An Inca adventure in Peru
09.06.2011 - 20.06.2011 19 °C
We arranged to stay in a gorgeous guesthouse for our first night in Cuzco before we had to meet our GAP tour. We chose Ninos Hotel because all the proceeds from the two hotels fund an amazing project for street children. You can read the full story on the website but the summary is that a Dutch woman moved to Cusco in order to work with street children. She adopted 12 in her first year and now feeds 500 children a day in the restaurant, 3 meals per day, 6 days per week. They also help with schooling, dentistry and adoption arrangements. It's an amazing project, so if any of you in these cash strapped times can spare a tenner than we think it's an incredibly worthwhile charity.
It's also a really gorgeous place to stay if you are ever passing through Cuzco.
Cuzco is a gorgeous city. Surrounded by mountains and full of ancient churches and beautiful plazas. It's also the most touristy of any South American city we had visited. There are touts for everything from Inca tours to massages but it's not too in your face once you have adjusted and everyone is friendly. It is also home to Jack's....the most gringo friendly restaurant we had seen in 3 months and we loved it. You could even get a full breakfast with home made baked beans - I know that makes us sound awful but a large salad or a tuna melt is a great thing when you have been eating bread, corn, meat and cheese for 10 weeks.
We had made our alternative plans to take the Inca Train rather than hike the Inca Trail (it's practically the same....one letter difference!) and met at the pretty rotten Hotel Prisma the next day to join our tour group. We were able to join the group for the first day of exploring the Sacred Valley which was great although Noush's lungs struggled a bit. We explored a few ruins, visited GAP's Planaterra project of a female textile community and spent the night in Ollantaytambo, a beautiful little village in the mountains which was in the throws of the first night of it's week long annual festival. Bands, dancers, bonfires, all night fireworks - it was a riot.
The next day Noush and I headed back to Cuzco for 36 hours of sighseeing and museums while the other 12 poor bastards started a three day hike into the mountains...this would be the last time most of them washed before we met them again three days later. In order to connect with the group at Machu Picchu, Noush and I caught a train to Aguas Caliente. The train ride was gorgous and scenic and aided by the fact that the roof of the train contained huge skylights so you had an almost 180 degree view. However Aguas Caliente is a bit of a dump and purely there to cater to tourists who are going to or returning from Machu Picchu. We stayed in possibly the worst place of our entire 6 months away - damp, blue carpeted WALLS, lots of nylon, a real gem! It had a TV though so we watched bad films and ate crackers to while away the hours. We also thought it best to avoid some of the food.....(vegetarians and small animal lovers may want to scroll down quickly)
It is a 30 minute bus ride up into the mountains to the foot of Machu Picchu. We arrived at 7am as the sun was rising and it is a spectacular sight. I'm not big on ruins but the location and the size of Machu Picchu is what makes it. 2700m high, 500 years old and sprawling (although only 80% finished before those dastardly Spaniards came in and spoiled everything!)......I'm really glad that we got to see it and I understand why it is held in such high regard.
We joined the intrepid members of our group to tour the site and then we all headed back on the train to Cuzco - that was a somewhat aromatic experience with 80 odd hikers in the carriage!
The next day we flew for one brief night to sea level in Lima - Peru's capital city. I can't say we really saw it - we stayed in a lovely area called Barranco and wandered around in the evening, enjoying the additional lung capacity, the sea views and a fish supper before heading back to the airport the next morning to fly to Quito, Ecuador.
Quito is OK....I'm still here as I write this, wrestling with the internet speed. We've seen more beautiful cities which has left us bemused as to why this one is a UNESCO site, we saw a woman get mugged which is never high on your wish list. However...it was our gateway to the Galapagos Islands so I can forgive it anything!