Published: August 6th 2012August 5th 2012 Day 294 Tuesday 31st July
Local woman sorting potatoes
Back for our final stint in Cusco, and the town is now as familiar to us as some parts of Sydney. Would be lovely to spend the day just relaxing in town but we had plans to head off for the day again. Today we wanted to return to the small town of Chinchero that was about an hours drive from Cusco. We had been there at the end of a day tour through the Sacred Valley back in March and on that day we were rushed through and didn’t have the time to shop at what looked like some fairly good markets. Since that day we had vowed to return to do some shopping and also to revisit the amazing church there. From the Lonely Planet we knew that collectivo Taxis and mini buses left from the same spot we got a taxi to Ollantaytambo. As we got close to the spot we were approached by the same guy who had taken us to Ollantaytambo and although Chinchero was half the distance than Ollantaytambo he wanted the same rate of 15 Sols per person. Tried unsuccessfully to haggle him down so we moved on.
Further down the street we found another taxi who claimed he would take us there for 10 sols each. Once in his car we had a long complicated Spanglish conversation/argument which culminated in us paying 30 sols instead of 20 sols, but we did get underway straight away and had no one else in the car with us.
Because it was a set rate our drive was fast but we did get the chance to once again enjoy the countryside around Cusco. At Chinchero we had a good look over the old colonial church again and then walked out the back to see the Incan ruins. Like I said before we were rushed through here on our tour back in March and we never had the chance to step out the back of the church to see the Incan ruins. What we discovered was an amazing site covered in half dismantled buildings, sacrificial rocks and of course miles of terracing. This had been an important town in Incan times and they had actually believed that this is where rainbows were born. Didn’t discover pots of gold, leprechauns, or Kermit the frog, but we did stumble upon some local woman
Incan stone - altar?
sorting potatoes. Shelley wanted one of the woman’s photo and of course she was only too happy to oblige for a sol. Sort of got the feeling the women set up everyday in the same spot and make more money out of tourists in a day than they would in a month of potato selling.
We then wandered around the small markets set out in front of the church, where Shelley had a head explosion and bought up big time. This area is famous for its weavings and the use of natural dyes. Unfortunately most of what is sold is the type that is mass produced on weaving machines using commercial grade dyes. We did however discover some of the women selling ridgy didge stuff and so couldn’t resist buying up big, including 2 rugs. With our arms full of goods we headed back down to the main street to get a taxi or bus back. Spotted a guy with a taxi who once again insisted that 15 sols per person was the going rate to get back to Cusco. Tried to haggle him down and his response was to point us to where we could get the bus….I
Colonial church built on top of Incan ruins
guess business isn’t that bad. Luckily as he was telling us to where we could get the bus, one turned up so we ran across the road and jumped on board. Our ride back wasn’t as fast or as smooth as our taxi there but it only cost us 2.5 Sol each…bargain.
We dropped all our stuff off back at the hotel and then went out shopping around Cusco. Late in the afternoon we headed over to an Irish bar imaginatively called “Paddys” for a couple of beers but ended up staying for dinner. The food was pretty good, the views over the plaza were great, and as an added bonus we caught up on some Olympics action on the television. Day 295 Wednesday 1st August
Had a lovely sleep in till 8 before having our breakfast and then went to head out the door for some site seeing, when we were stopped at reception. For our first two nights they had put us in a triple room which they now needed and so we had to change to a double. It was a pain having to shift room but then we ended up with
something better so we can’t complain. Yesterday we revisited Chinchero and today we were off to revisit Sacsaywaman. This again was another great historic site that we had seen on a tour back in March and had sworn to return so we could do it justice. Sacsaywaman is located on a hill overlooking Cusco and is best/easiest seen by getting a taxi but we opted for the more scenic/hardest way of walking up there. As we left the Hotel a protest march was making its way around the plaza and disappeared up a street out of view. Protests are becoming (or perhaps have always been) a normal part of life for Peruvians and so we didn’t think too much about it. We took a long way up the hill winding around the narrow cobbled stone streets but always going uphill.
