Have arrived at my final destination, Cusco. A smooth and trouble free 40 minute flight instead of 11 hours on bumpy bus to a town of 400,000 soles nestled high in the Andes. My purpose of visit is the 4 day Inca trial to the lost city of Machu Picchu.
Well I say lost, it is clearly now found, but is was lost up until 1911 when it was found and it's location remains known until this day, until I presume, it will be lost again. Why it was lost in the first place I hope to discover whilst here and I just hope that it remains found until at least the end of my trek. Otherwise we will all be lost and may never to be found.
So the usual bullshit from the taxi drivers who prey on those solo travellers just arriving in a town for the first time by plane. Especially a tourist town like Cusco.
Thankfully there was a tourist information point in arrivals and a quick enquiry revealed the way into town was a taxi and it would cost me 15 sticks of gum, sorry Nuevo Soles.
" 30 soles"
Walked away being pursued by the cabbie. "ok ok, 25...20"
"its 15. The information desk told me." I said. " I would not go with you now for ten so go away and let me have a cigarette"
Eventually found a taxi for the real fare.
On the way he tried to prise from me if I had booked anywhere. The purpose then to drive me somewhere shitty for a high commission or if you have somewhere they tell you it has closed and take you somewhere shitty for a fat commission
"you have reservation at Pariwana?" the hostel I have been recommended and our destination.
"yes" I lied. " I spoke to them on the phone last night." I lied further. Case closed.
Great recommend. Really cool hostel. Large courtyard where you can relax surrounded by the dorms, and bar. Met Morgan from Denmark whilst lounging around the courtyard who now owns the record for time spent on a bus to get to a destination. 52 hours. Insane.
Wandering around Cusco it is a very pretty city. Terracotta roofs stretching high into the hills around the city.
Influential Spanish design is everywhere in the buildings and cathedrals. Narrow streets and lanes leading to tranquil tree lined plazas. A large Plaza de Armas dominated by two cathedrals is the focal point of the city, but as it is a tourist town all the usual suspects are here too. Every other shop offering tours and the 'artesan' tat that comes with places that attract folks like me.
Then there are the spivs and Delboys who try and sell you fake or stolen goods like Rayban sunglasses, Rolexes and the like.
The best though, whilst sat watching a bunch of riot police officers waiting for their lift back to the station was a shoeshine guy who tried to convince me that my flip flops needed buffing up.
Like some rogue trader he then tried to convince me that the soles of my flip flops were loose and he would superglue them for me.
"NO GRACIAS! Adios"
Got a feeling I will be saying that a lot in Cusco. There is a bar in town selling 'NO GRACIAS' T-shirts. Might just buy one.
Sorted out the bill for my MP trip, having
booked it a few months ago. Because I have a new passport number it's another $15 to inform the government. #ing joke! But there you are have no option but to pay it or I cannot gain access to the site and lose my deposit.
Have seen the list of those on the trip. There are 20 of us, all American except for an Aussie and me. The oldest is 62yrs old. I just hope they are quiet Americans and not the 'screamyshouty' type that one often encounters on trips away. Or the ones who think America is the biggest country in the world, terrorism did not exist until 9/11, and know nothing about life outside their own town, let alone state.
Whilst Working in Kingston, Jamaica several years ago for the weekend we used to head north to Ocho Rios or Montego Bay for a break. It was on one of these breaks that whilst sat at a pool bar talking to an American couple he suddenly said " So when do you guys celebrate New Years Eve?"
The look of incredulity prompted more.
"because in the States, New Years Eve is December 31st, so
I guess for you guys it must be like June/July time".
"you fucking idiot" said his wife as she slapped him round the head " what's the matter with you, it's December 31st all over the world!"
Hank, or whatever his name was, a 40yr old toilet paper salesman in the tri-state area was totally bemused, having up until that point of his life thought that the calendar months moved around the world as the earth spun around the sun. Let's hope Hank is not in Cusco. Somehow I doubt it.
You know backpackers are strange lot. Content with tramping around the world with all they posses in a rucksack. 'Living the champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget'. I read this line in my current hostel and that sentence sums us all up completely.
A real cross section is represented here from the heavily tattooed couple, the folks with dreadlocks, solo travellers, students in groups, couples on honeymoon the list is endless. Some 'doing' South America in three weeks, some for months and others who seem to have been on the road for ever, taking a gap year, a sabbatical or quit
there jobs to see the world. People from all nations travelling the world in which all live our fragile lives. They are content to live from their rucksack in their personal quest to experience it all.
