On the bus I started talking with two Swedish girls, L and M, who were great fun and I ended up travelling with until after the Inca Trail. Into the ugly town of Puno – we got a room and headed out to dinner, bumping into the English girls I’d met last night, and an Icelandic guy, at the restaurant. everyone exhausted by the long journey.
The next day L and M and I walked down to the waterfront and joined a boat trip to the Uros ‘Floating Islands’. The small Uros tribe lives on these islands made of reeds. We stopped at three with tourist stalls on them selling jumpers and knick knacks. The ground is springy and in some places damp and rotten – I had great fun bouncing around giving the locals a laugh. After a slow hot boat ride back to town we wandered round the town’s markets in the hot sun.
The next day was an eight hour bus journey to Cuzco – ‘Gringo Central’ as it’s known, and for good reason; everyone travelling around the west coast comes through Cuzco at some time or another. The girls had made excellent sandwiches for the trip and the video on the bus played a selection of Clint Eastwood classics – ‘High Plains Drifter’ and ‘A Fistful of Dollars’. Outside the windows lush steep hills covered with agricultural terraces filed by.
For the second time, we were lucky to have the room we’d organised in the town before (thinking it was possible we’d might be ripped off) ready and waiting for us. Someone picked us up at the bus station and bundled us into a taxi to the hotel Qorichanca, a few blocks from the main plaza. It was raining when we went out for dinner; lots of travellers about, busy markets under the plaza colonnades, many tour operators and tourist shops. Later we went to a bar called Mama Africa and danced ’til 2.30am. An English girl found US$20 and shouted seventeen tequilas at the bar. Some guy and his friend got up and start doing a striptease. Everyone had a good night!
Cuzco is a great town – I ended up spending two weeks there, including the Inca Trail trek. We explored the spectacular Inca ruins of Sacsawaman, just out of town, an impressive set of fortifications constructed of huge dark stones fitted beautifully together. From the hill opposite it was easy to imagine Spaniards and Indians battling on the walls and the fortress towering over them.
We booked an Inca Trail trip with a company called SAS , whom several people had recommended, and bought some stuff for the trip. In the evening we went to a place called Kamikaze, where a Peruvian band played local favourites. The groovy little place was decked out with streamers and balloons, and people sprayed water and foam during the show – more pre-Carnaval madness, a real party night. We shared a table with some local girls and their mothers, the latter really getting into it, banging on the tables, singing at the tops of their voices and continually getting us to toast and drink. We danced and clapped to the strange rhythms of the band; I stomped arm in arm with some local amigos, and partied to the early hours.
The next day we shared a taxi with some other travellers and headed for the Sacred Valley. Towering green hills scarred by the horizontal lines of ancient Inca terraces. Nestled by the Urubamba River was the village of Pisac, where that day there was a big Sunday market and a local dance competition to mark the beginning of Carnaval. The place was buzzing with locals and tourists, market stalls, dancers in colourful traditional costumes, kids throwing water balloons … we did some shopping, ate empanadas fresh out of a huge colonial oven, watched the dancing, and met some English girls and had lunch with them in a place overlooking the main plaza.
The next day, I started fulfilling a dream I’ve had since I was a little kid – walking the Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu.