Sunday, 13 February 2011

Cusco and a 'Sexywoman'

Having arrived in Cusco, the 'starting point' to Machu Picchu, without any booking, we quickly realised that the original Inka trail was out of question for us, as it is booked up months in advance and the only cancelled spot available seemed to be 10 days later and we did neither have the time nor the want to wait that long. So instead, we spent half a day searching the hundreds of travel agencies for the best deal on the Inca Jungle trek that I had heard was a great alternative to the ever more touristy Inca trail.

Having suffered from bad knees after our 5-days trek to the Lost City in Colombia, we also felt that it might be good to alternate the hiking for this other Lost City of the Inkas (the original name given to Machu Picchu at the scientific discovery of the city in 1911, a precise one hundred years ago) and the Jungle Inka allows for just that as it starts off with a 60 km downhill biking experience, followed by an optional rafting trip on what looked like a real crazy river.

We finally settled with a company, and went out to enjoy the beautiful centre of Cusco which sports three huge and amazing looking cathedrals around its main plaza. The impression is that of great beauty. However, the feeling is slightly altered when reading up a bit on history and finding out that these cathedrals, as well as most of the old city of Cusco, was built by the Spanish colonisers by taking the perfectly carved stones from the close-by Inka villages, leaving these places mere ruins of what they once where.


It is still beautiful, but after having seen the magic wonder of a conserved Inka city of Machu Picchu, which was luckily never found by the Spanish, the impression of beauty is mixed with a lot of sadness of what might have been preserved if the Spanish had left the nearby villages alone.

On our second day in Cusco, we visited two of these ruins at Quenco and Sacsayhuaman (pronounced 'sexywoman' according to all locals). We originally thought of it as a good way to partly acclimatise to the high altitude before starting the trip to Machu Picchu, but we were quickly impressed by these ruins and were very happy to have gone. The first place we stopped at, Quenco, did not impress me that much. But Nuno liked the hugeness of the stones used and went around taking a fair bit of pictures. There was also a cool little cave where they used to perform ceremonies for the sun and the moon, where we enjoyed trying to get the perfect shot.

On the walk between the two towns, we crossed over farmers’ land where some alpacas were grazing. One of them took a liking to my alpaca sweater and came over to nibble a bit on my arm. The animal acted really quite strangely as he would only advance when I had my back turned. A bit like the game kids play.


Usually at ease with most domestic animals, such as horses, cows, donkeys and usually alpacas as well, I felt a bit scared as this animal continued to follow me and looked at me strangely. Nuno finally had to go in between and scare it away as I became quite the wimp. The animal couldn't care less about Nuno
though. I actually think that he must have fallen in love with my sweater.

We then passed the 'white Jesus' placed on top of a hill, and three big crosses dressed in clothes and looking fairly morbid to me. The place spots a very nice view over Cusco though.


Finally arriving at Sacsayhuaman, Nuno realised that he had lost his ticket that we had bought earlier as entrance to both ruins. As the tickets were really quite expensive we tried to convince the guard that he should let us in anyway, showing him pictures of us both at the earlier ruin.
The guard refused, but then said that if we took his friend as a guide during our visit, he would turn a blind eye. So, although we did not much like the blackmail method of the guard and the guide, we decided to agree to the deal, as the price asked by the guide was about half of a new entry ticket.
A Lama facing right



This turned out to actually be quite a good deal and finally it was probably lucky that Nuno lost his ticket as we would never have understood as much of the ruins by ourselves. And the guide was really a cool guy, who at the end met up with his wife, super cute baby son and some relatives that were visiting and who liked very much to have their picture taken with us strange foreigners.



All in all a good day and the perfect warm up for the real challenge -the 4 days Jungle Inka!

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