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Back in Cusco

Written on: Tuesday December 4th, 2007

A journal entry from: Kevin and Julie's RTW

Location: Cusco, Peru

Author: Kevin

Hola!

We?ve completed our circle of southern Peru, including stops in Arequipa, Nazca, Ica, Huacachina and Lima.  After spending two days visiting Lima we took our 3:30 am taxi ride to the airport.  To our dismay we were not able to check in because we had missed our flight, which was the day before. How we screwed up the date of our flight is beyond us. Fortunately, the front desk clerk said we were able to pay a 25$ penalty and still be able to board with stand-by tickets.  Feeling a bit rushed we ran through the airport, checked through security, stood in line and paid our airport tax and continued to run to gate 3, shouting ?Stop the plane! Stop the plane!?.  When we arrived at the gate, we were sweating and our lungs were puffing for air, and we noticed all the passengers sitting and waiting for the flight to be called. Flights with these little airlines are never on-time and although it was only a few minutes before the plane was to depart, they hadn?t even started boarding people yet. This is the second time today that we?ve felt like fools. 

Luckily, we didn?t have to wait long and a few minutes later boarding was called. When we presented our boarding passes to the flight attendant, we were pleasantly surprised to find out we were in first class. It was worth the 25$ penalty fee we had to pay to change our date to today?s. We were a little disappointed that it was only a one hour flight; in these plush seats we could have enjoyed a 10 hour flight. Quickly on departure, we were served a breakfast of ham and cheese croissant, with fruit salad, and a choice of tea, cappuccino and coffee. There was no way we were going to fall asleep and miss all the little luxuries of first class. I think we even held our tea cups with our pinkie finger out. The flight was over too quickly and we were back in Cusco. 

We took a taxi to Loki Hostel where we had stayed previously with the hope that there would be a room or even a dorm available for us. We had emailed them the day before with the hopes of making a reservation but the reply back was that because they were full to capacity they couldn?t guarantee anything. It was 7 AM when we walked through the door to find out that we were on a waiting list but they weren?t sure if they could accommodate us. The check-out time was at 1 PM and we would have to wait till that time to find out if there was a room for us. Being there before, we knew how it worked and settled down in their internet/lounge room and spent the morning waiting with our fingers crossed. While waiting we ran into our friends Tom and Lionel we had met in Huacahina a few weeks earlier. We had forgotten to exchange emails with them and didn?t think we would ever see them again. It was great to catch up on their latest adventures since our last encounter. They were fine and were planning on leaving on a 4 days trek to Machu Picchu on the Salkantay route which is open to independent trekkers. There is no need for a guide or to pay a park entry pass, unlike the classic Machu Picchu trail that is so busy it needs to be limited and controlled to a maximum of 500 people per day. The hours passed by and at 1:30 we returned to reception to find out that unfortunately there were no rooms available for us but they had a recommendation of a hostel just a block down the hill from us that was in the same price range. We said good-bye to our friends with a little sadness that we couldn?t stay there, although we would return that night for a Toga Party. They let us rent a couple of Toga sheets so we could join the festivities even though we weren?t staying there. 

We headed down to the other hostel run by a nice couple with a couple of young children and two happy dogs. Our room had large picture windows overlooking the central plaza and the San Blas neighbourhood, came with single beds with lots of warm blankets, a private bathroom and a TV. It turned out to be a good location since the next day Julie came down with a re-occurrence of the stomach flu she?d had in Nazca so she spent the next three days in bed fighting it with the fever and chills that kept her awake all night. It?s possible that it was triggered by a lack of sleep the two previous days caused by the early morning flight plus altitude sickness brought on from flying from ocean-level Lima to 3200 meter high Cusco.   

That evening we returned to Loki for the Toga party. Everyone was dressed in white togas with many creatively wearing theirs in various forms. The party lasted into the wee hours of the night, as it progressively degenerated into a drunkfest. The owners of the bar tried to close down the party around 2 AM, but the partiers were having none of that and kept partying. Walking around, there wasn?t a single sober person remaining, with everyone dancing and singing. There were even a few girls losing their toga tops and flashing more than they realised. We left around that time, mostly sober and exhausted from being awake since 3 AM the night before. It was a good time spent talking with our friends but it was time for some much needed sleep. 

The next day Julie was feeling too weak to get out of bed. I wandered around the city for a few hours while she watched TV in between bouts of napping. Feeling a little hungry and wanting to check in on her, I returned to our hostel to find out that yes she was a little hungry but wanted nothing more that a bit of plain white rice. A few doors down from our hostel was a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant with a 3 soles almuerzo set-lunch. I sat down and ate a bowl of chicken soup with a large chicken leg in the middle then a main plate of chicken with rice and a salad. Sitting next to me was a couple of brothers from Australia and a young woman from Peru. We struck up a conversation and I made the acquaintance of Stuart, his Peruvian wife Luly and his twin brother Andrew from Adelaide, Australia. Andrew was visiting his brother Stuart who had just gotten married to Luly in a civil ceremony in September. He came for the religious ceremony which was a few weeks earlier in Lima and they were now in Cusco on their honeymoon. They turned out to be really nice guys and we made plans for later on in the afternoon to venture up to the ruins of Sacsayhuamán, which overlooked the city of Cusco. I returned to our room to see if Julie was feeling strong enough to join us but she declined. 

We hiked up the path to the entrance of the ruin to find out that we needed to buy a Boleto Turistico at a cost of 35 soles to enter the ruins. Knowing that we were only planning on being here for a couple of days, it really wasn?t worth the price so we declined on entering. I was a little disappointed since it?s a ruin that has a lot of significance to the history of Cusco and the Inca empire. Sacsayhuamán (also known as Saksaq Waman) is a walled complex near the old city of Cusco, in Peru. Some believe the walls were a form of fortification, while others believe it was only used to form the head of the Puma that Sacsayhuamán along with Cusco form when seen from above. Like all Inca stonework there is still mystery surrounding how they were constructed. Thanks to an as yet unexplained precision in stone-cutting, the structure is built in such a way that a single piece of paper will not fit between two stones. This precision, combined with the rounded corners of the limestone blocks, the variety of their interlocking shapes, and the way the walls lean inward (ubiquitous in Inca architecture), is thought to increase the ruins' incredible durability--devastating earthquakes in Cusco have left it undamaged. The Spanish harvested a large quantity of rock from the walls of the structure to build churches in Cusco, including the Cathedral and the Compañia de Jesus we had visited previously, which is why the walls are in perfect condition up to a certain height, and missing above that point. Sacsayhuamán is also noted for an extensive system of underground passages known as chincanas which connect the fortress to other Inca ruins within Cuzco. We had seen the entrance of these tunnels in the lower chapel of the Compañia. Several people have died after becoming lost while seeking a supposed treasure buried along the passages. This has led the city of Cusco to block off the main entrance to the chincanas in Sacsayhuamán. Today, the annual Inca festival celebrating the winter solstice and the New Year, Inti Raymi, is held near Sacsayhuamán on June 24th. Some Cusqueños also use the large field between the walls of the fortress early in the morning for jogging, tai chi, and other athletic activities.

Next to the entrance of Sacsayhuamán is a large statue of Jesus Christ, similar to the world famous one in Buenos Aires. It is built on a premonitory, overlooking the city of Cusco. It also afforded us a good view of the site and walls of Sacsayhuamán. We spent some time there, admiring the view of the city, the surrounding mountains, the clouds as they whisked by, and the sun set. It was getting darker so we headed back down and made plans to meet for horseback riding near Sacsayhuamán in the next couple of day.