25.03.2008 - 28.03.2008 30 °C
Easter Monday was somewhat strange. Everyone was packing up and heading home after the weekend´s festivities in and around Copacabana. Meanwhile Ali and I were packing up getting ready to leave Bolivia to head on to Peru. It was a little sad because Bolivia has been, without a doubt, our favourite country to date. It´s definately had the South American vibe we were looking for. The people have been fantastic, the sites amazing, and of course it is exceptionally affordable. Everything we were told that was bad about the country seemed to miss us. Anyway, we´ll definately be back at some point so it was onwards and upwards for us.
As had been the norm of late the border crossing was very straight forward. What was not great was the quality of transport. In what has now become normal in Peru it seemed we had been ´lied to´with respect to the type of bus we paid for. Before long we landed in Puno where we were due to stay for an afternoon only. A pre-booked trip to one of the Uros islands being our only objective here.
We spent an hour or so on one of the islands. Each is man made with reeds from Lake Titicaca, and each month a new layer is added to keep them afloat. I think the depth of the reeds as around 4 meters. The feel is quite peculiar as you walk around. The tourist is without a doubt the main source of income here. All the locals had their wares on show and we were able to take afew photographs with little hassle or worry.
On to the overnight bus and we were met with 30 degree´s inside the bus and no air con. A great start. By around 4am we arrived in Cusco and managed to arrange an early check in at our hostal which was a relief. The city centre of Cusco was more beautiful than I had imagined and certainly one of the best in South America. You could see the constant work and up keep going on as our stay went on. The hostel we chose was on the north side of the city in an area called San Blas. Here we were treated to an array of fine restaurants and shops in a kind of bohemian area. Any work on our fitness that we had been doing was heading downhill as the menu´s often proved too tempting to turn down.
In most of the cities we have visited to date we have taken ourselves around the main points of interest but it seemed there was a lot to learn in Cusco so we signed ourselves up for a city tour. It turned out to be a tour of the surrounding are´s more than the city itself but it was interesting nonetheless. We took in many Inca sites such as Qorikancha, Saqsaywaman, Q'enqo, Pukapukara and Tambomachay, learning more and more about the Inca´s. For instance their belief that Cusco itself was the naval of the earth, and machu picchu was it´s heart. Like any other tour it ended with a trip to a shop to buy some local products but we opted to do our shopping ourselves at the artisan market in the following days so we could hunt out the bargains and barter a little.
I spent an hour or two looking around the city centre for an activity to do and after looking at paragliding and white water rafting for a while I settled on quad biking as you got to see a lot of the cities surrounding area. I turned up for the session at 1pm to find that the other 5 guys had all pulled out. Something to do with a hangover but no problems, I just went myself. So there I was, me and two guides for 4 hours. They were pretty happy in that they didn´t have to look after anyone else and after 10 minutes they decided that I could basically do whatever I wanted on the bike. Happy days. We spent the next 4 hours pushing the bikes to the limit. It was then I realised that when I was cycling the worlds most dangerous road I was probably going faster than I thought. At least this thing had a speedo so I knew when to slow down!! The guys took me to a series of jumps which was good fun and over the afternoon we had a great time trying to out gun one another over the hills surrounding Cusco. Between showboating they also showed me some historic points of interest and told me a little of the cities history. We even fitted in some football chat as you do.
By Friday Ali and I decided we best have a day of rest pre Inca Trail. We had a few chores to do including a briefing for the trail itself and organising accommodation for the following week. In the evening we managed to get tickets to a theatre production called Chaska. It told the story of a young girl from an Andean town called Kusillaqta which had been branded with misfortune for several years. Chaska (the girl) is selected by the mayor to make an offering to Apus (the mountain Gods). Her adventure takes her across time where she learns the meanings of the divinities and becomes a warrior. Her mission, to save her town. Obviously in the end the town is saved but at the cost of Chaska sacrificing herself.