The night bus wasn't the best we have ever taken but it got us to Cusco in one piece. The road was really windy which meant you were bouncing around in your seat. The service guy on the bus also decided to ignore the beeping that went on for ages at midnight. We were then woken by loud local music at 6am. We stopped for breakfast which was more for the locals than us as it consisted of pork fat and deep fried potatoes so we passed. Back on the bus we were pleased to see they were handing out breakfast although we were given one between us as they ran out. If we knew the Spanish for 'the locals have just pigged out on pig fat so can one of them share instead' it would have been fine but we don't!
We checked in to the hostel and took it easy for the rest of the day. We also didn't want to do too much before Karen,Emma's sister, got there as she would be joining us in 2 days time.
Cusco is situated at 3300 metres above sea level so altitude sickness can occur. The advice is to don't over exhaust yourself and avoid alcohol. We were abiding to these rules well into the evening, drinking water playing Monopoly cards until Martin and Adam walked in followed later by the Welsh guys we had also met. We decided to have a few beers which was followed by a few more and ended up with us joining in the UV party that was happening around us. Martin was first to get his face painted with 'el gato' (Spanish for cat, long story but in short he has a thing about cats!), followed by Adam's "make me pretty" tumor like swirl and Dom's amazing goatee that was actually just a rectangle round his mouth. Emma then got a batman mask and Kris became 'el skeletor'! Unfortunately both our painted faces didn't include much UV paint, so it just looked like we had our face painted at a childs birthday party! We had a really good night but broke all the golden altitude rules!
The next day was quiet as we were both feeling the altitude (hangover) a little more than the first day so just had a wonder around town.
The next day we went to surprise Karen and meet her at the airport. We made a sign (Miss. Silly - reference to Emma"s dad getting called it in Vegas) and stood and waited. Karen walked outside and we immediately thought wow, she's travelling light as she only had a little rucsack. Unfortunately this was not the case and her big bag had been forgotten and had been left in Lima airport. Karen filled in a few forms and we left hoping the bag would be dropped at our hostel the following day. We wandered around showing Karen the sights before planning our next few weeks. It was also Martins birthday that evening so we had a few beers at the worlds worse pub quiz to help celebrate.
The next day we booked ourselves on a tour to see Inca ruins in the Sacred Valley.
We visited a market first where Kris bought another football shirt while Emma and Karen made purchases that you will see in photos on the next blog. About an hour later, we visited another market in Pisac. We weren't particularly happy about visiting these as all markets in Cusco and around all sell the same tourist tat and its not what we wanted to do! We eventually got to our first place, Intihuatana which is an Inca citadel perched above Pisac.
It was an impressive sight, with terraces perched on the side of the mountain and ruins on the top. The Spanish found this place when they invaded and destroyed and looted the complex. On the hill behind are loads of holes where Incas were buried but were later found by grave robbers. We walked to the top and had a great view.
We had lunch and got to Ollantaytambo which would be our next sight. This was equally impressive, sat between tall mountains. It again had the steep terraces which guarded the Sun Temple at the top. The sun temple had carvings which were slightly worn. Apparently one was in the shape of a Puma but we couldn't tell but we could clearly see the symbol of the Incas. You have to use your imagination sometimes here as the tour guides would say this spot was chosen because its in the shape of a Condor or a Puma!
We started our way back to Cusco but unfortunately that would be it for Inca Ruins which was what we signed up for. The last stop was a pretty badly staged tourist trap. The walk to our destination was lined with people selling the same stuff. We arrived at an 'authentic' old house which basically had a thatched roof where ladies dressed in traditional clothing were waiting for us.
They showed us how they use different vegetables to wash wool and die it. She got a white parasite and squashed it and her hand turned red, which she then used for lipstick! Gross. She then used bones to separate the wool and joked that the bone used was the last tourist who didn't buy anything from the gift shop that was conveniently situated behind us. Hardy ha ha. Despite the display it was the same tourist stuff as everywhere. Also the ladies didn't live in the town and only came to the town for the tourist display! On our way out Karen decided she didn't believe that the parasite turned red when squashed. It did and she had to wash her hand! We got back on the bus and just hoped we'd make it to Cusco without anymore stops!
We arrived back at the hostel and Karens bag had been delivered which quite frankly surprised us!
We had a few tasks on our final day in Cusco before we would leave for our 5 day hiking trip to Machu Picchu.
We went to the market which was pretty good. Emma bought an alpaca jumper as she decided she may need a 6th layer of clothing on the trek!
We went to a nearby museum as it was included in the Sacred Valley ticket. The first room we went in had a few Inca tools but also a mummy which you could see too much of quite frankly! Kris didn't want to take a picture of it in case it haunted the camera!
We walked around a bit more and Kris had to deal with the inevitable Sealey messing around.
The museum had a couple of interesting paintings. The first we encountered was a painting of the last supper where the food on the plate was Chinchilla.
The next painting we encountered was a lady who was breastfeeding a baby that had a face of a 40 year old and had a creepy smirk on his face. For some reason the artist decided to paint some milk dribbling from the ladies nipples which made for a very odd photo! (see photos).
The last painting was 2 people breastfeeding, one was the wierd old baby again and the other was an old man! This drew the comment from Emma 'There has to come a time when you say no more bitty'! A pretty boring museum turned into a pretty fun hour!
We then had a beer in the sun overlooking the plaza.
We had our pre-trek meeting and got told about each day which is what we already knew but it gave us a chance to guess who would be the slow and annoying people in our group!
We got an early night in anticipation for our difficult (-from what everyone told us), Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu.