Flowers for Cuzco

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

We had been on the bus for 23 hours on our route from Lima to Cuzco, making it the longest bus ride I had ever been on. We went with a company called Flores (Flowers) and we would never use them again. First of all, they played movies late into the night with the sound cranked so loud that the speakers were crackling and distorting: that is if the movies were in Spanish. If the movie was English, they never bothered to turn the sound beyond a whisper. Not that it mattered, as they had chosen their movies from some archive of Hollywood’s Worst Atrocities. Some Chinese film got played twice, there was an Eddy Murphy as power-executive who’s lost his way, and so many more. A few times the movies looked like they had promise but were substituted within the first half hour. And the movies weren’t even my big gripe. The bathroom became a toxic spill zone, but the worst offense was they didn’t serve me breakfast. Admittedly, Ty (who said he tried to wake me up) could have grabbed mine for me when I woke up, but they should have either given it to me or set it aside. Instead, when I got up to find us stopped at a roadblock (for construction) and asked the hostess for my breakfast she just told me to get back on the bus. Bear in mind this was all in Spanish so there was no misunderstanding. OK, but can you bring my breakfast? Get on! So you’ll bring it eventually? On! She came a couple hours later with coffee and I asked her again for my breakfast. Cafe? No thanks, can I just have my breakfast? A confused look on her face as she asked again, coffee? No coffee, listen. I didn’t have breakfast. I’m hungry and I want my breakfast. No coffee? She asked. Do you speak Spanish? I replied. Yes, of course. Well then I want you to bring e my breakfast that I never had and paid for, OK? Needless to say I never did see her or the breakfast after that.

So I arrived in Cuzco hungry and annoyed in spite of the fact that a sick Ty (almost everybody traveling, it seems) had no appetite for his and gave it to me. Role reversal from the trek, I guess. There was a lady at the bus station with brochures for a decent looking hostel called Machu Picchu and we managed to get it for 15 solas with breakfast which, in Cuzco, is a fantastic deal. We went and checked in and soon Virgilio walked in from his bus and we switched rooms so he could get a good deal too. Cuzco, in addition to being the high-altitude gateway to Machu Picchu (at 3600m) is also a beautiful town in its own right and we walked around and enjoyed the late afternoon sun before the evening cold settled down on the town. We also spent some time that day and the next in travel agents. I already knew I didn’t have a chance of getting on the Inca Trail but I asked around anyway and found one person who thought he might be able to get me on but alas. The Inca Trail is the famous trek that passes many ancient ruins to arrive at the centrepiece, Machu Picchu. There are several alternative treks available, notably a Jungle trek that starts with a huge mountain bike descent on the first day and takes about four days to get there. The second is called Salkantay and takes you high up into the alps. Both end in a town called Aguas Calientes at the base of Machu Picchu and from there you climb up in the morning on the last day to see the site, ruins, and go back. Otherwise, the treks are both ordinary and could be done anywhere.

Ty and I gave it some thought and decided that we had just done a big mountain trek in Huaraz and, at least for me, I’d be heading into the Amazon in Bolivia, so there was no need to add on a trek just for the sake of doing so. We discovered also that we could save about $50 making our way to Aguas Calientes on our own with a combination of busses and trekking in a day thus also saving time. So with that agreed on we set out for the Temple of the Moon, a set of ruins above Cuzco. It was a solid hour of walking to get up there and we passed the Saqsaywaman ruins and got a good look at them for free as were didn’t enter but walked on a road that wound around them and then were given permission to cut across by a guard. The Temple of the Moon ruins weren’t very impressive even though we met a guide there who was just hanging around and he generously took us around the site and showed us what had once been and then refused payment. We chatted with him and his girlfriend until just about sunset and then he offered to meet us later and take us to the bus station for tickets to start our DIY Machu Picchu excursion. We met him at 8:00 and he took us up to the station and then we walked back with the two of them.

We were going to all go for dinner but his girlfriend got a phone call that resulted in us being invited to her family’s home for dinner. After making it clear we didn’t want to impose we gratefully accepted this rather unique and generous offer and went to their home. It was an adobe brick home no matter how many times I see them I always wonder how they last so long. Inside was quite a bit larger than it looked and in spite of the gravel foyer had a nice dining room complete with an 18th century painting of Jesus that apparently brings people knocking on their door to pray all the time but especially in March. Dinner was leftovers from her mom’s birthday the night before and included a mix of cheese, river weed, cuy (guinea pig), chicken, sausage, and some sort of fried dough with greens in it. I didn’t opt for more cuy but otherwise it was all good. And that was just the starter. Then they brought us out beef stefado and ram with rice. Finally, it was mate (a shared tea) with orange cake for dessert. We have been really fortunate to meet such great people here in Peru so far and obviously we were all both floored and extremely grateful for their hospitality. We said goodnight to them and went back to the hostel to pack and get ready to set out in the morning on our next adventure: Machu Picchu.

Cuzco Photos

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