We finally reached the entrance to the Sacsaywaman site and discovered that the road out front was closed and blocked by a line of police with riot shields…..a little unusual, but again we had seen plenty of those guys over the last 2 months. It was a further 10 minute steep climb up to the site where we discovered
protesters had overtaken a nearby hill as well as one of the two hills that constitutes the site. There wasn’t a huge crowd but they were vocal singing out slogans and blowing whistles. The police in full riot gear were running around trying to contain them. It all seemed really harmless but a lot of local tourists including the ones selling stuff were running away from the area as quick as they could….was that an omen.
We wandered onto the site and went to wander down one of the trails that led around the site but instead decided to head to the very top of the old fortress. Just after changing our mind a large contingent of police went barrelling down the path we were going to go down and we could hear heaps of screaming and shouting going on and it seemed that maybe another group of protesters were trying to sneak onto the site via this path and the police had stopped them. Unsure if the confrontation was violent or not as we couldn’t see it from where we were but we didn’t see anyone being dragged away or ambulances so we hope it was all handled
Markets outside the churh
with care. The rest of the time we were on site the protesters moved around always singing and always being followed by the police, if nothing else it made our visit more interesting.
Sacsaywaman, over the years has been described as either a temple complex or more often as a fort. Archaeologists and historians now see that the site served both purposes, and when the Incans laid out the city of Cusco in the shape of a puma they saw Sacsaywaman on the hill above as the head. The high 3 tired walls constructed in a saw tooth fashion were seen as the teeth of the Puma, but on top were three temples, of which almost nothing remains. The site is best remembered by the 1536 assault by 50 Spaniards along with about a 100 native supporters who somehow captured the entire fort from thousands of rebellious Incans. To this day it still defies logic how they achieved this feat but they not only managed to capture the fort with minimum casualties but slaughtered thousands of Incans in the process. After the capture the Spaniards dismantled a great deal of the fort to build their own homes and churches
Fountain in Plaza De Armas
down in town, so that what is left represents only 20 percent of the site. The most impressive part of the fort is the lower zigzag wall that contains huge blocks, some of which weigh more than 300 tonnes. The sheer size of these blocks that were quarried nearby are staggering, so it was no wonder that the Spaniards didn’t drag them away to build an outside loo for their hacienda.
We spent two hours walking the site and discovered another whole area that we didn’t see the last time we were here, so it was great that we had taken the time to see it again. We ended up leaving the site just behind the protesters who I think were starting to lose their voices. Walked back down the hill, which was infinitely easier than walking up it, and decided to stop at the Nortons Pub for lunch. It’s a fairly good pub that overlooks the Plaza and has a great motorcycle theme and serves up good burgers and salads. After our feed we headed out to do more shopping and discovered that although most of the shops sell the same things none of them had the same
After a long afternoon of trudging around the hundreds of shops in Cusco we stopped back at our hotel for a shower and then went out for a feed at Bambu once again. We haven’t got too many great Asian feeds on this trip and so are making the most of it while we can. Day 296 Thursday 2nd August
Well Shelley had bought up big over the last two days and now it was time to get rid of it. After our brekkie we piled up all the stuff we had picked up since Ecuador including the two rugs from Tuesday and put them into bags and carried them down to the post office. It was a good 500 metres walking through the crowds of Cusco to get to the post office and along the way we had heaps of people stopping us to sell us paintings, dolls or other souvenirs, and I felt like reaching into our bags and trying to sell them some back.
Down at the post office a protest was taking place on the steps which seemed to be against recent cuts in their staff. Once inside you
Shelley in front of the walls
got the feeling they may have good reason to complain as there was only one woman behind the counter. A guy came up to us who ran a small shop inside the post office and he offered to pack our stuff for 10 sol ($4) so we agreed to it. He also was the post office customs officer and had a quick glance at what we had before roughly bundling our stuff into a box and then wrapping the whole thing in plastic. He weighed the box and delivered it around the counter where the one woman was able to get our box on its way to Australia…we hope.
