Dates: 26 January-4 February 2014
DAYS 84-86: “Culture in Cusco” (26-28 Jan)
We arrived in Cusco at the ridiculous hour of 5am…half asleep we managed to make our way to our hostel, Eco-Packers, only to be told that we could only check in at 11am…awesome! So what else could we do but head back to dreamland – we made our way to the common area and slept on beanbags, using our pashminas as blankets…we felt a little like homeless people. After finally checking in to our room we put our plan together for our time in Cusco, which mainly revolved around getting to Machu Picchu to check out those famous ruins. Once we had devised our plan, we set off to book everything. Our first stop was successful, we booked our train tickets with PeruRail from Ollantaytambo to Agues Calientes (Machu Picchu Town), our next mission was to sort out the bus from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to get said train. We made our way to what we thought was a bus terminal only to be greeted with a street full of random vans going to random places, whenever the van happened to be full. We soon learnt that we just had to turn up on the day and hope that a van was going to Ollantaytambo near enough to the time we needed to leave. Next on our list was the Post Office, to check out prices for sending stuff back to London…we needed to lighten those stupid backpacks!! Upon arrival we realised it was Sunday (you lose all sense of days and dates when you don’t have a work week…poor us) and it was, of course, closed. We then headed to the office to purchase entry tickets for Machu Picchu and unsurprisingly this was closed too. On our way back to Eco-Packers we stopped in for a massage (we deserved it after the stressful day we’d had). We got back to the hostel and met our dorm roommates (Jake, a giant American fireman; Pim and Hans, two hilarious guys from Holland). We had dinner and drinks in the hostel with our new friends and then we headed off with Jake to have a few more drinks at Paddy’s, the highest 100% Irish owned pub in the world (3400m). After that we experienced some local culture by finding a funky pub which was playing live Peruvian music and proceeded to dance (and drink) the night away.
The next day we didn’t accomplish much (you can probably imagine why). We were leaving for Machu Picchu on the 29th so on the 28th we headed to the ticket office to purchase our entry to one of the Seven Wonders of the New World (we’re talking about Machu Picchu here, just mixing it up a bit…) We then took part in a free walking tour (of course we did) with Raul and Marco which taught us a lot about this amazing city which has a strong Spanish and Inca influence. Did you know that Cusco is built in the shape of a puma…?! The Incas considered Cusco to be the navel of the world – as all the principle idols and temples were located there. The significance of the puma is that it’s a sacred animal to the Inca’s, representing human power and strength. This was by far the best walking tour we’ve been on…only because they gave us free Pisco Sours at the end! We hope we don’t cause offence to any Chileans who may read this blog, but the Peruvian Pisco kicks Chile’s ass! That night we meet our old friends James and Emily (remember, the couple who followed us from Australia:) for dinner and drinks, with our dorm mates in tow.
DAYS 87-89: “Mystical Machu Picchu” (29-31 Jan)
On the 29th we started our journey to the famed Machu Picchu. Although we opted out of doing the 4 day Inca Trail, the walk, bus, train, walk option did feel a bit like we did actually do the Inca Trail! We walked to the “bus road” in Cusco and got a minibus which was to take us to Ollantaytambo train station. En route, however, we luckily had just missed a rock slide and our path to Ollantaytambo was obstructed…slightly concerning given that our train was leaving at 12h50, with or without us. So we sat clueless for about 10 minutes, not really sure what we were expecting to happen (it’s not like the huge rock blocking the road was going anywhere anytime soon…unless Superman was in the vicinity…) and then decided that the best option would be to walk through the rock slide and try and get a van stuck on the other side to take us to Ollantaytambo. Luckily there was a man in our van who took us non-Spanish speaking cherubs under his wing and got us to Ollantaytambo on time, even putting us in the right carriage on the right train! We must appear pretty useless to these locals at times. The train ride, although horrendously expensive, was simply beautiful. With large windows and skylights we were able to admire the tree-covered mountains set against a bright blue sky, the Urubamba river cutting through these green peaks, and even a few brave/crazy backpackers walking along the trail. We got to Machu Picchu in torrential rain and upon enquiring where we could find a taxi, were told by an amused waiter that there are no taxi’s in this town and that we had to walk…shit! Luckily we’d left the 2 ton backpacks in Cusco and only had our daypacks with us, as we took the scenic tour to our hostel ie; walked in the wrong direction about 5 times following sketchy directions from every 2nd person we asked! When we finally got to Machu Picchu’s version of Eco-Packers we attempted to dry off and then headed out again when the downpour had subsided to purchase our bus tickets up to the ruins for the next morning and have some dinner.
We had an early start on the 30th as we wanted to be in the first group of people into the site. We took the 20 minute bus ride up through the mountains which gave us a glimpse of the beauty the Machu Picchu site would reveal. When we got to the top we booked a guide as we wanted to know what we were looking at and its significance. We spent 2 hours wandering around this mystical place learning about it’s discovery and heritage as well as admiring the surrounding beauty. This 15th century Inca site, located 2400m above sea level, is a Unesco World Heritage Site and although it was built in 1450 it was unknown to the outside world until 1911. It is believed that the Incas built Machu Picchu as an estate for their emperor Pacha Cuti, however it was never completed and was abandoned 100 years after building was started, due to the Spanish conquest. The ruins are set amongst some of the most breathtaking views in the world…we arrived early enough to see the low hanging, whispy clouds mingling with the forest green mountain peaks – sitting against a crystal blue sky…providing a heavenly scene, peaceful atmosphere and protection from any unwanted attention…those Incas really did know what they were doing! Sa climbed WaynaPicchu whilst Tam explored more of Machu Picchu.
People say it’s a small world and once again on this trip the statement was proved to be very true. Whilst taking a few snaps from a place above the ruins Sa spotted 2 relatively familiar faces…these were of 2 guys she went to Junior school with and hadn’t seen for 15 or so years (how did we get this old!!). Luckily Lloyd and Attilla remembered her and they all had a quick catch up, making plans to see one another again the following day in Cusco. We then walked (half-way) to the Sun Gate which is the last part of the actual Inca Trail so we did do a bit of the Inca Trail ;) When we got back to the town it was pouring with rain again so what could we do but have a massage?! And we have to say that this was one of the BEST massages either of us have ever had. We were bushed from the days exertions and after dinner had an early night.
DAYS 89-93: “Chilling in Cusco” (31 Jan-4 Feb)
Our train left Machu Picchu Town at 9am the next morning and we arrived back at Cusco just after lunch. After having 40 winks we met George and Lauren (the English duo we met in La Serena, Chile) for coffee and cake. We then all headed to Paddy’s Irish pub (as you can tell we quite liked that place!!) to meet Lloyd and Attilla for drinks.
The rest of our time in Cusco was spent enjoying the sights of this beautiful town, saying our farewells to James, Emily, George and Lauren and stocking up on some essentials…tired of wearing the same alpaca jersey’s, we purchased in Bolivia, every single day we hit the San Pedro market to add some variety to our warm wardrobe…with success! We celebrated our 3month travel anniversary in Cusco, and treated ourselves to a star-quality meal at Fallen Angel…a funky restaurant/bar set in the square where all the celebs stay…unfortunately we were the only celebs/people in the place that night!! But we had a great meal, delicious wine and got some cool snaps of this crazy place (our dinner table was a bath tub filled with live fish and a piece of glass on top!).
We flew from Cusco to Bogota (Colombia) via Lima on the 4th Feb happy to be heading towards the warmth.