Day 56: Cusco–Civilisation!

Mon. 8th October 2012

Purple corn - used to make a drink called Chicha MoradaIt was an early morning flight for our transfer to Cusco and so our day started with an unasked for 4:45am alarm call. Janet doesn’t know the Spanish for ‘I didn’t want a sodding alarm call’ but if she did, she would have used it on the poor hotel receptionist. Shiry reminded us that we were fortunate to have a 7:30am flight as we had originally been booked on the 5am flight!

Everyone was very quiet at the airport through a mixture of tiredness at the early hour and feeling the altitude. Shiry’s prediction that 90% of us would have upset stomach by the end of this trip is looking more and more prescient. Fortunately Janet is looking and feeling better and – touch wood – I have yet to succumb to anything more serious than a headache on our high-altitude day.

The flight was uneventful and it was an easy transfer to hotel in Cusco – the traffic seemed remarkably orderly. We have heard good things about Cusco, so we are looking forward to finding out more and seeing some sights. Whilst we aren’t going to the Amazon on our return from Machu Picchu we do get to spend another 3 whole days in Cusco and there seems to be plenty to do.

First 'English' breakfast of our tripAfter dumping our bags at the hotel, the first stop is breakfast and Shiry marches us through the streets. We end up at Jack’s Cafe which we had heard about it from the folks we met on our Galapagos trip. They do proper (well, properish) English breakfasts – result!!! The ‘Gordo’ (fat one) is a no-brainer – eggs, bacon, sausage, beans and toast. Having had no lunch yesterday and no breakfast this morning, it was just what I needed.

It's Virgin Mary DayThe remainder of the day is free (until our pre-Inca trail briefing at 7pm), so we head back to the hotel as we have a few chores to sort out including the joys of washing our walking socks. When we get to the main square, however, we come across a parade to celebrate Virgin Mary day. This is absolutely out of a film scene – colourful costumes; marching bands and people letting off firecrackers. At the end of the procession, an effigy was carried on high on a litter by a dozen men. I had left my camera in the hotel – we were only nipping out for breakfast, so thank goodness for the camera in my phone.

Dancing in the streetsIn the afternoon, we head out again to see some of the sites of Cusco. As we get to the San Domingo church, we find another parade with dancers and bands so we follow this for a while. It was very colourful and everyone seemed to be having a great time.

Then it was off to the local market as this had been recommended to us. It turned out to comprise of a mix of stalls aimed at tourists and some for the locals. Stalls at the front were selling the usual tourist tat (and some nice alpaca knitware that in other circumstances we might have been tempted by) and at the back it seems to be a food market selling everything from a pig’s head to dried fruit and the purple corn.

Janet with some suggestions for my wardrobeOne thing they don’t seem to have much of is fridge magnets as we need to add souvenirs of Peru to our collection. Fortunately, we succeeded later when we found a tourist market that had a small selection.

Finally, in the evening, it is time to get ready for the Inca Trail. Although we don’t start it until Wednesday, we leave our main bag in the hotel in Cusco tomorrow morning. First, we meet and have a briefing from Percy who will be our lead guide. You can feel the anticipation and nervousness as Percy talks us through some of the key points of the trek. The hike on Day 2 up from 3,200m to 4,200m has a reputation for being the hardest part. We will be well looked after, as for our group of 16, the support team consists of Percy, an assistant guide, 2 chefs and 22 porters.

We'll get down to the 3.5kg limit somehow!We are issued with duffel bags for our kit. These will be carried from campsite to campsite by the porters. Our weight limit for the bags is 6kg – this doesn’t sound too bad until we realise that this includes our sleeping bag (1.5kg) and mattress 1kg. It took a little jugging to get our clothes & other essentials down to the 3.5kg limit. Beyond this, you can have as much as you want – but you have to carry it yourself! At one point we each had 4 piles on the two beds – stuff to wear; for the daypack; for the duffel bag; and the largest pile which was stuff to stay in Cusco.

After much shuffling of kit and deliberating, I finally concluded that I really can’t take the laptop in the daypack and so it can’t come on the Inca Trail. There will be an interruption not just in blog posting but also blog writing whilst we are on the trail. Good job we are in Cusco for a few days when we get back to allow us to catch up.

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