Birthday In The Rain

Trip Start May 30, 2005
Trip End Sep 30, 2006

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Saturday, April 15, 2006

I hopped on the bus in Copacabana, looking forward to the promised 8 hour journey. I started pretty good when I sat next to a French guy that only spoke French, we managed to communicate in a way, it did end up with us looking at his passport pointing at his stamps and saying things like "Yes, Thailandia Bien". He then wanted me to take a picture of him going through the no man´s land between Bolivia and Peru. I just had to walk away from him as Governments usually get a bit upset when people take pictures of these areas.

Our paths only crossed until we got to Puno, where we wished each other a goodbye. He was staying and I was getting another bus to Cusco. I´d decided to head straight through to Cusco to try and achieve my plan, To go on the Inka Trail and arrive at Macchu Pichu on my birthday (Don´t ask which one). I did meet a really nice couple here, from Australia/Sweden, making the rest of the journey quite fun.

While waiting to leave Puno I saw a man looking at a kitten that he was holding, nothing strange in that until he put it in a sack and tied up the end. Poor thing, you could see the bag moving, alongside the bag of chickens that he had.

Next, still before we had even left the station one of the women on the bus asked if I could sit on a jacket! At first I agreed but then gave it back because it wasn´t comfortable. She´s been to Bolivia and bought a bus load of clothes to sell in Peru. She was stuffing them everywhere she could, she even made her 10 year old son wear about 10 T-Shirts, I´m not kidding, at least it was cold, later in the journey I could have done with one or two of them.

At last we got going. It wasn`t long till the next event. Peru was turning out to be a very interesting country. As we were pulling out of a town later in the journey I heard an almighty commotion going on outside, I looked out my window to see a group of people beating up one guy. I couldn´t believe it, he eventually got up and walked off with as much dignity as he could muster. A number of the people from the ´giving´ side then got on the bus, they were passengers. It turns out that the guy had opened the boot of the bus while it was stopped and had started to help himself to the contents. I completely missed the fact that a number of people jumped of and deemed themselves to be Judge and Jury in the matter.

Before the journey was through I got an old woman sitting beside me, she was nice enough but continued to talk ´to´ me in length in a mixture of Spanish and Aymara (A local Indian language). I have trouble enough understanding Spanish so this was just impossible. I wish I understood as she appeared to be funny as loads of people behind us were laughing, ever feel paranoid?

We eventually arrived in Cusco at 1.30 AM, 13 hours after I left Copacabana. Sometimes I wish I could head back and just punch whoever sold me the ticket in the first place telling me that it was only 8 hours long, but what can you do?

Arriving at that time in the morning is never a good idea so I tagged along with AnnaKlara and David to the hostel that they`d pre-booked. Turned out to be a good move as it was nice, cheap, quiet and central, a hard combination to find here.

In the morning I headed out to try and book myself on an Inka Trail, no luck, it was all full until the 26th of April. Ages away. I had to rethink my plans. Instead I had a good look around, it`s a pretty nice place. I`d been really concerned that it`d be horrendously touristy. It was really touristy but it appeared just about big enough to handle it. I really liked it.

You can`t just hang around the town here though and on the Sunday I headed out to a place called Pisac with AnnaKlara and David. With strength of numbers we flagged down a few taxis, held interviews and then hired one for the day. As much as I like getting the local bus, it`s also good to travel in a bit of comfort now and then. We had a brilliant day out, the sky was clear and blue, and the ruins were on form as well. It was really nice to just wander around them without any pressure, even though we didn´t do the ´must do´ walk. My new friends were a bit weird though as the proceeded to make pretend ´documentaries´ with their digital camara, introducing the new ´guest expert´, me!

Our taxi driver took us to the market afterwards, pretty massive and full of brilliant things that I could neither afford or carry, great to look though.

At dinner that night we almost wet ourselves at the menu. Someone had taken the Spanish dishes and done a literal translation on it, with some brilliant results...

Alpaca a la parrilla = German Nickel to the Grill
Papa con yerbas aromáticos = Pope with aromatic herbs
Chupe de camarones = It sucks of shrimp
Pollo al gusto = Chicken to the pleasure!
Trucha a la romana = Trout to the Roman one
Burro de Pollo = Chicken donkey
Burro de verduras = Donkey of Vegetables
Mate = It Kills!
Agua sin gas pequeña = It dilutes without small gas
Pie de manzana = Foot of apple

And some others. Maybe you had to be there.

