Drums n Boogaloo

Trip Start Jun 12, 2011
Trip End Oct 22, 2012

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Where I stayed

Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, August 30, 2012

Following a recommendation for a nice quiet hostel we found ourselves at the Walk On Inn Cusco and stayed for a week in all but with a few days away in the middle exploring the sacred valley. We had initially wanted to volunteer with the Om Project to help hand out food to impoverished families in the surrounding mountains but we arrived in Cusco to find the project temporarily suspended while the organisers are in India. Our plan b was to volunteer with Aldenay Yanapay which helps to look after local kids with after school clubs and to provide love and attention that they might not otherwise get at home. Unfortunately that also fell through as volunteers have to start on a Monday and we arrived mid week with out time to start the following week so we settled for topping up on Spanish classes instead.

Cusco is a beautiful city and we instantly settled in there. Although it has a population of 350,000 it feels like a small city, possibly as you can see the mountains all around you and there are lots of pretty squares to find yourself a spot to sit and watch the world go by. Although you won't get much peace as many locals will try to sell you this and that as Cusco is somewhat of a tourist mecca.  It was the capital city of the incas and so there is a lot of evidence of Inca architecture amid the colonial buildings making a beautiful fusion of the two eras.

We visited Q'orikancha the site of an Inca temple which the Spanish partially destroyed by erecting Covento de Santo Domingo on top of it and incorporating the incas architecture into the church itself. However earthquakes subsequently destroyed much of the colonial building the Inca structure still stands. The incas built their Walls sloping inwards and fit stones together like a jigsaw to give their structures strength to withstand earthquakes. The temples were made with such fine masonary that no mortar was used, the stones fitting together perfectly.

If you want to explore a bit of locals Cusco take a stroll around San Pedro Market. Aswell as the usual fruit veg bread and meat stalls you find the 'innards' isle where among other things that I won't gross you with you can buy cow face to add to your dinner... Mmm yummy! While on a food tip, I should mention that in both Peru and Ecuador guinnea pigs are often found on the menu. Originating from the Andes they have always been seen as food or used for medicinal purposes and not the cute cuddly pets that we have! So while in Peru and all Will sought out some 'cuy' as the locals call it and apparently they are better left as pets.

We also visited the coca museum. Being at altitude the coca leaves have always been an important plant for Peruvians from way before the Incas. The leaves are chewed to assist with altitude sickness, digestion and as a source of energy among other medicinal uses. It is still widely used for altitude sickness and coca tea is free in most hostels and hotels and cheap to buy.  Of course there is the other side to this plant which is a relatively recent phenomenon. By mixing the leaves with kerasene and a vile mixture of other chemicals that are usually found in industrial cleaning fluids you come up with the drug cocaine. Peru was the original source of coca leaves to fuel the Colombian cartels and of course the rest is history. As for the plant itself I am reliably told that you would have to chew 1.5kilos of leaves a day to get a similar kind of affect/addiction to the drug. It's a shame that the plant has been exploited and exported worldwide in such a harmful way as it's natural medicinal powers are far more valuable.

On our last day in Cusco we came across a troop of people wearing traditional costume, following a banner and accompanied by some musicians and a dancing llama so of course we followed them. We followed them to the Plaza de Armas (main square) where a small crowd had already gathered on the steps outside the Cathedral. Soon afterwards dancing troops brass and brass bands were appearing from all 4 corners of the Plaza. It was an amazing sight with muchacho men dancing with their beer bottles, ladies spinning with beautiful coloured dresses and youngsters getting down. A total mish mosh of colour and style filled the square with no warning at all. We later returned to the square after dark to find the dancing troops done and vanished and in their place a giant inflatable car tyre marked the warm up for the Cusco Ralley and the Plaza was full of suped-up bangers revving their engines. If that wasn't enough we found a man setting off fireworks on a stick he was holding down one of the small alleys off the square. All in all a crazy ending to our time in this beautiful city.
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