The next task of the day was to get bus tickets out of town and that proved more difficult than it should have been. Generally the only way to get tickets is to go to the bus terminal but in Cusco lots of places were offering bus tickets so we decided to give them a go. Most had posters out the front saying they sold tickets for “Cruz Del Sur” which we had used before, and although we didn’t particularly want to use them again, we thought it would at
Rock formation on opposite hill
least save us going down to the terminal. Soon discovered that none of them sold tickets for Cruz Del Sur but for some other dodgy bus company. After trying three agencies we ended up just buying tickets for a bus company that had great glossy posters of what there buses used to look like probably thirty years ago. I thought they only photoshopped Hollywood starlets but apparently they also do Peruvian buses.
After getting our chores done we should have probably got in some more site seeing as Cusco does have a lot to see but we felt pretty good in what we had already seen and just wanted to stroll the streets checking out the shops. It is amazing how we have spent probably 2 weeks in total in Cusco over our three visits and we still managed to find ourselves walking around areas we hadn’t seen before.
In the afternoon we had to once again battle our bad WiFi signal and post our blog and book a room in our next town. For our last meal in town there was only one place we were going to go to and that was Bambu, and of course
Overview of walls
it was great. Day 297 Friday 3rd August
Up at the crack of dawn and thankfully we could get breakfast at 6.15. Because we had emptied our bags (16kilos in fact) when we posted our stuff back to Australia the pack was a bit easier this morning. Checked out without any hassles and walked straight out the door into the arms of a taxi driver who insisted that the fare to the bus terminal should be 10 sols as it was so far away. It didn’t take too much to get him down to the 5 sols that is probably twice as much as what the locals pay. The bus terminal is 2 kilometres straight down the main drag out of town, but because our driver put on a bit of a performance about how far out of town it is he had to take us on this huge round about way to the terminal, it didn’t matter he still only got 5 sol.
Only had a short wait before we got on the bus and straight away we got the feeling this wasn’t going to be one of the better trips. We both have
Puma teeth walls
done way too many bus journeys in South America, and because of this we are starting to get a bit jaded by the whole experience. This trip was 7 hours starting at 8.30 and arriving at Puno at 3.30. Despite this being classed as a “tourist bus” we got no food served, no television and most annoying of all only an hour of air conditioning. The bus was a steaming oven before the female conductor turned on the air con and just as it was getting comfortable she turned it off. I had a small opening above my head in our window so I opened it but it really didn’t get the heat down but it at least let in some fresh air. At 1.30 in the afternoon we stopped for lunch at a store which basically only sold bread rolls and snacks, and shortly after getting underway again a woman came up from the back of the bus and asked us to close our window. I flatly refused and then she drew her trump card “oh but my bebe”. I would have stood my ground as part of the reason we needed the window open was her “bebe” had
Scott in front of walls
obviously pooed its diapers and the smell had been building. Shelley weakened though, and so we closed the window. About an hour down the road the heat and smell in the bus was unbearable and this was evident when the mother came down the bus and asked the guy across from us to open his window and then opened the roof vents. The guy across from us couldn’t open his but we certainly opened ours so at least for the last hour we had some fresh air. The trip was even more boring because the battery of our phone which was fully charged before starting we discovered was completely dead when we went to play music. We didn’t have the phone on (as anyone who knows us would know) but for some strange reason had gone flat. This was the start of some spooky incidents that continued when we arrived in Puno.
Arrived on the outskirts of Puno at 3.30 and from the hills above the city we had a great view across Lake Titicaca. At the bus terminal we picked up bus tickets for Monday before getting a taxi to our hotel. A lot of the taxis in
View of Cusco
Puno seem all done up with stickers, and flower garlands on their bonnets, and ours had a DVD player and the driver had to put it on for our short journey. It was a bit of a worry though because he seemed more interested in the TV than driving, but it proved that our 4 sol taxi had one up on our bus. We are staying at the Camino Real Hotel, which is located about 5 blocks from the main square, so after booking in and a quick call home to let my Mum know that another huge box is heading her way we went for a walk downtown. First impressions is that there really isn’t a lot to see in this town and it is a bit rough around the edges, but it does have a nice mall and lots of restaurants and bars.