The mix of age is a contrast too. From my own viewpoint there seems to be a much younger bunch tramping around South America than I experienced in SE Asia and to some extent New Zealand and Australia. Why that is I do not know, but each have their own stories for hitting the road. No two reasons are the same which is so refreshing. Individuals all. Trying to experience as much as possible for as little as possible. Gap year students, those on sabbaticals, those spending their savings, those spending their redundancy money. Those spending their pensions?
Sat here quietly in the sunny courtyard of the hostel waiting to attend my MP breifing later this evening it got me thinking why I decided in 2009 to save up all my leave, work as many hours as possible in overtime and travel to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand in 2010, Vietnam in 2011 and now retired in 2012 travel through South America and beyond.
My taste for independent travel was nurtured in 2009 when I went to Toronto, Canada for three weeks to visit a relative, Frances and to travel about a bit. Even though it was -36 degrees and snow banks like mountains I loved it. Frances has travelled the world promoting health and well being long before the Internet and mobile phone were invented. The amazon rainforest. Conflict zones. You name it, she has been there.
I enjoyed the experience of independent travel to Canada so much that I called my brother Martin who lived in Auckland and informed him I was coming over to stay a while via the countries I have mentioned.
I suppose it is the freedom of it all. There really is nothing quite like it. Experiencing new cultures, sights and sound at my own pace. There is no rushing about, no deadline to meet, just taking my time and moving at my own speed. I spent the last 30 years bring on time and now the only appointments to keep are with the next bus or plane. The rest you just make up as you go along. You may be in the most fantastic spot but for me it's all about the people you meet along the way. Travelling alone you can chose to be a recluse for a few days gor some piece and quiet or mix it up with travellers of locals. Find somewhere that I like and stay a while or conversly if it is not 'floating my boat' then move on.
The one thing I find in common is that they all gain richness in their lives, not from the money in their accounts, but from the experiences they gain whilst travelling to make them a more rounded individual with a better insight into the world we live in. I know travelling has changed me, and would like to think for the better. Understanding that happiness comes from the ones you love in your life. It comes from friendship and mutual respect for one another not the material possessions that surround our lives.
There is no point in saving money just to feel rich.
A cop for 30 years I have done my time and witnessed first hand 'mans inhumanity to man'. I was once asked why I do not like horror films. The answer was always the same. Why spend my hard earned wages st the cinema watching a horror picture when I got it for free at work.
I am grateful for the position I now find myself in. Retired with new challenges ahead, I am seeing the world for the first time not as a copper but as a citizen of it.
I enjoyed going to work every day for 30 years and like to think in some cases I made a difference to someone life, especially on the child protection team, but in the past three months have not experienced or witnessed any form of violence from one person towards another, not had to deal with the flotsam and jetsom of life, of those who had it all, or were offered it all, and decided to throw it all away for a bag of heroin or bottle of booze.
It has been a revelation to me.
I have not had to put up with those who decided not to grasp the opportunity that a free education affords them with both hands, blaming someone or other for their missed chance. You were given every chance but it was your choice to ignore it. I also no longer have to suffer the constant mis-management and meddling of the job I loved. I cannot remember the last time I did not feel so unstressed.
As I type this entry, 9th May, thousands of my ex-colleagues are preparing to march on Parliament at the erosion of their pay and conditions of service. I did the same in the early 90's and a few years ago. Most of what was proposed was dropped by the government of the time, but this time the service is well and truely screwed. I think in a few years time I will reflect on 2012 and be content that retired just in the nick of time.
As I sit here contemplating my four day trek to Machu Picchu I am already thinking about my next adventure.
I have a course to teach English as a foreign language booked in Palma Mallorca in July. Angi and Aki are renting a house in Bali in October. They have invited me in if I am tramping that way. Would like to return to SE Asia so that could be on the cards
The world cup is in Brazil in 2014 and they are desperate for English teachers. Could tramp there and be nicely placed for the tournament in Rio de Janerio whilst teaching English to keep a roof over my head and some food on the table.
India still needs a visit from me, as does Africa.
And there is always Ibiza.
The world is my lobster and I intend to try and spend as much time looking round it as possible.
Me gusta tu trabajo comrades
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