Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Cusco and Machu Pichu

Having said to myself that I would not blog any of my trip to Cusco and the hike to Machu Pichu, I've found myself on a comedown after a manic week, so sitting here on my sunburnt bum and thighs (really attractive), I've decided to give it a go. I've try to avoid writing about it because its not the kind of experience I can blog. But I've found diet pepsi (not quite diet coke but beggars can't be choosers, right?) and feel confident. Also on skyping my mum last night, it seems that she's circulating this blog far and wide and people are actually demanding the next instalment..
So, having made up my passport number on my bus form for the ten hour trip to Cusco and then having to pay a made up fee of five soles to change it at the bus terminal, we were all set for our trip from Arequipa. We decided to go Cruz Del Sur, the only bus company I knew from my trip to Lima and maybe the most luxurious yet reliable on the Peruvian roads. Anyone who's ever travelled with me will know that despite the fact I'm tiny, I can't sleep on coaches/trains/boats/cars, so basically ended up sleeping on top of Mat- poor guy. It was halirious to think we'd contemplated taking Mat's bike, because my bag was at least twice the size of me and the roads dark and dangerous.
We finally made it to Cusco in the early hours and I realised that the countryside around Arequipa was pretty barren with mountains and the desert and no greenery- So as a true Brit, I was pretty happy to see the jungle. On getting off the bus, we were asked by a man whether we were in Cusco which made us look less clueless. It was six thirty in the morning and all I wanted was a coffee- all shops at the bus terminal were shut, the Peruvians missing a trick. In the end, Mat and I managed to get to the main square, after paying a fair amount for a taxi (difficult when you don't know the town). In the main plaza, we found two cathedrals, the biggest of which we looked inside during a service- it was just beautiful, almost, almost rivalling Arequipa but not quite. The music was beautiful. Cusco was way more Gringo infested and Touristy than our hometown of Arequipa and everything far more expensive- we even found a North Face shop.

 I was quite happy to get to the Wild Rover Hostel but not thrilled to find we didn't get any discount despite Mat having worked in both La Paz and Arequipa's Wild Rovers. However, the accomodation was really nice in the end, although opposite the bar, I felt quite spoilt that we got a room to ourselves and without the classic hostel dorm. Both feeling pretty knackered, we slept for the entire day. Despite Arequipa being high, Cusco is much higher and I really noticed walking around the town being slightly out of breath. Mat and I decided to waste no time and get on with booking the jungle tour- four days in total hiking to Machu Pichu with mountain biking and zip-wiring thrown in for an extra thirty dollars. We met our guide Jimmy who briefed us in the evening and warned us of a six thirty start the next day to get to the place high up in the mountains where we were to mountain bike.

The journey through the jungle was just beautiful but before long, we were climbing up windy roads similiar to ones I'd seen in Sierra Nevada in Spain and up to the snow peaked mountains. Jimmy informed us, pointing to a peak on the right, that Machu Pichu was three days hike from there. We were all in a small minibus having picked up everyone from other hostels, a mixture of Germans, Canadians, Argentinians and one other American girl. After three hours, we left the minibus and I was presented with a mountain bike- it sounds basic but I can't remember the last time I rode a bike but after much re-adjusting of the seat (even I'm shorter than the average Peruvian) I was onboard. We wore protection which made us look like people out of sci-fi movies and with a little push, I was on my way. I lasted about three minutes before I was convinced I was going into the huge gutters on the side of the road, breaked hard and jack-knifed, coming off and sliding along the steep road quickly. Splitting the helmet in two, I completely wrote off my mountain bike and caused a massive egg on the side of my head. No one else saw apart from the minibus who was following us, who rescued me and put me on Jimmy's bike. I think I hurt my pride more than my head but I was happy to wear a proper motorbike helmet after that. Going into the jungle was pretty spectacular and sureal, the climate getting more humid with every passing minute. It was all downhill and quick, and I realised that despite the pain in the back of my head, I was really loving it, gripping the handlebars for dear life, swerving and not colliding with kamikazi tour buses.

After lunch, three hours more treking brought us to a local family's house, on the side of a mountain, a haven with puppies, parrots and even a strange ferret creature which Jimmy insisted was an otter...the Canadians and Brits knew better. We were given origionally coffee beans (starbucks eat your heart out) and it was the most delicious coffee I've ever, ever had and will probably ever have. On getting back to Cusco four days later, we stocked up! With the local family, we were treated to a traditional family meal of soup, rice and chicken, and with everyone getting along really well, Mat and I called it a night and went to bed.

The next day saw seven hours trekking through the jungle, Jimmy telling us all about the Inca culture which was facinating, all about Pacha Mama. He painted the three levels on my face. We followed the river for a few miles, crossing it a few times over bridges. We passed many trees which trumpet flowers grew on- the strongest hallucinogens in the world. On getting to the hostel that night, we all got pretty drunk, mostly to forget our sunburnt, huge bug bites and sore feet.

The next day, Mat, I and Abi (The American girl on our tour) went zip-wiring. Ever since my mountain bike incidence, I was skeptical of Peruvian adventure tours but as I zipwired 250 metres above a roaring river I forgot all of this. It was amazing! We were joined by a big group of Canadians who were tough but told us that they'd just done a lot of the Inca trail and got altitude sickness and had to be rescued by horses.

After this, we joined our group who spent the morning hiking and entered the district of Machu Pichu walking along the railway tracks and crossing sketchy rail-bridges. After a full on day, we were really happy to get to the town, where we were going to spend our last night before hiking the Machu Pichu at four thirty the next morning.
I thought I was tough and fit, but on the ascent of 1800 steps before it was light, I really struggled. It costs 9 dollars to get the bus up but I made it. I can't really write about Machu Pichu..or at least I could, but I don't really want to. I know now that its one of my favourite places in the world, the way the clouds change around the mountains and the views, particularly when you climb the peak Wayna-Pichu is just amazing. We spent the day here exploring, climbing Wayna-Pichu (our ticket only allowed us two hours up there) and walking to the Inca- Bridge. In fact my ticket didn't add up to my passport in anyway shape or form (Very Peruvian) but Jimmy managed to sweet-talk the Peruvian officials at the checkpoints along the way.
After the day here, we left Machu Pichu and got our three hour gringo-rammed train back to Cusco, the boys drinking beer all the way, me collasping in a state of exhaustion.

Mat and I spent two more days in Cusco before bouncing back to reality and taking the bus (the company Ciel because we were joined by one of our German friends and another Brazilian who didn't want to splash out) to Arequipa.

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