Christmas in Cusco - my best ever

Trip Start Sep 21, 2010
Trip End Jul 07, 2011

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Where I stayed
Wild Rover

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Friday, December 17, 2010

We began our 3 weeks stint in Cusco with the opening party for the new Wild Rover hostel, and what a night this was! Getting back to all the lads (Colm, Liam, Shane, Afric, Caroline & Tom) felt like arriving back to a family away from home…only Olan, Gemma, Aoife & Sarah from the original crew were missing….with Davie stuck in La Paz waiting for a permanent visa….interestingly all those mentioned are Irish...the bar manager from Loki, Jamie from Glasgow, was often down in the Wild Rover bar asking us to give him back all his Irish customers! Liam came up with the idea for a black and white party which worked really well….everyone really got into the spirit of things…from Johnas with a white t-shirt with black marker saying "this is a black t-shirt, promise" to half the bar getting their face painted (most of which choose to emulate some member of KISS) to two lads in tennis outfits. I went for a picture of a black puma on my face given I already had a black & white pair of puma wrist bands. Was a good night in Mythology & Mamma Africas that night.

Next night, Saturday, was our first “Hour of Power”. The unfortunate 2 kiwis (Nick & ?) arrived in as it started – gave a good attempt for 20mins and then gave up completely when they realised what was going to be required to last the hour. It starts as a shot of beer every minute as the music changes from one 80s song to the next, but the intensity increases to a song every 20secs. At a later hour of power myself, Pedro, Fellipe & Ivan from brazil gave it a good go, didn't quite get there and only thing I can remember after that is falling over while trying to take a pool shot…unfortunately others remember more – I was in great form apparently!

We both had to work the Sunday night, which wasn't ideal as we had to get the bus at 4am and only finished at 2, and of course got drunk. So we left on our Salcantay trek that Monday morning. First day wasn’t easy, but 2nd & 3rd were total killers – at 4650m on the 2nd day we were caught in a snow blizzard that my aldi ski gloves couldn’t withstand…both fingers & toes were freezing….will be one of the most memorable moments of the holiday (even if not at all enjoyable). While the ppl on the standard trip finiashed walking at 3pm on the 3rd day & went to the hot springs, we had another 3.5 hrs continuous walking left as we squeezed the trip into one day less. We were v sleepy getting up at 4am for was quite impressive though nowhere near as impressive as the collection of temples around Angor Watt in the opinion of myself & Paddy. We didn’t have the energy to climb Wyannu Pitchu, so did the smaller one beside it. Energy was low and we dropped Paddys camera as
 ~we tried to pass it from one to the other on that peak…broke the lens. We met Jen and the others from the 5 day trip that night as they arrived to town & headed to the hot springs with some of them.

Paddys feet were in blisters & we were pretty much falling asleep as the guide was rambling on about MP earlier in the day, so we’d no intention of drinking when we got back. All the same, we said we’d pop our heads in to see what the craic was. Well, the place was buzzing – as good an athmosphere as you’ll ever see in a bar! On top of that, there was a few of the gang from La Paz in there, so we couldn’t resist staying on for the night.

The reason for the shortened Salcantay was to allow us to get in the full Christmas eve in the hostel. Three of the others from the trek (Richard + the 2 brazillians) arrived in that night & suffered the same fate as us the previous night...not being able to leave the class athmosphere in the bar. Tom got this santa oufit with a ridiculously big head and looked crazy dancing on the bar. The following two nights turned into the best Christmas I’ve ever had. I worked both nights and got chatting to nearly everyone in the bar. No other Christmas I’ve had comes close…one I reckon is next best is 1998 where I was infatuated with a young Waterford gidl, met up with two lads from college a bit over the break for some good nights out, the next one, 1999, was good – a few good nights out in Waterford beating my bro John in an arm wrestle when he was drunk – then Stephens day in 2006, 1st day at the lepoardstown races & lep in was brilliant – absolute carnige….but none come close to this one in Cusco tbh.

It kicked off a great group of us that congregated around the pool tables & ended up in Mythology (sometimes followed by Mama Africa) every night…Steve M1, Other Steve, Ray (all Perth), Amsa U3, (Melbourne/Perth not sure), Luke F2 (London), Steffi U2 & Kay U4…and of course Zac who tried his best to put drinks on everyone else’s room. There was a few others aswell, like Valerie, Stella etc who were part of the group on nights out even if not around the pool table.

Sine & Karen arrived to tell me that they had nicknamed me “Mr Screaming Orgasim” while I was in La Paz…that nickname went down well and led to a compulsory facebook update. The next few nights were all good, one in particular where I hit the best form of the holiday talking to anyone & everyone in the nightclub from Steffi to Sine to randomers. Stella told me that, at one point in Mama Africa, I fell & Tom picked me up and asked I was ok – I responded “Just keeping my options open Tom” – could have been in a world of my own there, I can't even remember being in Mama Africas! I think my messy hr of power was the following night. The night after that ppl were asking me strange questions, like “is the nose ring in my ear James?”…it appears I was coming out with some strange comments and the slagging was lost on me the next day cause I couldn’t remember what I was saying! Paddy confirmed himself to be the best pool player of the holiday that night by destroying the field in a 40-man killer pool tournament.

A yellow party was arranged for NY’s E, which turned out to be another nuts night. I got out for 30mins to see the fireworks in the plaza with Valerie & Magdelena… it was mahem with 100 fireworks a minute all set off by random punters in the crowd. You’d often jump form side to side to avoid them. It was brilliant to get back and see that Olan had proposed to Gemma & they were now engaged!

