Tattoos, charrangos and more ruins

Trip Start Oct 01, 2012
Trip End Oct 01, 2015

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Flag of Peru  , Cusco,
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The following day we woke up relatively early and headed up to the bar for breakfast, emile was asleep on one of the beanbags and when he awoke we exchanged our stories of our very different trips to machu pichu, one by one the girls joined us too and it felt nice to have our little group back together, we enjoyed a very lazy breakfast and caught up on the things we'd missed during our 4 days apart. Nicki's sister had come out to join her and we all headed to the market together- ingrid stayed with emile as he was leaving cusco that afternoon- his trip was over. We wandered the market and sampled more of the local food before heading back to the plaza del armas to meet ingrid. By this point it was around 1.30 and nearly time for tai to head to his tattoo appointment- yep he decided it was a perfectly good decision to spend a weeks worth of money getting his third tattoo in a year rather than waiting till we get home. But I told him it was his decision so I'm not holding a grudge!
Feeling a little nervous he headed off and me and ingrid spent the afternoon getting things that she needed ready for their inca trail, slightly underprepared she needed, a jacket, hiking boots, hiking socks and a sleeping bag! It was a Cusco style girls' shopping day! We met Nicki and Kristy back at the hostel and much to my delight they had come across a lady selling the delicious marshmallowey treats and had got us all one! Tai had been at the tattoo studio for about 3 hours by this point so I thought I'd take him a chocolate treat and see how he was getting on. Ingrid came with me and when we arrived he was obviously in a lot of pain but was handling it like a pro, however he wasn't that excited by the chocolate treat - looking back it probably wasn't the manliness of things to bring him at that point!
I hate seeing someone doing that to him so we left and went off in search of a sunset beer spot on the square.
Tai met us back at the hostel later and we went to the bar for a much needed beer! The girls had their briefing for their inca trail and so me and tai spent the evening discussing his tattoo decision and the past amazing 4 days we'd just experienced!
The girls left in the early hours of the morning for their hike and me and tai were alone again. We decided we wanted to see a little more of cusco and so opted to go on the free walking tour. Tai was worried as the tour was around 3.5 hours long and he didn't know how he was going to cope without food for that long, he had no reason to worry though as the tour was split into 3 sections, food, history and fun. We spent well over an hour going to different restaurants trying local food including a chocolate museum, a Peruvian fast food restaurant and even a sushi bar. It was great, we went to the local arts school which is a really good thing for cusco as apparently parents will just push their children into becoming tour guides when they grow up so having an arts school still gives people other options, there was some great paintings and sculptures around the main courtyard that the students had taken. We went to another tattoo studio to learn about inka designs and artwork and sampled some of the local Jaegermeister finally we walked the backs streets in an area called San blas and were greeted with some incredible views over the city. The guide also took us to a locals house to try some local beer which is made out of corn and costs around £1.25 for a massive jug, most people weren't that keen but we figured out as long as you didn't breath in through your nose it tasted ok. We visited a music workshop down a small alley where a guy made an array of string and wind instruments and played a few for us- it was so surreal and the instruments sounded beautiful, one of the guitars had 16 strings- if tai hadn't got his tattoo maybe we could of bought one and learnt to play during our travels!
The tour ended in the pisco museum where we were given free pisco sours with some very gay dance music blasting from the stereo!
Despite all the free food and drink samples tai was still hungry so we headed to a little vegetarian restaurant and had a feast for less than 5 pounds between us!
We headed back to the hostel chilled out for a bit then decided to head out for a few drinks, after walking into a number of completely empty bars we headed to nortons and spent the evening at the bar deciding what to do over the next few days. We'd learnt on the free walking tour that there was a lake in the hills behind the town where you could fish and a lady would grill for you what you caught. We thought that would be a perfect way to spend a lazy day and at midnight headed back to our hostel.
