Published: August 15th 2011August 1st 2011
Caro: So after picking up the cold, I seemed to pick up some kind of bug and instead of joining the girls that we had just met (Ros who Joff knew from home and her friends) I had to leave before dinner because I felt so unwell. By the Sunday I was feeling a bit better but we had a 12 hour bus journey to endure. Joff had eaten a box of Jalapeno flavoured Pringles so was really pleasant to sit next to for the journey, this was to be the least of my issues.
We had been told that the bus was direct to Cusco but on arrival at the bus station the bus said Puno, we were assured ´fine fine´ and told to board. Luckily the guy who was dealing with the border crossing was extremely helpful, he told us what would happen at the border, what time we would arrive in Puno and subsequently what time we would arrive in Cusco. It was all going too well really, a good bus, helpful people and the first time in 6 months that we had been given such information on boarding the bus...
I wasn´t sad to be
leaving Copacabana, I think that my pre-conceptions were perhaps a bit out and thinking that we would arrive to Barry Manilow sitting by the lake playing the piano with nice ladies passing out Cuba Libré cocktails was perhaps a little bit melancholy. The border crossing was fine, the guy seemed to like the fact that we had British passports as everyone else was German, French or from the US. They were also playing an awesome selection of 80s Power Ballads as we were getting our passports stamped which made the whole experience somewhat surreal. In addition to the information supplied regarding how to negotiate the border we were also told where to change money etc so as to ensure the notes that got were real. I should imagine that the guy on the bus takes a cut but at least we didn´t get ripped off by the cambios in the street.
So back on the bus and onwards to Puno, we could see exactly how it got the name due to the wonderful smell which exudes as you enter the city. Not feeling all that great I had to visit the ladies whilst Joff got our new bus tickets
and negotiated the departure tax. I do despise the fact that you have to pay to visit a toilet which smells like meat. I have legs like a man from squatting so much and I have decided that it was easier in SE Asia where it was actually a squat toilet as it seems to be better designed for the purpose. I´m not too sure how one can make a better hole to squat above but apparently the folk in SE Asia has this sussed. I think not feeling very well just added to the hideious experience. I think that the people must carry meat with them as I can´t explain the reason for the smell.
I digress, we now boarded the next bus within minutes. The interior of the bus looked like they had asked a whole load of people to get on, go to the toilet on the seats and then rub it into the fabric. In addition to this there was vomit down the side of the bus, as usual we knew we were in for an interesting ride. The bus honked and we had these ladies behind us with more stuff than Joff and I
had put into storage before we left. There were about 10 seats, 18 people and more bags than I had ever seen. I wasn´t sure whether they wouldn´t put their bags in the hold in case they got stolen or whether they had already used their quota however as the bus filled up they started handing out items and asking whether they could put various boxes under our seats. Being the accommodating kind of guy Joff is, he told them "no" in no uncertain terms. Later in the journey the "conductor" told them to move their stuff so they just put it in the luggage rack above, which was already breaking due to the weight. It meant that we spent the rest of the journey with one eye on the said rack as on an incredibly bumpy road it seemed only a matter of time before it fell down and broke everyone´s necks!
We continued on the long journey. A local couple of ladies boarded with a cooked dead animal wrapped in plastic bags and subsequently hacked the beast to bits, with all sorts of juice and debris flying all over the place and a particularly curious smell. In
spite of this the local contingent e.g. everyone else, tucked in and washed it down with what looked like plastic bags filled with urine!! In addition to this "in Bus" meal, it seemed that every time the bus slowed or stopped, people bought drinks, snacks etc through the windows, dropping the cash down and receiving whatever they had ordered on the end of a long stick. It was quite amusing but with our limited Spanish we felt unable to join in! It will never cease to amaze me how you can carry anything on your back wrapped in a cloth and looking like a turtle´s shell. This is especially interesting in the case of babies and young children. A family got on the bus and I joked that the mum had another child wrapped in the cloth on her back which she pretty much sat on. A short while later a small hand protruded from the bundle followed by a little head confirming that there was actually a small child in it!! It seems crazy that in our country we worry so much about this and that but here the baby goes in a blanket on your back and you
think nothing of it.
We arrived in Cusco at about 8pm and took a taxi towards the main square which was near our hostel. As we passed the Andean Wings Boutique Hotel the taxi driver slowed down and asked us whether that was where we were staying. We both smiled and waved him up the street. We will stay at the Andean Wings Boutique hotel when we next come to Cusco! We arrived at a steel cage with the sign Che Legato above it! It looked remarkably different from the pictures online! We negotiated the front gate, the locked door and were stood in the reception of the Che Legato Hostel. Joff said his name to the guy and I was crouching in the corner still clutching my sick bag, feeling a lot better however having left the bus!!!! The guy couldn´t find our reservation and seemed to be suffering from short man syndrome as when a girl walked into the hostel reception he proceeded to ignore Joff and what he was doing and flirt outrageously with the girl before returning to the task in hand! This seemed to start to grate on Joff rather a lot and his
WIth our guide Marco
Several layers and a big marshmallow-like poncho, not a good look!
tone and mannerisms became increasingly abrupt. It was about 20 mins later after talking to his boss on messenger on the computer when he said "Ah you reserved a room at Che Legato?" I mean who would have thought it?! We were only stood in the reception! It turned out that they did have 2 hostels but you would have thought that he might have looked at them both in the 20 mins that we were there.
He then dropped the bombshell that we could only have that room for 1 night and we had to move the following day. Could it seriously get any better?!? When we got to the room however none of the previous upsets mattered. Joff went out to get us some food as I had not eaten anything since Friday and he refused to eat on the bus because it was filthy. I discovered not just Aguas Calientes but a proper shower with Augas Calientes. Joff returned and made cheese sandwiches which we ate with Pringles, it was seriously the best meal I had eaten in days!
