ruined feet and ruins
We’ve covered a lot of ground since I last posted. We finished our time in Colombia in the capital, Bogota, and unfortunately I don’t have much to report other than eating at Crepes & Waffles three times in one day, and drinking a fair amount of rum.
We decided to blow our budget and fly to Peru, rather than take the disgusting 90 hour bus ride, and we arrived in Cusco on a very chilly morning at 3,310m above sea level. I’d been told that a lot of people get altitude sickness in Cusco, which can include extreme headaches, nausea, blood noses and the like. Jaime was certain I would suffer from all of the above given my ¨weak constitution.¨ Instead I just felt like someone was sitting on my chest most of the time, and usually slightly tipsy.
Cusco is a strange city. It’s the jumping off point for the Inca Trail and visits to Macchu Picchu, and therefore the place is absolutely swarming with tourists. Everywhere you look there are Westerners fully decked out in zip-off hiking pants, fishing vests, camel-back water holders and walking sticks…and this is only down at the coffee strip. It was difficult to digest the sheer magnitude of the tourist industry in Cusco; every shop was either a pìzzeria, tour operator, or ‘authentic’ North Face trekking gear vendor - or all three at once a lot of the time. We eventually booked a four day trek to Macchu Picchu through a toad-like little man named Cesar, who assured us that our plimsoles and leggings would suffice and there was no need to buy zip-off pants.
The trek turned out to be a really good time, mostly due to the fact that we struck it lucky with our group. There was a lovely kiwi couple, a guy from Perth and his Canadian girlfriend, another guy from Perth who I amazingly went to uni with, and two frumpy American guys from Utah. Our guide, Marco, was an absolute lad, and had heaps of amazing stories about working on cocaine farms when he was 9 years old for $3 a week. The actual tour involved a day of cycling down a mountain while it was pissing down with rain (not very enjoyable), and then three days of hiking to get to the coveted MP. The walking wasn’t all that difficult, but my sneakers really didn’t hold up too well, and my little toes still look like half-chewed redskins. The hardest part was dealing with the weather - sunny one minute then raining the next - the mosquitos, and the slow pace of the Utah boys. On the final day they ended up catching a bus up the mountain to MP, whilst the rest of us slogged it out at 4 in the morning to try and catch the sunrise (we missed it).
The mosquitos really deserve a paragraph of their own. Little bastards. Everyone got absolutely ravaged, no matter what percentage of DEET you slathered on, but I apparently got bitten by some other kind of creature that created huge golden blisters on my legs. These blisters were something else; they were yellow in colour and had a kind of glow to them…a little bit like a butter menthol stuck to your ankle. The group took an interest in my growths and decided it would be best if I popped them, in case something had laid eggs in me. So with a lot of peer pressure I eventually slapped one, and this disgusting viscous yellow liquid oozed out (but fortunately no baby spiders). This was a highlight of the morning’s walk for many.
The scenery along the way was beautiful. We walked along the Inca Trail for part of it, right on the edge of a mountain, and it really was amazing to think that the trail runs for 40,000km from Ecuador to Chile. Actually arriving at Macchu Picchu was breath-taking, possibly because we were so stuffed from the last few days, and just because of the grand scale of the thing. It was a blessing arriving so early in the morning, because soon the busses started rolling in and all of the fresh, clean tourists who opted not to walk fill up the site (some women were even wearing heels).
Although I turned my nose up at the plethora of Western style cafes and restaurants lining the streets of Cusco, I have to admit I very much enjoyed my eggs, bacon and mushrooms on returning. Jaime had cinnamon toast with fruit if you were wondering.