Failfest 2012 started like any other day, we got up had breakfast and headed out for the day. Our plan was to head towards christo blanco - a big white Jesus that is up in the hills overlooking the city of cusco, from there- and according to the map it seemed easy enough to get to piscigranga- the lake which was full of trout...and water. We headed up out of cuscos main plaza del armas, up the thin steep steps towards San blas area - the bohemian area of town, from here there should be short cuts to take us up to the top. We walked one way and were met by guards who told us we'd gone the wrong way so we headed back the other way and after telling a local Peruvian lady to get off a pay phone and move her llama off the road for an oncoming taxi we were faced with another very small alley with very steep steps, a faded sign which just made out christo blanco pointed us in this direction. So up we climbed until we got to a dirt path that carried on behind the houses and into the woods- we figured this must of been the way- that's what the sign said after all. We carried on climbing until the path stopped and there was nothing but trees and shrubs surrounding us, neither of us having the best sense of direction we quickly came to the conclusion we must of gone the wrong way. Tired and defeated we headed back into town passing some grazing llamas on route and found ourselves a vegetarian place to eat lunch. We decided to look into some rafting but for nearly 30 pounds all you got was 5 hours of travelling and an hour of rafting, we decided to pass. We headed back to the hostel and got chatting to a new guy in our dorm- JB- from Bradford. We decided to all go for drinks later but first we had something else to look forward to. Cirque del terror, we'd seen some posters around town last week and not really knowing what we were going to decided to go ahead and book tickets.
Even with the best spanish would we have fully understood what we were in for. The arena we arrived at - where we accidentally pushed straight to the front of the queue- was more like a school hall, the cheapest tickets (which we had) were no different to the most expensive (which they tried to sell us). As there seems to be everywhere in Peru, a lady was selling fresh popcorn and we wolfed that down before the show even began. 40 minutes after the advertised start time and with the screams of "ora" echoing through the hall the lights went down and an acrobat spun through the air on a trapeze above our heads while the comperre laughed "scarily" in the background. A far less professional act followed as a woman tried and failed to complete a hula show, unable to flip the hoops up and hula above her knees she lost concentration of the ones in her arms and they went spinning off into the crowd In front, a skeleton tried to quietly collect them only to pull off decoration on the stage as he passed. We watched open mouthed, amazed at what we were seeing as all the Peruvians around us were whooping and clapping in delight. Next up came an array of oddness from a michael Jackson act that just seemed to thrust at the audience for 5 minutes to a devil and a fat man/clown in just a bra dancing to gang man style whilst slapping each others behinds.
We can honestly say we have never seen anything like it and travelled back in the taxi speechless with wide grins on our faces!
We headed to the bar where JB met us, played the longest game of pool in history- about an hour and a half and headed to sample some more of the cusco nightlife. We headed into a club called methology where the music was considerably better than mama Africa's and danced the night away, us on the dance floor, JB on the bar!
The following day was unfortunately a bit of a write off and we spent the day watching films having discovered the awesome movie room at the hostel which had huge comfy sofas and a projector- it was almost like being back in the wool house! We also decided we couldn't handle Peruvian food so we decided to try out the sushi restaurant our walking tour had taken us to and after a month of salty double carbed meals it was exactly what we needed and we savoured every mouthful.
After a day of resting we decided it was time for another adventure and with JB coming along with us we thought we'd have another go at finding the trout lake and christo blanco. We headed in what we thought was the right direction only to be met by a dead end and a concrete football pitch where some locals were playing some football, we asked a guy in very broken Spanish if he could point us in the right direction, luckily he spoke more English than we did Spanish and pointed us towards a little alley way, and so we followed his advice and ventured down. As there seems to be everywhere in Peru there was some dogs chilling in the sun at the side of the alley, there's normally nothing to worry about with the dogs here and so we carried on walking towards them as normal, as we got close though one jumped up bared it's teeth and began barking and coming towards us, we jumped back and it came again, we decided that we should probably turn around- especially as JB hadn't had his rabies jab- and head towards the entrance where you have to pay, this was our last option or we were giving up on these ideas for good. Much to our surprise there wasn't any guards on the gates and do along with the locals we walked through, up an inca path until it opened out to green parks and streams, locals were picnicing, llamas were grazing and locals were asking tourists for money for photos or horse rides. We asked a guy offering horse rides to point us in the direction of the lake- piscigranga - no he said its not possible by foot only by horse back- what a surprise! He informed us it was past the tall trees in the distance and over the mountain, not really trusting him we decided to try and find it on foot. It was about a 10 minute walk. However what we were greeted with was not a pristine lake in the woods with trout jumping from the water and a local lady with a solitary grill ready to cook your catch, it was actually more like a pond with two old peddalos in the shape of Donald duck that looked as though they were about to sink at any moment and a restaurant that sold trout at quite expensive prices. Slightly disappointed but not defeated we decided to grab some lunch at a cheaper place down the road and head off in search of the christo blanco. Slightly less impressive than what we imagine rios white Christ to look like was the cusco christo blanco- standing tall above the city. The views were great and we were glad that the day had definitely been worth it. We even got to see some more ruins from there.
