Mad Dash To Cusco

I’m not a fan of mad dashes regardless of how shiny and comfortable the buses are and here in Peru the days of your fellow passengers being of the feathered, egg laying variety are long gone. They can put some airlines to shame, the only chicken you’ll see is the one in your little metal tray next to the rice that they serve you with a cup of soft drink and a smile. That’s the more expensive buses anyway, I ended up on one of these, a semi-cama (where the relatively comfortable seat reclines half way), heading from Trujillo to Lima because there was no other option but no amount of complimentary cookies and cheese sandwiches could make up for the complete internal organ fall out.

Views on the way to Cusco.

For fuck’s sake. I could cope if it was just my uterus rebelling against me as it always seems to do just before I have to go somewhere but this time it joined forces with my digestive system which liquefied and resulted in a whole load of cramping and a fear of falling asleep on the 10 hour night bus. It’s perfectly acceptable to drool from ones mouth whilst sleeping on a bus but certainly not from ones anus.

So the flag on the right is, obviously, the flag of Peru. The flag on the left is the flag of Cusco. Not the gay flag, which as a massive queer myself was my first thought.

I made it to Lima without shitting myself, the whole journey made all the more uncomfortable by the appearance of a pimple on my arse right on my knicker line that made itself known every time I switched positions, and then came the task of battling through hoards of taxi drivers to find a bus company that’d take me to Cuzco. If you’re prepared to do some leg work you can usually find a cheaper bus, I suck at bargaining so I just wandered from company to company until I found one that ran an economico bus for S/.70 (nuevo sol), S/.20 cheaper than the comfier semi-camas. It might only be a S/.20 but that’s a nights sleep somewhere. Or three beers. Or four meals. Depends on how you look at it. It’s basically quite a bit of money over here so I settled into one of the bus terminal seats to wait for my cheapy cheap bus.

Not a bad place to hang out in Cusco.

Ah, bus terminals. It doesn’t matter how clean and pleasant they look, there’s still always going to be at least one child. And here’s where I wished I was travelling with someone so they could watch the bags whilst I went in search of food, drinks and the man who keeps selling squeaky toys to children. I swear, I shall return to Lima and track this man down and insert so many of these toys into his arse he’ll spend the rest of his life unable to scoop a sneaky fart out because his colon will subject him to the torture I had to endure at the bus station. After my three hours of waiting I went to check my bag in (yes,you even check you bag in! None of this jostling with other passengers to hand your bag to a man sat inside the baggage hold) and was told that actually I couldn’t get my cheapy cheap economico bus on account of the fact it’d been cancelled and I’d been put onto a slightly later semi-cama.

Fail.

However, this wasn’t going to cost me any more money.

Win!

But this did come at a cost; the couple in the seats in front of me had a small child who’s favourite pastime it seemed was screaming and crying.

Fail.

Once you’re in Cusco you’ll be descended upon by people in traditional dress, often clutching a tiny goat or sheep, who want you to take their photo in exchange for a coin.

Since when do kids need to travel anyway? Why do they need to be unshackled and let out of the basement unless the chimney needs sweeping or the mines need working? I sensed another sleepless night ahead of me. Take your rice and unidentified meat product, bus stewardess lady, and bring me a fucking Valium. I did manage to sleep, again without any anal seepage and only had to endure about 6 more hours of screaming and crying after I woke up but I was very restrained, I didn’t attempt to hurl it into oncoming traffic. Only because I was appeased with free cake for breakfast though. Gotta love these long distance semi-camas.

I believe these are dried llama foetuses. I have no idea why they’re available in shops.

So here I am in Cuzco. Or Cusco. Or Qosq’o if we’re gonna get Quechua about it, which we probably should to be honest. Quechua is the language of the Incas, the language the people indigenous to these parts still speak today but it’s a ridiculously hard language to master full of apostrophes that, like, you don’t pronounce. The Lonely Bible describes it as the non-sound in the middle of uh-oh. Bugger. Just as I was getting the hang of the Spanish essentials along comes another language for me to completely fuck up.

