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The Tourist Magnet of Cusco

Written on: Thursday September 18th, 2008

A journal entry from: Trails in 2008

This is the tourist hot-spot of South America, and you can tell.  Women with llamas are chasing us down the street to get money for taking a photo, people on every corner offer us massages/alpaca jumpers/belts/drugs, we are paying double for our hostel, and $10 for a ticket to get inside the nice churches.  Still, its a very attractive town and every kind of food you are craving is available here (McDonalds has just opened for a McSlice of the action).  I scoff at the English happily splashing out $8USD for a bottle of imported ale (but if I could get my hands on a Monteiths Summer Ale I might too). The night bus from Arequipa was a special experience.  So far we have been travelling with a fairly good bus company where you get a blanket, movies and heating.  Travel here costs three times more than Ecuador, so we decide to save some money and go with a cheaper company.  There were a lot of people crowded on the bus (a family of 5 were sharing 2 seats opposite us) but I don't know where the body heat went, we absolutely froze and got not much sleep.  And you know what happens when it gets cold... you need the toilet...  the loo on our bus was broken.  At about 11pm a women was banging on the drivers door asking for the loo.  He told her to wait for 2 hours.  I naturally assumed this meant there was a public bathroom in 2 hours.  I realised I was wrong when we stopped at 1am and got out to see the men standing on one side of a brick wall, and the woman squatting on the other, in full view of the bus.  Most women were wearing full traditional skirts which conveniently double as a loo cubicle.  The other women were expertly prepared with a handy piece of fabric that they tie around their waist before letting loose.  I got straight back on the bus but was armed with my travel towel and mental preparation to do as the locals do at the next opportunity.   We arrived at 7am exhausted at our ageing american hippy hostel in Cusco where the talk centred around shakras, moonbeams, and grown men crying in the hallway after emotional healing experiences with the Shaman, a traditional medicine man.   We had a crying tourist of our own to deal with, a nice Canadian girl who had her camera stolen with 3 months of photos on it.  The only thing for it was a night out on the town, we came across a great live band where the lead singer had hard core tattoos on his forehead but was singing covers of everything from Buddy Holly to U2 in spanish.  Fantastic!  Nothing like a bit of drinking at altitude to get value for money too.