff with a woof part in the deepest section being the bridge. We couldn't go too close because someone died awhile back crossing it. By then it was time to head down the mountin, grab lunch, and then catch the single most bizarre train ride ever. Around hour two, just after we stopped in Ollantaytambo all of a sudden the most crazy sounding drums and music starts coming over the speakers. Think stereotypical ''jungle music'' from the movies. Then out burst a dancer dressed in the Cusquena style with a white suit and skimask embrodered with a nose, eyelashes, ears, and curly mustash who proceeds to dance up and down the aisle for a few minutes. After, we learn it is a representation of a local dance. Then the music switches to madonna techno-ized, and the steward and stewardess, who had just served a light snack, start struttung up and down the aisles putting on a fashion show. An alpalca fashion show. I kid you not. And the other passangers were hooting, whistling, etc. So absolutely bizarre. The funny thing is, I can see Westjet trying to pull that off. Back in Cusco (last night), I walked from the train station to my hostal, had a hot water shower and shave (yay!) (really hot!) (hot, hot, hot) (seriously, it was that damn good.) Then it was down to the main plaze to meet up with some friends I had met in Arequipa. Less alcohol this time (far, far less) and far, far more dancing. The way it works here is that to entice you into clubs, they give out free drinks and slasa lessons. So Salsa it was. Funny thing is, these Peruvians can Salsa. It's impressive. ''Sex on hardwood'' to quote a movie I watched on the flight down. But start playing non-salsa music, which they know and sing along to and they dance like it's junior high! You know, shuffle, shuffle. Yet another weird thing about Peru. Either way it was very fun. Danced till one am. Laughed while a Portugeuse guy named Fabio (seriously) hit on the british girls. Stepped on my salsa teachers foot more than once. This morning it was up early and out to Saucyshuman (pronounced ''sexy woman'' basically. More like ''saxy uman'', but hey, who's gonna stop a good mneumonic?) This was the fort built to protect Incan Cusco. It is massive. Layers and layers of defence and ceremonial stuff built inside. Unfortunately only 20% remains. Basically, at it's largest it would have dwarfed MP in terms of size. After that it was to a convenant that was built out of the old Incan temple and is now a duel purpose museum. Santa Catalania was very neat and had was the home of the Cusco school of colnial art, known for its syncretism of Native and Catholic imagery. A lot of the material there is unavailble in Spain or the rest of Europe because it was considered heresay at the time. (Like the painting showing the holy trinity (father, son, holy ghost) as identical people in stead of as a father, son, and a dove to represent the holy ghost. Then it was to a really sad, dark, and scanty museum, but hey, when it's free, the price is right. Tomorrow will be more exploring of Cusco, especially the Cathedrals on the main plaza which I have left until last. Then, on the 10th, I fly to Lima! Good god, that is a huge post, and sorry, but I don't have time to spell check it!