The famous twelve sided stone.

This is the reason I skipped through Colombia and Ecuador quite quickly, I wanted to get to Peru because these cultures interest me and I like looking at broken shit and Peru has lots of broken shit, a lot of which pre-dates the Inca Empire. Oh, and “Inca Empire” was what it was called once the Spanish rocked up, the Incas themselves called their empire the Tawantinsuyu. Cusco itself was said to be founded by the first Inka (meaning ruler, the K was changed to a C with the arrival of the Spanish), Manko Qhapaq, who came out of Lake Titicaca and was given a golden staff by the Sun God, Inti, who told him to found the empire where ever the staff sunk completely into the ground. This site happened to be where Cusco stands today and so the empire was born, grew, was conquered by the Spanish and is now packaged and marketed so perfectly that every damn thing is out of my price range. Yep, Cusco is a gorgeous place with plenty to see and do, just be prepared to scare the living crap out of your bank account.

This is a queue to look at the stone above. I can’t really say shit given that I was also in the queue. See how the stones at the bottom are smaller and the wall leans slightly backwards? These are both methods to protect the wall against earthquakes.

On account of the fact that Cusco is around 3300 m.a.s.l. you’re meant to take a couple of days to acclimatise, get used to the thinner air, drink some mate de coca (coca leaf tea) and just generally chill out while your lungs adjust to the new air quality so me and Chris, a fella in my room, went to look at an Incan wall because how strenuous can looking at a wall be? There’s a couple of original walls in Cusco built by the Incas that the Spanish built on top of and in one of these walls is the famous twelve angled stone which is easily identified amongst the vast array of similar stones by the throngs of people gathered around it waiting for their turn to take a photo. You find it and marvel and take photos and a quick reality check later you realise you’re staring wide eyed and slack jawed at a big brick. I gotta admit, masonry generally doesn’t get me wet but like the relentless tourist I am I still posed for the photo.

Views of Cusco from the Christ statue on the hill.

Of course you’ll find locals stood next to it selling postcards and souvenirs, shouting “Don’t touch the stone!” if you get too close and giving you titbits of information whether you ask for it or not and expecting a tip in return. I recommend you carry a pocketful of S./1 coins when out and about in Cusco, you’ll be charged every time you ask a stall holder or a local for a photograph or if you ask for information. Photography can start getting pricey, especially when a group of kids in traditional dress all jump in for a photo and want a sol each. Sneaky buggers. They’re learning young but hey, at least they’re trying to earn their pennies instead of just beating you up for your spare change and a packet of crisps like they do in the UK, and to be a fair a sol is fuck all. By the end of the day you find yourself taking surreptitious snaps of locals from the back or when they’re not paying attention. Stalker? Me? What?

Cristo Blanco.

Anyway once we’d got our fill of wall and crammed our brains with as much wall related knowledge as a brain can take (and notice the smaller stones at the bottom of the wall and how the wall, like most Incan walls, slopes inwards, both techniques for withstanding earthquakes. Hey I paid a sol for that information, I’ll be repeating it for free as much as I can) we flicked through the Lonely Bible to find something that was a) open on Sundays, b) didn’t require an overpriced boleto turístico which Chris didn’t want to get and c) wasn’t a church or a museum. Fail. So we decided to walk up to the Cristo Blanco, the white statue of Christ on a hill overlooking Cusco. Yes. Up. On our first full day at altitude. Clearly breathing is overrated. We climbed up the millions of steps to get to the statue before collapsing at the top to admire the view which was none too shabby. The Cristo Blanco isn’t anything to get Rio De Janeiro worried though, he looks a bit out of it, either the altitude was getting to him or Big J was a different kinda high.

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np

Cusco, Peru
Stayed at: Yamanyá Backpackers (2019 Update: According to Google this place is permanently closed)

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