Shelley has picked up a bit of a minor stomach bug and isn’t feeling the best so we decided to have an early dinner and head back. Had a feed at a Lonely Planet recommended restaurant called Colors and Shelley ordered an eggplant lasagne and ended up with a couple of small slices of
eggplant topped in a mountain of cheese and no pasta…just as well she didn’t have a huge appetite. Day 298 Saturday 4th August
Puno sits at 3800 metres above sea level and we are here in winter so the nights are bloody cold, zero degrees cold. Surprisingly the days are hot hovering around the mid twenties, which is why the nights seem even colder, as soon as that sun starts to set the temperature plummets. Our hotel put a heater in our room which was small but kept our room at a reasonable temperature, considering one entire wall of our room is glass. The breakfast was average but it is a cheap hotel so we can’t complain, especially as it is better than some of the more expensive hotels we have stayed at.
At 4.20am the TV turned on by itself and had changed channels from the one we were watching before we turned it off, it made us both jump up out of bed as it was blaring. This was another strange incident to add to the growing list. Poor Shelley’s stomach bug gave us a slow start to the day, she is not
that sick with it but it is more annoying. Late morning we went out for a walk around town and warm ourselves in the sun. The centre of town is rather small and I was looking for someone to put another battery in my dead watch which died this morning without much success. We spent a bit of time sitting in the centre park watching a wedding across the road at the local church. As the bride and groom exited the church they were serenaded by a mariachi band complete with huge sombreros, we sort of guessed that one or both must have been Mexican or perhaps it is a Puno thing. This was the second wedding of the morning and across at the park all the benches were taken up with elderly people and it would appear that this was the weekend entertainment for them.
We walked around for a while and then returned to the hotel for a rest and watch some Olympics we are becoming experts in Women’s weightlifting. It is amazing how quickly armchair watchers have got the answers – “Oh her hands were in the wrong position or she was not mentally prepared etc.”
Close up of walls
Scotty has kindly decided to shave tonight before going out and as he turned the shaver on it went bang. He had brought the shaver just before leaving home and without warning the battery has died, thankfully he has the plug so he can still use it. We went out to a very rustic but cool bar for a drink I am sure it would not pass council building regulations in Australia and I definitely would not like to be in it in an earthquake but it has a great vibe. We tried somewhere different for dinner and the signs were not good as a lady at another table took one bite of her pasta dish and pushed it away. Our meals were OK and that is all, this is a touristy town so we do not expect much. Day 299 Sunday 5th August
At 4.20am the TV went on again and like before the channel had changed and it was blaring this is all getting a bit weird with all the batteries dying and the TV coming on. Maybe Erich Von Daniken is right there are aliens and they are in the Puno area, lucky
Plaza De Armas from the top
we don’t have pacemakers.
My tummy bug is gone so after breakfast we walked down to the main plaza and we got to see the regular Peruvian Sunday parade and showing of arms. It is amazing how every Sunday in every town we have been in has a huge parade and waving of the flag. Punos version had hundreds of soldiers, and Naval personnel in full uniform….it was quite a sight. From the parade we headed down to Lake Titicaca to have a closer look and get some sunshine. We had originally thought of doing a homestay on one of the islands, but it is so cold of a night it turned us off. Also we have read and heard that the tourist agencies are reaping in all the money and paying the locals poorly and favouring certain families instead of rotating the stays this is causing resentment amongst the communities. With all these factors plus my dodgy tummy we are quite happy to sit on the shore and look at the lake, maybe we will see more on the Bolivian side. Around the shoreline there was an assortment of colourful paddle boats with lots of locals out in
their Sunday best enjoying the sunshine.
We stopped on the way back for lunch and had a nice sandwich before an afternoon rest although I am better I just feel a bit tired. In the evening we headed out for our last drink at the Kamizaraky Rock bar and stuck around for a small pizza. It is a great bar but unfortunately for us non smokers just about everyone else in the bar smokes, so that when we got home our clothes reeked of smoke which isn’t something we have had to put up with for a long time.
There are more photos below