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June 19th 2011
Published: June 19th 2011
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Day 131 -134

We finally get to enjoy a lie in for what seems like ages and get up around 9am. We head to the post office to send some more stuff home in an attempt to make our bags lighter. Slightly apprehensive about crossing a picket line as it appears there is some kind of strike (more on this later). However once inside a helpful woman wraps our parcel with about 10 tons of sellotape and only charges about 20p. Here we also bump into Natalie and Linda from the tour and decide to go for coffee and cake.

After lunch we head to an alpaca factory to not only buy some original alpaca garments but to also learn how to spot fakes. Most of the stuff for sale on the street is fake (made of wool or polyester) and also probably made in a factory somewhere in China. We also quickly buy more stuff to replace the fake stuff we posted home. Next it is time to do some research to find a suitable watering hole to observe the upcoming champions league final, we quickly stumble across an Irish bar called ‘Paddies’ (not hard as you are always 10 metres away from an Irish pub where ever you are in the world) and agree that it has all the ingredients for watching football (real ale and fried breakfasts).

In the evening we decide it is about time that we all ventured out past 8pm as a group for some dancing especially as we don’t have to be up at 5am the next morning. Em and I desperately try to prove that we are still young and can hang with the kids, but struggle with the music and our requests for some early 90’s indie fall on deaf ears. The great thing about Cuzco is that the clubs are free and they all give you free drinks when you enter, also in the first club the barman gets carried away and starts pouring whiskey down willing recipient’s throats. Very quickly everyone is drunk and Ross (who earns the nick name Justin Bieber from the staff) and Charlie are soon dancing on the bar (ahhh to be young again).
We awake to find out that there is another strike in Peru, this time in Puno which is our next destination. Apparently the town is now cut off and it is impossible to enter or leave, with people being whipped in the street if they don’t go along with the protest. The strike is against a Canadian mining company who along with other mining companies have exploited the local environment and people so it’s hard to be angry at people for standing up for their rights (power to the people). What this does mean is that we have to skip the next part of our tour and fly direct to La Paz on the Monday, giving us an extra day to rest in Cuzco.

Feeling a little rough from last night’s exertions we take ourselves off for a day of culture and relaxation. First stop we head up a hill to see Sacsayhuaman (pronounced sexy woman - this is the name of the Inca ruins, not another nightclub) and also another Jesus statue similar to one in Rio but a lot smaller and with less of a Jimmy Hill chin. Next we head to the Inca museum which has some cool pictures of Machu Pichu when it was first discovered by Henry Bingham back in 1911 – it really gives you an idea of how much the site has been restored. The rest of the afternoon is spent in the spa moving between sauna and steam room sweating out the toxins from the previous night. At night we visit the only Indian restaurant we have seen in South America and all marvel at the 20 buffet curries on offer - hmmmm.

Very excited about watching the football today and we head to our favourite Irish pub in Cuzco 3 hours before kickoff to secure good seats (Em - it is myidea to set off so early, the project manager in me...). I try to warn Em that drinking at 11am may not be such a good idea, but Em’s argument that they might run out of the good ale means that 5 minutes later we are all nursing a pint of Abbots Ale. We quickly organise a sweepstake and the rules for the drinking games i.e. when a goal is scored you have to drink for as long as the commentator shouts Goooooaaaaalllllll! Which is a long time on South American TV... You know the result of the match and this is made worse by the fact everyone in the bar is supporting Barca especially the really annoying guy with a cow bell (we all want to kill him). After assaulting a frog in the street (see photo) we head back to the hotel with an hour to spare before our group meeting. Em lies down on the couch in the mainlounge area, and promptly falls asleep... and like an incredible sleeping woman stays there for 2 hours, sleeping through me teaching chess to Andy and the group meeting. (I did warn her previously about drinking in the morning)! It is quite funny that noone wakes her up... but she does look sooo peaceful.

The next day we decide to separate and I go off on a bike tour whilst Em gets a pedicure. Now the bike ride was sold as a gentle ride to some Inca ruins. What I didn’t realise was that at 4,000 metres cycling is very difficult and the gentle ride is actually more like serious downhill mountain biking. Natalie who was the only other person from the group to join me falls off within the first 5 minutes. Our guide then suggests that we take a short cut to make sure we are back before it gets dark. The first part is only a slight incline but at 4,000 metres this feels tough. After a box lunch we head by some salt mines before commencing a really steep downhill part which I really enjoy until I hear a pop and realise my back brake has broken whilst I’m speeding down a mountain with 90 degree turns. Luckily my bmx skills come in handy and I make it to the bottom. Next the guide announces that we have a 30 minute ride before we catch the bus home and I ask, 'what about the Inca ruins (Moray)', the main reason for doing the trip, and he informs me that the shortcut meant that we missed them. I am slightly annoyed (as is Natalie) as this was the whole point of the trip - he also fibs to the owner and sas he took the shortcut as we were complaining about being tired! We get a small refund...

Em here – I chill out, watch some TV, call my mum and then head to the spa where I have a steam/sauna first before having my pedicure. The inca trail means my feet are unrecognisable and need an industrial sander to sort them out. Just as I have relaxed in my recliner chair a pipe in the sink next to me bursts and a jet of water hits me horizontally in the face and on one side until I am soaked with water. The therapist is as surprised as me and she quickly ushers me out of the room, whilst about 4 people rush in to stem the water. Slightly in shock I am offered another robe and my clothes are taken off to be dried. I am then moved to a very uncomfortable plastic garden chair to resume the pedicure. The woman keeps working away at my feet with a pumice until it feels like I should have no skin left, and I can only apologise for the bad state of my feet. The manager comes to apologise to me for the soaking and gives me the sauna session for free and so with newly revitalised feet and red toenails I head out for a late relaxing lunch... only to bump into Simon and Natalie who join me for a post-bike drink.

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