Leaving Cuzco we set off in Cameron (my transportation for the next few months) to Puno. It was a beautiful drive with views of snow capped mountains and long stretches of great landscape. We stopped off along the way to visit the Sillustani Ruins – which are ruins dating back to pre Inca times. To be honest although I find these sites interesting I think I am all ´ruined` out at the moment! We spent the night out in Puno which is nothing really to write home about and very much on the dangerous side.
It was the next morning that I was looking forward too – heading out to Uros Islands or the floating reed islands and most people call them. Classed by some people as touristy it is still very fascinating and without our visits these people would not be able to survive. I was not brave enough to eat the reeds that they use to build there islands, houses and eat – which was just as well as nearly everyone that tried came down with some dodgy tummies.
I loved the islands with the colourfully dressed inhabitants and the cute little girls who sang and danced for us when we arrived. It was also a peaceful journey across the highest navigable lake in the world – lake Titikaka.
For the last four days I have been walking the Inca Trail and it has been a great experience and challenge! I set off on Saturday with a family from Uruguay, a Peruvian lady and an Australian couple in the pouring rain. I did wonder if choosing the rainy season was a good idea and if the whole walk would be like this. But the weather was kind to us and soon cleared up to show us some amazing views – it also helped that the path was not so slippery.
The porters were fantastic in carrying our gear and the chef was just amazing providing us with three course meals, snacks and tea everyday – I will admit that I needed all the energy I could get and hey I did walk 42km.
The first days walking was okay with only a 2 hour up climb and we thankful reached first camp around 4pm. It was up early on the 2nd day for the ultimate challenge of reaching Dead Woman´s pass some 4200m above sea level. By the time I got to the pass I felt like the dead woman but I did it!! Only slightly affected by the altitude I recovered to tackle the steep incline on the way down. My knees don´t particularly like the down bits and I felt a bit slow making my way cautiously down.
The third day we were truly in the cloud forest and it was weird to see the valley fill up with clouds and ten minutes later being able to see the view again. This was our longest day and we walked for a good 7 hours – but the scenery was just fantastic and of course the thought of being closer to the end was wonderful. At our last campsite I was lucky to see a coyote but it was too quick for a photo. I was even more lucky to get a hot shower that evening – all fresh and ready for the much talked about walk to the sun gate.
The final day we arose at 4 am and prepared for the last day. It had rained the whole evening so we were hoping that the clouds would lift when we reached Machu Picchu. It was cloudy all the way and when we arrived at the sun gate if I had not seen the pictures I would have thought it was some hoax — all we saw were clouds. We waited 10 minutes and luck was with us as the clouds slowly revealed the hidden Inca City — it was very dramatic!!!
Getting closer to Machu Picchu really showed the beautiful and crafty work on the Inca`s. The more I saw of the city the more I loved it. Everything had meaning with cleaver architecture work around almost every corner.
So I made the Inca Trail and survived Dead Woman´s Pass and I congratulate all my friends and family that have already achieved such a wonderful challenge – you never really know what you are in for until you do it!!
The colours of the Inca flag certainly sum up the vibe of Cuzco but I don´t think it is just the Cusquena people that add to the ambiance but the curiously dressed tourists that visit this town. Dressed in all sorts of material – interesting pops into my mind! I treated myself to lunch overlooking the Plaza de Arms and although I cursed myself for not bring my photo lens with me I was not disappointed with the entertainment:
Taxi´s jammed with people – reminded me of “How many people can you fit into an Uno competition at Varsity” to the persistent Cusquena people trying to sell there wares. Yes we believe that for one Sol you can buy on original piece of artwork and we certainly don´t want postcards that look like they were taking in the 70´s. But the most entertaining of all was how each tourist acts different when approached. Some run away, some ignore and some just hand the first coin they come across just to get rid of them —very amusing. I guess my Africa roots have prepared me for the persistent and I can give a stern NO when needed.
I am also pleased I have my travelogue to keep you updated as I watched a couple at the restaurant write in book complete with cut and paste pictures —now wouldn´t that make a good story! At least now I can go on and on in short bursts instead of inviting you all to a show and tell when I get back.
Lynne it is weird that 3 years ago you walked these streets and I am glad I am able to share the same experiences as you – although the Pie de Limon is not so easy to find these days. Try pineapple or Apple!
The rest of the city has entertained me with their museums, finding Llamas in the street (yip they are only there to trap tourists into paying for photos) and a bizarre little man asking people to step on his scale to weigh themselves in the middle of the street (don´t forget to check out the photo) and traditional dances.
I can honestly say that I am truly relaxing here in Cusco – maybe it was the much needed facial that I received (oops sometimes we just need luxuries)