Since my Macchu Pichu plan was skuppered I had to think of something else to do, back to school! Spanish School that is. It turned out that I only had three days here, but in those three days I covered all the joys of the Subjunctive! it´s a whole new way to conjugate your verbs and really, you don´t want to know about it if you can help it.

On the Wednesday I found out about a football game that evening, the local team Cienciano was playing Sao Paulo in ´La Copa Libertadoras´ a pan-south american tournament. Frank and Shoo from the school came along as well. I was expecting feverant crowds, fire crackers, mobs, pitch invasions, everything that you hear about south american football. Instead we found a really nice atmosphere, and a bit of a family event. Of course Cienciano didn´t manage to score, I did hear later that there were people in the stadium with fire crackers waiting for the big moment which sadly didn´t happen. In the end Cienciano went down 2-0 in a rather lack lustre game that didn´t do any favours to the game of football.

I had another disguisting food experience. I visited one of the cheap food joints, I got my soup and started eating away. Usually you get a little blob of meat in your soup which I´m never sure if I should really eat or not. Today, I, got, a, couple of chicken feet. Today, I, was, sure, not to eat the blob of meat.

I got a nice surprise to find that Farrah and Jim (Friends from when I spent 5 weeks in Sucre) were in town as well, they were planning on doing a walk in the area and would be around for my birthday.

I ended up going for a walk with Farrah on the day itself, taking a bus about 8Km out of town to a set of ruins and then walking back to Cusco to see some more. The weather was a bit drab and I headed off to see the first set of ruins on my own as Farrah didn´t have one of the tourist tickets that you need. It was nice enough, more nice rocks.

As we visited the second, free, ruin the rain really started to come down. We walked along the road hoping that it´d stop, but it just got worse. We eventually had to hide in a little shop and have a little beer to wet our insides as our outsides were already taken care of. The rain wasn´t stopping and time was ticking on, so we decided to abort the walk and just get the bus back to town. We were standing at the side of the road waiting under my brolly when a van shot past. I flagged it down thinking it was a bus, but it was a tourist van instead. When we saw that there were only 4 people in the back and lots of empty seats I started to say some rather unfair things about the people in the van to Farrah. It then stopped at the side and a head plus hand popped out and waved us in! I took it all back quickly.

It was a family of Peruvians doing the same tour in a little more style. They were really good to us, taking us to the remaining ruins, and Farrah even managed to get in for free somehow, I didn´t quite work that one out. They did become fairly gullible tourists though as we were taken to a local ´craft´ shop. Farrah and I gave a polite look but then hung around waiting for our hosts who were shopping hard and looking like they´d be buying a number of the over priced monstrosities. We got bored of waiting in the end and realising that we were near the town and that the rain had stopped made our excuses and left.

We had a quick visit to the Christ on the hill, which wasn´t that impressive, but had a good view. We then nipped over to Sacsayhuaman, probably the best Inka ruin in the immediate area. Since loosing our little tour group we had to sneak in the side entrance due to Farrah´s non-ticket situation. I won´t tell you how she tried to climb up this wall without success while I walked around it, that´d be unfair to her. The ruins were great and we rushed around as quickly as possible in case we were discovered. The stones were massive, and I have to say more impressive than Stonehenge. The Inkas managed to put these huge stones together with millimeter precision, a build quality that builders today have difficuilty in even getting close to.

After a getting back to town and I headed out for a birthday celebration. Frank from my hostel had his birthday the day before so it was really a joint afair, along with Farrah, Jim and others from the Spanish school. We discovered the Manchester City scarf in The Cross Keys, and I just had to take a picture for my friend and HUGE Man city fan, Mafty, in Cheltenham.

We then bought a can of Guiness and proceeded to pose in front of the famous 12 sided stone for the Landmark Guinness website of another friend of mine, Craig, it looks like he needs a few more pictures. However after re-reading the rules I´ve discovered that he won´t put the picture on his page, I´ll just need to keep the can for Macchu Pichu instead.

I´m heading off to Macchu Pichu now, but the long way round. I refuse to pay the rip-off price that the Peru railway company is charging for the round trip, 70 US Dollars for 100Km each way. Yes, that`s right, I`m cutting my nose off to spite my face.
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