WEEK 1 Days 1-3
Well I canīt quite believe that I have been here over a week, it definitely feels like Iīve been here longer. I suppose thatīs because there has been a lot to take in and Cusco and Peru is unlike any place Iīve been to before. This will be the longest time that I will have spent in a country that speaks a different language and that definitely makes living here alone much more of a challenge than say if I was in Australia or American..
Well what have I been up to. Well Iīve been spending quite a bit of time at a cafe called the Real McCoy, Plateros,which is where Jess my POD co-ordinator works as the manager. Its a great place to chill out, watch sport (saw Arsenal v Bolton live - time difference is 6 hours so in the morning you can catch late afternoon matches) and eat proper English food. But Iīve also tasted some local cuisine. I had Alpaca at the Inka Grill, Plaza de Armas, on Day 4 Monday 13 Sept
. I was invited out to dinner by Sandra who I met at Madrid airport she was on the same flight travelling onto Cusco for a mineral trade conference. The Inka Grill is one of the more expensive restaurants in Cusco and had a great menu so I thought hey lets go for alpaca. And Iīm glad I did it was really tasty. Just like steak but a bit more chewy but I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to meat lovers. Day 1 Friday 10th September
So having arrived no real altitude sickness just a banging headache which continued for a few days. Best thing to take is normal headache tablets and drink lots of water, I donīt think the specialist tablets make much of a difference. The only really thing I have noticed and it happens to everyone even the peruvians is that walking up even a flight of stairs will leave you breathless but thatīs what happens when you live 3,500 metres high. Sometimes my fingers also swell up like little fat sausages. The first day I had a little rest and unpacked my stuff at the Santa Maria Hostal, on Santa Catalina just 2 mins from the main Plaza de Armas, so a fabulous location. Jess then came and picked me up about 1. We went to the San Juan Clinica a 10 mins taxi ride 3 sols for an hour or so in the afternoon and saw the children who live in the orphanage attached to the unit. They are mostly severely disabled and in wheelchairs but the place itself is clean and tidy and they seem happy
. There were 2 other volunteers helping who were European. We visited Fairplay where I will be learning spanish for a week. The women are mostly peruvian single mothers. Met John the owner, they do salsa lessons and cooking took. Then Jess showed me around the city centre and we went to the Real Mccoy. I meet Sally who is the new owner, she is from the UK and took over the cafe about a month ago. This is also where I met the lifesized Paddington Bear. He is the Real McCoys mascot...I had a hug and picture. Another early night it would be nice to be taken out to a club or a pub, but Jess works most evenings at the cafe.Day 2 Saturday 11 Sept
On the Saturday I missed my first breakfast in the Santa Maria Hostal as Iīd set my alarm clock to the wrong time i.e. it was showing 8.30am when my watch said 9.30 hence by the time Iīd got ready and realised my mistake breakfast had been and gone. So ended up in the Real McCoy for toast and honey where I met a guy Luke who was watching the footie. Turns our heīs from Hitchin and his brothers are Luton Town fans like me - its a small world. He will be in Thailand the same time as me so we`ve swapped emails. I went and had my back and shoulder massage, it was five pounds -20 sols for a full hour and was very relaxing. After the massage I went on a tour of Cusco (included in POD price) taking in the main Cathedrals, Koricancha and Santa Domingo convent - This is part of the City Ticket which is valid for 10 days but churches are not included
. The main cathedral was huge and very ornate. We then went out of town to the ruins for Sacsayhuaman, Tambo Machay, Qenko and Pukapukara. Took lots of pictures and this gave me a feel of what Machu Piccu will be like. It was definitely chilly up on the hilltops. But an interesting tour guide who told us about how the spanish in the 16th century basically destroyed the inca way of life, temples and language etc, but thatīs what most conquering countries do I suppose, however I didnīt realise quite to what extent. The tour started around 2pm and didnīt finish until 7pm and by this time it was getting dark and was pretty cold. Most people had brought a jumper at least, I didnīt think weīd be out so long so just had a scarf! The weather here is of total contrasts. It is lovely and warm 20 degrees plus with clear blue skies during the day and then as the sun goes down around 6pm, it becomes rather chilly, although bearable for me being from the UK its say 5 degrees. Lots of travellers though are in hats, gloves and jackets. I will need to buy some kind of poncho or long cardigan as the temperature drop is a bit of a killer Iīm surprised I havenīt caught a cold! Feeling lonely in the hotel though as its not the most inviting place to come back to each night. It doesnīt even have a window (I need a room with a view..). So although the hostal has internet access, is a good size and has hot running water its not somewhere Iīd want to hang out for very long. Day 3 Sunday 12 Sept
Didnīt really get up to much
. A former work colleague is going to be in cusco on 27th Sept so I went to find out where her hotel is. Its just a 5 min walk from the Santa Maria Hostal.I also found Sandra`s hotel the Hotel Libertador - one of only a few 5 star establishsments in the city. I couldn`t get hold of her by phone so left a message about meeting up. I then wondered around the city and made my way to San Francisco Plaza, everyone was dressed up to go to church. So I went inside briefly but felt a bit in the way. The Plazas have fountains and benches where loved up couples spend endless hours of the day - ah to be in love! Found an internet cafe just off the square only 1 sol for an hour on the internet, so skyped Jay my brother and Nick my best friend. Skype is a wonderfull invention. To phone home from Peru would cost a fortune but with skype you can do it for free and the sound quality is amazing. I also downloaded my pictures to flickr which took about an hour. Watched the Fairplay Salsa show in one of plazas off Plaza de Armas. Saw John the owner and got chatting to an English voluneer who was working with them, unfortunately she was going back to the UK on the Monday. Then headed to the Real McCoy to see Jess, this is becoming my second home! She wasn`t feeling well, she has problems with her stomach parasites she has picked up in her 2 years here...hope I donīt get any sounds horrible. I ended up having a roast chicken dinner, It came with masses of cauliflower cheese my favourite - home from home. A roast dinner and 2 large beers cost 10 quid. I then went back to the hostal and spent some time on the internet downloading more pictures and facebooking. The internet is becoming my best friend!! Had an early night not plucked up courage to go clubbing by myself...The hostal is very cold at night thank god I bought my thermal pants and tops...it advertises that is has heating but apparently no-where in Cusco does so that`s a lie! I want to find out about changing rooms its like living in a prison cell, I only know what the weather is like once Iīve stepped out the front of the building - not ideal - what`s a girl supposed to wear...