Thursday, 3 December 2009

Cusco And Around

We pulled out of dusty Cabanaconde on a bus headed for Arequipa. The nearby Valley Of The Volcanoes would have to wait for another trip. Besides, I'd seen volcanoes all over the Philippines and Indonesia...and once you've seen one, right? The next one would have to be erupting near me to generate a modicum of excitement.

I'd like to have seen more of this region, it is truly stunning. Having arrived at night, it was good to see just how we'd got up here, the bus following the ridges of the valley, at times hair-raisingly close to the edge and the void below.

The bus wasn't as packed as it was on the journey up. We'd obviously been on the last bus from Arequipa via Chivay on the outward a quick toilet break had us returning to a bus crammed full of locals. Myself and Garfield had had the foresight to leav
e a sweater and books on our seats. Anyone who hadn't now had a ripe-smelling peasant occupying their seat. The smell really was something awful. Simple country folk, maybe...but they have running water, there's no excuse. Happily, this time we had the windows open, and only the odd local to perfume the otherwise fresh air coursing through the bus.

Arriving back in Arequipa, I really was in need of a falafel wrap from Fez. If you visit this gorgeous town, you've got to go there. Muy delicioso, as Speckled would not say. The boys were unsure of whether to accompany me to Cusco; they were all for slowing down a little, and I couldn't blame them. I was on a headlon
g drive for Machu Picchu, and in their position I'd have let me get on with it. But they decided that they didn't want to wait for the weekend to see if Arequipa's nightlife would improve (it wouldn't) so they took a punt and bought a bus ticket with me.

The journey was uneventful, and as morning neared we sensed we were near our destination. Pulling into Cusco's outskirts, the place looked a shithole, to be quite frank. A taxi rip-off took us to the picturesque main square, though. My inquiry to the taxi driver, and mention of the fact it was cheaper in Lima, was met with a nonchalant pointing out that were weren't in Lima. Fair do's, you robbing bastard. Served us right for not asking the price, but we were pretty tired, and not on the ball.

We had a quick wander about, and found a nice little hostel 50 yards up from the main square. We were on the ground floor, our windows looking out onto the narrow cobbled street. The glass was one-way, and reflective on the street side. So it was quite disconcerting that every person who passed appeared to be peering reality looking at themselves. Some even stood and messed with their hair, which was quite amusing if you were stood by the window in your undercrackers. I got on quite well with the family running it, which made the events leading up to my departure all the more bizarre.

It's a beautiful town around its centre, the tiny winding streets leading up into the surrounding hills. Small bars, shops and cafes peppering these thoroughfares. A little touristy, the prices reflect this; it's probably the most expensive place to visit in Peru. I gave up looking for somewhere authentic to eat, and regularly ate at Barney's...a lovely Western place with the best Tuna Melt Salads I've ever tasted. Another place I forget the name of did possibly the worst Indian curry I've ever had the misfortune to guzzle. But as Garfield was fond of saying whilst eating food he wasn't impressed with (almost every meal, actually) "I've paid for I'll eat it."

Cusco is notably for its handicrafts and alpaca wool. It was here that Speckled went a bit mad and started trying to buy every hat in town. It got so we couldn't go for a beer without him being waylaid be every street hawker with a stupid bobble-hat to shift. He was actually binning tee shirts to make room in his rucksack at one point. I did like the fact that Jim looks even more gormless with one on, though.

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