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  • Day272

    Cuzco, Peru

    July 16, 2017 in Peru ⋅ ☀️ 18 °C

    The tourism capital of Peru.

    It's no secret. Cusco (or Cuzco if you're speaking Spanish) is the tourism capital of Peru. And it reeks of it. It's not a bad thing. Tourism makes up 70% of Cusco's industry (I'm quoting Fidel here and I don't think he's qualified to make that statement but I lack a better source) and that provides jobs and dollar for many Peruvians who mightn't have otherwise.

    I'm sure by now you all know my view on confrontational sales people, in particular taxi drivers, but I feel that this time I did very well to suppress my disapproval. Right Cat? From tours to massages, restaurants to jugerias, llama garments to paintings, taxis to buses, tissues to batteries to cakes and icecreams or even photos with a llama - these people are at every turn and will sell you anything. It's chaotic but after a good night's sleep, a cup of coffee and time to kill it's an entertaining scene. It's also part of the reason why we went a bit overboard on the budget in Cusco.

    We felt like we were in recovery much of the time we were here. Recovery from tours and bus rides and lack of sleep. That, combined with our time in South America coming to the end, meant we needed to treat ourselves. So we did. We ate at nice restaurants (sampling the local delicacy guinea pig), drank artesenal (and cold) beer, indulged in delicious juices and an excellent sandwich. We shopped, drank coffee and hot chocolates and lounged around like any decent tourist would. Cat even succumbed to a Peruvian-chinese massage (which was in the company of an enormous grunting Chinaman, much to her disgust). Combine that with endless hours of sun, a cool breeze and some outstanding architecture made for a very relaxing few days. There's always stuff going on in Cusco, so much to enjoy and entertain. I'm glad we splashed out a little here and took some time to enjoy it - it was well worth it.

    I even attempted a run. As much as it pains me to associate this performance with MERC, it was a true MERC performance. My current state of fitness is poor and Cusco is at 3700m asl and as mountainous as the Andes themselves - this was a recipe for disaster from the outset. My body gave up on me twice as my heart rate struggled to new highs and there are some running statistics on Strava that should never see the light of day. I'll never know if it was the fitness or the altitude that caused me so much grief but I'm just happy my lungs are still in my chest and my windpipe still drinks air.

    Our exit strategy from Cusco involved a twenty-something hour bus to Lima. It was a perfect summary of all things bad about busing. First off, we've long since given up paying extra for a nicer bus because at least 50% of the time you don't get what you paid for. So we forked out a lousy $30 each for a bus that was promised to be 20 hours. Of course, the bus left late and was loaded to the gunnels with luggage - Peruvians don't travel light! Our seats were tiny and barely reclined and the man on the seat in front of us boarded with a lamb that would not stop baa-ing. Just before dark, that lamb peed. On the floor. The puddle seeped into our foot space and absolutely stank. It was sickening. This was about the same time the man asked me for my knife so he could open his can of milk and feed the poor critter. I was not impressed. We then stopped at an isolated dinner spot which served nothing but slop. Thankful only to not be in piss, we ate the worst meal of this entire trip - cold rice, cold slop, unidentifiable chewy meat chunks. It's a miracle neither of us were sick. It was probably the only bus ride where nobody came on to sell us empanadas. We got a few hours sleep that night and were awoken by a salesman with a loud speaker who spent two hours on a sales pitch for vitamin supplements. At 6am in the morning! Then Cat made herself some friends, the local kids, who at first were cute but their curiosity turned relentless and actually quite violent until we had to remove them with force that might have been considered criminal in a western country. We arrived in Lima in reasonable time (having skipped breakfast - another revolting food stop) but spent a gruelling two hours in traffic to get to the bus terminal. By that stage we were three hours late, starving, tired and stank of lamb urine. The only joy we took was in the fact that (aside from getting to the airport) that was the last bus we will take in South America. Hallelujah!
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