Unfortunately NY’s just didn’t turn out so well for me. I volunteered to fill in on Chris’s shift on the 30th as he was fired & I was really enjoying work…but Tom kept me out til 8am (mythology, rave, mamma africs, staff room) – very good night in fairness (two hours of which were spent with toms arm around my shoulder giving me his opinions on Rosie and just about everything else), but started to feel sick for my shift. We were pretty busy at times, but one stage where there were 4 behind the bar (and clearly we only needed two) I said I’d play the next game of pool…other two girls in the bar made it clear they weren’t happy with that, so had to leave it. All week I was the only person down to work a night followed by a morning – and that was NYE, busiest night of the yr (working til 4am instead of 2am) followed by getting up at 10am to do a tough 8hr shift. I was told 4 times (incl once NYE) I wouldn’t have to work the morning, but as nothing had been sorted, I knew I’d be blamed if I wasn’t up to work. There was another day when Paddy and a few others had a class all-day session in the NFL bar…another all day session I missed because of work…that was my 7th day working in a row which made me feel trapped…others were complaining if they had to work more than 4 days out of 7.. Paddy had worked longer hours than required also as he covered morning shifts he wasn’t rostered for, which noone seemed to notice & had to work the day he was due to leave when others didn’t work the last 2/3/4 days they stayed there. Anyway, we talked to Colm, he convinced us to stay another day & we had a great end to our time in Cusco. We spent a bit of this watching band of brothers (luke did the full ten episodes in one day) and a few other films (incl getting stick from the lads at how long “hoop Dreams” was) in the TV room but, in true Wild Rover style, we finished out last night with an hour of power!

It was quite a pity we didn’t do the Ollyantambo ruins (the Sacred Valley) as they are supposed to be better than the inca trail, and 2nd only to MP. However, I really enjoyed the rafting Johel arranged for Jan 3rd. We had a great group of ppl from the hostel, all of which were out til 6am the previous night! The craic on the raft and the scenery itself was top notch. At one point both myself & Steve had the same thought..we seen a cow wandering along the edge of a cliff with a 200m drop and were thinking wouldn’t it be so cool to see him somehow wander off and fall? I’m blaming the drink for that one. I felt a little sorry for Johel… we kept slagging him off and telling him that he wasn’t allowed on the same boat as us. He ended up on a different boat and we totally soaked him at every available opportunity. He had asked me what the word “Creep” means a few days earlier and so he got the unfortunate nickname “El Creepo”! On the bus back from the rafting I gave him my ipod to listen to Creep, by Radiohead, and he listened to it at least 5 times, before requesting it in the bar another ten times before I left Cusco.

I arranged 3 soccer maches during our second stint in cusco…the last was the Inagural Wild Rover v Loki game (which was supposed to be a blitz tournament after I talked to two other hostels & two nightclubs numberous times). They had some nifty players & two subs, but our team moulded really well together. Myself & Olan sharing goalkeeping duties, Neils Van Nistelrooy up front & the three hard-working brazillians…yes, some brazillians can tackle and Fillipo put in one of the best tackles I’ve ever seen, killing himself to get back to stop a near-certain goal when I’d just put us 8-1 up with a back heel from a corner!  We ended up winning 9-3.

Practical Info

Hostel: Wild Rover…. Class hostel...we rate it the best hostel of the trip. If I was opening a hostel & desiging a bar, it would be based on the exact specs of the bar in WR Cusco. Beds & showers def within top 3 of the 1st 4 months of the trip.

Bus to get there: Hauyani (?) from Puno (35 bargained down to 30s for Cama)…very good journey…arrived 5am & taxis tried to charge 10s when going rate is 4 or 5…we paid 5s.

Matchu Pitchu Activity: There are three main options people go for:

  1. Classic Inca Trail: Lonely planet advises you to book in advance and this costs you $450 - $500 with the companies listed in that guide. Onced in Cusco, Paddy seen a price for $220. Standard price I seen was $280, lowest was $250 but only if going 4 or more days from now. I seen $280 on a Sat for a cancellation place leaving the following Monday.

  2. Salcantay: all the Peruvians were advising us to do this trek…demanding at 6-8 hrs per day walking…peaks all along the walk. Average price of $180 + $10 to rent a sleeping bag…we paid $175 incl the bag.

  3. Inca Jungle: the trek for those into activities…6 hrs of biking the first day included. Rafting & ziplining coist $20-$25 extra each.
       Advice: don’t book in advance. Inca jungle gets best feedback from backpackers (we didn’t go for it cause roadworks on the trail reduced biking to 2 hrs). All three include MP at the end & train back from Aguas Calientes to Ollantatyambo. Depends what your into, but inca trail seems overpriced due to having the best name & by all accounts the ruins aren’t fantastic. Secons best ruins after MP are supposed to be in Ollantatyambo (Sacred Valley) which costs 70soles ($26) ticket entry + 30 soles for a one day tour with guide….and that pass lasts u 3 days. If you are set on booking in advance, ring or email one of the hostels (I’d recommend talking to Johel in “Southern Peru Explorers”…part of the Wild Rover as he gave us good rates on Salcantay) – that way you’ll pay a reasonable price for a tour. Good thing aswell is the hostels owners just won't accept negative feedback from their tour agency...they keep them on their you'll likely have a good experience.

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