We slept really well and woke early for breakfast, the views over Cusco are wonderful from
the Che Legato hostel and we had a nice breakfast of rolls and jam and coffee before moving our stuff into the room next door. We discovered also that the guy who does the night shift does seem to be a bit retarded but the brother sister team that also run and own the hostel were slightly more competent and were really helpful over the course of our stay. We were using the Internet downstairs when we heard a guy asking about Machu Picchu. We had booked our train in advance to get to Aguas Calientes and we had booked a hostel but we were told we could buy the ticket to get into Machu Picchu the day before when we got to AC. This was not to be the case so the guy was helpful enough to explain where we needed to go. It took ages to get the tickets and as usual the agent made a song and dance about how difficult the process was. Considering this was just entering some details and printing a ticket it didn´t seem that complex! Whilst we were waiting we got chatting to a nice Danish couple who were going round S.America
on motorbikes! This made us feel a bit tame, however even they would have to walk around Machu Picchu and not ride around Evil Kan-evil style!!! We spent the rest of the day finalising our plans, printing the necessary documents and wandering round the city.
Cusco reminded us a lot of Sucre, a little gem in a somewhat desolate country. (Considering that we had just arrived in Peru perhaps this was a little unfair but having been ill I was a little down on the place!) Most of the buildings are white-washed with terracotta roofs and the city has maintained the old traditional architecture and not been spoiled by high rise. We enjoyed our time there and even had some nice food which wasn´t pizza so was a pleasant change!!
On the Wednesday morning we caught a cab with Santos to the train station at Poroy. From there we took the train to Aguas Calientes. We grabbed a quick coffee at the station prior to leaving. Now after our misfortunes with bus and air travel over the past few weeks we were to have a day of "Flashpacking". The train station was spotless, even the toilets were clean,
Due to the weather
we got some pretty cool snaps of the cloud cover
they didn´t smell of meat and you didn´t have to pay to get in. In addition to this there were fresh flowers and hand towels to boot! I was sat next to an Israeli couple whilst Joff was buying coffee, the woman was obviously annoyed that she had to get the train with the commoners and said that when Jim Carey and Elton John visited Machu Picchu they went by helicopter. As do all celebrities, she went on to say, Will-I-am wouldn´t get the train now would he? I had a vision of Jim Carrey, Elton John and Will-I-am in a helicopter and stifled a laugh. I saved this thought to ask our guide the following day.....
The journey was stunning and the train has windows in the roof so that you do not miss the breath taking scenery. You get served a snack on the way and nice American Lady gives commentary in English about the route that the train takes, the scenery and the history of the Incas. You could also not fail to see the key sights as there was a know-it-all Spanish lesbian sat opposite us who stood up and pointed at each sight generally blocking part of the view for the rest of the carriage. On arrival in Aguas Calientes it was pretty much as you would expect. It could have been really nicely developed a little like Pai in Thailand but instead it is a bit of a concrete Hell Hole in the middle of the beautiful valley. I had booked the hostel and as usual there was an issue with the booking, the lady nearly had a heart attack when we walked in but managed to get a room for us. When I looked at my emails later that day I had received an email from Hostel World telling me that they had changed the hostel. Ooooops. Oh well we got to stay where we wanted to!
We spent the afternoon organising our bus tickets for the next day, uploading photos and wandering round the town, which didn´t take long in all fairness. We went for a pretty average meal as seems to be standard in Bolivia and Peru and headed to bed to get an early night.
We were in the queue for the bus at 5:30 am and outside MP at about 6. We picked up our Guide Marco outside who really made the whole experience as he was extremely knowledgeable and interesting. It was also raining so we invested in Ponchos whilst in the bus queue. With about 5 layers and my backpack all covered by the poncho I looked like a giant Marshmallow, this is confirmed on the pictures!!!!!!! Joff didn´t wear his in spite of the rain! Typical Stewart male! It is 100 years since MP was discovered by a German chap so you can get your passport stamped with the 100 anos emblem which we did at the ticket office. I´m not too sure how legal it is to stamp your own passport but the stamp looks really cool so who cares!?!
Going back to the Jim Carrey, Elton John and Will-I-am scenario, according to Marco … Jim Carrey and Cameron Diaz visited Machu Picchu but they took the train, to his knowledge Will-I-am hasn´t been and as far as arriving by helicopter is concerned this hasn´t been possible for 10 years!
Machu Picchu was built by the Inca´s in a specific location as the whole site on its side provides a perfect profile of an Inca male. The Inca´s were only the higher ranking members of society and the city was built by the lower ranks in 3 month stints so as to pay their annual tax. It is also located perfectly to mark lunar and solar events which happen during the year and in the surrounding mountainside there are Sun and Moon gates which on specific days of the year allow light through so as to light up their respective temples. In spite of the weather, we walked up the mountainside to the Sun gate which gave us spectacular glimpses of the city from afar through the cloud cover. The path was pretty narrow and steep which meant that Joff ended up clutching the rock face at certain points so as not to jump of the edge!! This was not the time to discuss how a guy who did a skydive suddenly has vertigo again! We wandered back to the city and caught the bus back down to catch the train. 6+ hours of walking and looking at Inca relics is apparently enough for the most ardent Inca fan! The place is spotless and even though there was some damage caused by a beer advert going wrong and the Peruvian president´s helicopter causing a degree of subsidence there aren´t even bins to spoil the view!!! 10/10 Machu Picchu!!!!!