Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cusco - or - shit happens :P

Ok, Cusco and shit happening are not really related, but just happened to happen at the same time :)
As Marko said, I got sick and had to miss the 3-day hike to Machu Picchu. Probably something I ate or drank, because my stomach is spinning all around and today I'm keeping myself close to the hostel (toilet ;))
I'm now on recovery program of eating light things and resting, and in two days I will take a train to Machu Picchu and meet with Marko there on the 4th day to watch the sunrise at the Sun Gate and explore Machu Picchu.

This however gives me a chance to write more about Cusco (and hopefully tomorrow look around town more, as it is an interesting town with plenty to see).

So, more about Cusco!
It is a town that is a combination of the old and the new. You can find Inka walls embedded in new houses and vice versa. It used to be the capitol of the Inkas.
The town is situated at 3300m and full of steps, so you can get pretty tired pretty quickly if you try to do things hastily.
The architecture of the town is impressive, both the Inka remains and the new Spanish churches (and there are quite a lot of these here!)

One thing you notice instantly is that it is a tourist-oriented town. The town center is full of police (e.g. a policeman at every corner of the main plaza), there are almost more tourists than locals in the streets, and the prices are not like the ones we saw at Tacna. Things are still cheaper here than in Chile or Argentina, but not all that much.
There are also many European-style shops with similar goods but also similar prices.

A typical street in Cusco, with the town in the background:

Going down the street I noticed a girl with an alpaca hiding behind the corner. As we reached the corner I took a photo of her, only to be greeted with an extended hand and the words "one Sol". So, one Sol to take a photo of someone in the street? I'm new to South America, but apparently that's normal in all the countries here. Oh well, if they pose for the photo, I can see the sense in that. Anyway, this is her:

Going further down towards the town centre, we finally reach the main plaza:

This one is full of tourists and tourist offers, from travel agencies, excursion agencies, people wanting to get photographed and shoe cleaners to people trying to sell you some pot (like one guy named "Johnny Walker" LOL).
Being that this was Sunday (or maybe some other special day?), there was a parade going on:

A sidetrack - would you buy something here and eat it? :)

Oh and this was a cute photo opportunity:

so I asked "one Sol?" and the old lady confirmed and they both posed for the shot.
The light wasn't the best, and at one shot they looked away, so I snapped 3 shots and gave her one Sol.
Then the comedy began, she was basically pulling my sleeve and pointing at the kid... oh so it's one sol for each? Now you tell me? Ok, so be it. I give the kid another Sol. But nooo, then the "3 photos" story begins and she wants 5 Sols. Strange maths happen here, but we're getting used to it :)
More math fun occurs at the smaller shopping side-streets like this one:

You can buy dozens of little hand-made things or clothes in these shops, and you're a sucker if you don't drop the price for at least 20% ;)
Anything you wish to buy - drop the price!
If you buy several things, ask a discout for that too!
If you found another seller selling below that price, put that in as well.
We dropped prices up to 50%, but I guess they could be dropped even further if you're good and speak Spanish ;)
We even negotiated the Dollar-Sol exchange rate at an exchange office, but didn't exchange anything in the end as all the exchange offices here will rip you off. The newest Footprint guide says rate should be 1 US$ = 3.25 Sols. You won't get above 2.90 in the offices in Cusco. Just use the ATM.

In the evening we climbed up to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced by many tourists as "sexy woman" :)) from which you can have a nice look at the city:

(note the airfield in the middle of the city, quite interesting to land here consiering the town is surrounded by hills)

On the upper side of the hill, many people come for some relaxation time. This looks like the park of the city:

and here is proof that Japanese Anime has found it's way to Cusco as well :)

By the time we climbed up, it got too dark to take good pictures of the Inca walls of Sacsayhuaman, so this'll have to do for now:

More to come in the next days, some of Cusco and nearby ruins, and some of Machu Picchu (in hopes I'll be ok by then lol)


eva said...

sh***, a pity you had to miss it. well, but thanks a lot for info, it will be handy on the way there!! thanks for sharing your adventures!

you could actually post your stuff on travel pod, where such things would be absolutely useful not only for your friends, but also to other travelers (it can be read like at least by 30 people per day), so other would know ie. which bus not to take.
cheers anyways, keep on writing!

eva said...

www.travelpod.com hehe, if you will be interested.

quetzy said...

no probs, main thing is I still got to see Machu Picchu ;)

hmm, I didn't know about travelpod... a bit late to start now, but we could write a summary there or maybe copy/paste the entire thing... will check it out...