It turns out that locals can visit macchu pichu and other inca sites for free on the last Sunday of every month and so that's why we managed to sneak through without having to pay today as there's no guards!
We decided we should celebrate making it with some afternoon beers and spent the rest of the day in a bar overlooking the main plaza. The girls got back around 8ish and we caught up over some more beers and crap Chinese food. Our group was back together again!
The following two days didn't really go to well for either of us and we spent the majority of them in bed, tai with food poisoning from some dodgy chicken- for the time being he is now vegetarian again- and my stomach cramps had come back again. The day we both finally felt ok again was Halloween and we decided we needed an adventure so we headed to a local bus stop to take us to the ruins of moray. The buses here don't have numbers, just big banners across the windscreens saying the final town destination. We jumped on a bus that we thought was heading in the right direction after being called on by the conductor and found ourselves crammed into the doorway with no where else to stand and every few minutes just when you thought no one else could fit more people would climb on. There was typical Peruvian women with their top hats and pig tails carrying an array of goods in their big blankets which they hike on their backs impressively and with ease. There was men carrying random tarpaulin packages asking us random questions such as do we have coca cola in the uk and lots and lots of school children. Despite the kids and the ladies carrying their heavy goods whenever there was a spare seat we were pushed towards it like royalty and me and tai ended up sitting in the front seat next to the driver. We got to witness first hand the craziness of the driving over here. As the driver calmly tried talking to us both whilst drinking a bottle of coke and checking his phone he also had to avoid the on coming cars flying towards us on our side of the road. In Peru there's no waiting for a safe gap to overtake, if you catch up with the car in front you just pull out and if there's something coming the other way its a case of playing chicken to see who pulls over first. The driver gave up talking to us after he asked where we were from and we answered moray the mountain ruins we were heading to-thinking hed asked where we were going!
We made it there in one piece but it was still a short taxi ride to get to the ruins, so we jumped in and headed through a beautiful little mountain town until we got to the ruins. Without a guide we pretty much decided for ourselves what they were and from our previous inca experience we think they were terraces where farmers grew different vegetables and plants. It was still incredibly preserved and when we saw people in big tour groups we felt very smug that we'd managed to do it all ourselves. Once we'd climbed in and out of the ruins the taxi driver offered us a very good rate to take us all the way back to cusco so we decided to skip the bus and go for the comfort of a taxi.
We were all pretty hungry as we'd missed both breakfast and lunch today and so headed out for dinner straight away to our favourite vegetarian restaurant. As we were eating more and more children where coming in dressed in Halloween costumes with little pumpkin carriers, they would go up to the bar staff and say "halloween" and the restaurant would give them sweets- must be a much safer and more profitable way of trick or treating than going door to door as we do at home. We left the restaurant and as we rounded the corner onto the main square we couldn't believe what was happening- it seems that people love Halloween over here! The square was absolutely packed with people dressed up, parents with tiny babies in dinosaur costumes or witches outfits wandered the streets, kids of all ages carried the little pumpkin carriers, most people had face paints it was an incredible atmosphere and so unexpected! Unfortunately for me (Sarah) a few people were also wearing masks which I didn't appreciate! We were still feeling pretty ill so instead of heading out to party with everyone else we made a bee line for the hostel movie room. Our hostel had been decorated with loads of fake spiders webs and there was candles everywhere it made the colonial building we were in look really eerie and the hostel staff were also all dressed up!
Our last day in cusco was the 1st November- a month since we had begun our travels. Nicki and ingrid hadn't been to the music workshop on their walking tour so we thought it would be cool to all go again. The man played us some of the instruments he made again and yet again they sounded wonderful, so much so we decided we shouldn't miss out on an opportunity to buy one, after some deliberation we decided on an instrument called a charrango, a 10string guitar which looks a little like a ukelele. It apparently takes the man around a year to make each one. It's definitely something that feels really special and we were both excited to begin learning to play. The rest of the afternoon we wandered the markets and cusco town soaking up as much as we could of this beautiful town before our night bus to puno that night. We had a final farewell dinner with Kirsty where I unfortunately ordered a meal that tasted like feet- but hey I guess that's gonna happen at times! Cusco had been great but we were both definitely ready to leave and continue our adventure.
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