Home of the Incas

Trip Start Aug 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Marlon's Hostel

Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, January 30, 2007

So a minor drama on departure from Arequipa- On arrival at the bus station all geared for our pre-booked Cama, B discovered she was without handbag. So a hurried taxi trip back to the hostel, mad dash sprint from an apparently very unfit J, and mad dash back to the terminal ensued. On arrival as we were evading security dogs to enter the bus-exit of the terminal, we discovered that our bus had gone, and our only hope was to chase it..
So chase it we did - the same taxi driver who on first impressions was rather too laid-back for this sort of action, but in fact turned out to be rather astute in the ways of bus-routes, as well as having god on his side (the compulsive crossing/praying/etc must have helped), caught the correct bus within minutes, and overtook it. Now this was a tad confusing, as we were under the impression that we were wanting to stop and flag down the bus. However we bowed to the local knowledge, and made ourselves comfortable for what we assumed was to be a trip of indiscriminate length, somewhere in the direction of Cuzco.. It turned out that our taxi driver had decided that the only way to stop this bus was to stand in front of it - a feat not easily accomplished while it is traveling at around 100km/h - so a spot was found where the bus would need to slow. As the bus cornered, a combination of wet-tea-towel (not entirely sure where this came from) waving, B belting on the doors/windows of the bus, and a mad dash after the bus, brought the bus to a halt. Several minutes of panic ensued, as it seemed that the bus driver had re-sold our seats, but finally we were on, and settled comfortably in our Camas.
What better way to calm one's nerves than a bout of bus bingo (in Spanish, of course)? Obviously luck was on our side, as B proceeded to massacre the opposition, and proceeded to the front of the bus to collect her prize accompanied by a bus load of rapturous applause!
So after all that adrenaline it wasn't hugely surprising that we didn't sleep so well, and arrived in Cuzco in a rather sorry state.
We headed up to my old flatmate Jesse's hostel - Loki - to discover that it is in fact the most popular spot in town, and without reservations we didn't have a show.. Somehow we found ourselves at Marlon's Hostel - a cool new spot with a great family atmosphere. So a couple of days exploring Cuzco followed - a great spot to remember what real food/coffee tastes like with the plethora of amazing cafes, and a beautiful city with mixed Inca and Spanish influences.
Catching up with Jesse was great, and cool to hear how much he is enjoying this hostel lifestyle he has found himself in.. Interesting how one has to go to the other side of the world to find out what's been going on at home (Pete, you have been busy)!
Finding ourselves with a few days to kill before the Inca Trail, we headed into the Sacred Valley to check out some ruins, and discover what these Incas were all about.. Ollataytambo was our first stop - cool wee town, remaining in a similar state as was built by the Incas - amazing engineers, their (still running) aqueducts are incredible. Temples/forts remain on the hillsides overlooking the town, with huge stones dragged from a site 6kms away - the 'tired stones' sitting at the bottom of the hill -those that never quite made it to the top! Amazing terracing on the hillsides too -apparently the valley flats had been stripped of nutrients, and so to sustain the empire, this was the only option. So much work.. but i guess if the Inca (king) decides, and death is the other option, one works!
Pisac was the next stop -a famous market on Sundays was the goal, but we decided a morning stroll (? - it was 5km of near vertical! -good practice for the Inca Trail) up to some ruins overlooking the town. These have to rate at the top of the list of Inca ruins I've seen - mind-blowing site perched above massive valleys on both sides, immaculately preserved, and us being the only people on the site all added to its allure. I'll let the photos do the talking..
The Pisac market was a tad disappointing, so we retreated to Ulrich's - a great cafe, with superb food, a cool vibe, books, games and movies (watching The Motorcycle Diaries while in this part of the world adds so much to it - and understanding some Spanish too!) before heading back to Cuzco to organize/acclimatize ourselves for the upcoming adventure
A belated birthday treat, B took me to The Fallen Angel - a crazy bar/restaurant that has a (verifiable) reputation for the best capreņias this side of the stump. Before an evening of tearing up Mama Africa's (the happeningest 'club' in town - classic cheesy '80s all night! - B was in heaven!) dance floor, and being enticed into every other bar in town with promises of free drinks, only to discover in each place that the free drinks were Cuba Libre's (Rum & Coke) - great, if only one of us would drink them!
Birthday treat's continued with breakfast the next morning (a wee french cafe with amazing scrambled eggs with spinach, smothered in prawns and topped with fresh parmesan.. Possibly the best breakfast I've had - high praise indeed!), followed by massages, and a very chilled day.. Nice.
Which brings us to today... and mad dash organizing ourselves for a 5.30 departure tomorrow morning on the Camino de las Incas..
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