Yesterday, I met up with my buddy Martin in an Irish pub (but not before being accosted by several kids selling postcards, dolls and shoe shines – most of whom speak English surprisingly well) and we chatted for a bit then signed up for a 4 day hike of the Inca Trail (which ends at Machu Pichu). This is gonna be a challenge, as four days of hiking (6k´s a day) with a heavy backpack at 10,000 feet is nothing to scoff at. We also signed up for today´s trip to about three different Incan ruin sites. That night though, there was the Cuzco/Columbia soccer game being played on a big projection sheet in the center of town and I was amazed at how many people there were there – at least several thousand all cheering and moaning with the ups and downs of the game. Martin and I opted to watch the game at a pizza joint though and it worked out rather well. We also tried the National Drink, the Pisco Sour (not too bad).
But in the end, we were tired and we went to our separate hostels after the game to get some rest.
So the next day, after a wonderful breakfast, and an incredible car ride up to the mountains (well, higher mountains than those we were already in), we came to the first set of ruins. The whole way up the mountain, and again once there, you see how the side of each mountain has been carved into a series of steps for agriculture. We hiked for a few hours, seeing a new fortress every thousand feet or so. It was pretty incredible. Although the walls were run down and the roofs off most of the buildings, you could almost imagine daily Incan life as you passed through the rooms and climbed the windy stairs to secluded parts of each compound. We took the trails less traveled and ended up on the top of the highest mountain of the bunch (and drenched in sweat) and the hike down the other side was quite an adventure. Between jumping over rocks, sliding down steep parts of the train, and making our way over stone staircases embedded in the ground.
We drove to the next site, through a small town with cobblestone roads barely big enough to fit a single car and drainage systems along either side with spring water running from the mountain (they were little gutters that allowed access to the houses only with a little ramp).
The site consisted of several different sets of stone staircases up the side of the mountain which one could take to get to connected Incan fortresses via trails. I think the pictures, which will be up within a few days, describe it best. There seemed to be only South American tourists there which was interesting and I got surrounded by young kids asking me to talk to them in English as we were leaving (I kept a hand on my wallet). “How do you say doll”, “Can you say the numbers?”, “Thank you! Bye bye” – of course, all in Spanish. It was fun, although it got a little weird after I counted to 10 and they still wanted me to continue…after all, how high was I to count?
And tomorrow I start the Incan trail with Martin and we´ll see if I survive.
Well, I made it to Cuzco. I had to get up at 3:00AM to catch my taxi and be at the airport at 4:00. The plane ride was pretty normal and sadly, clouds covered most of the awesome landscape below. From the airport, I took a taxi to my hotel and have since spent my day wandering around Cuzco. I feel a little dizzy and very thirsty and I think it´s due to the altitude. I´m up at over 9000 feet and it´s a bit much for the body in one quick jump. Cuzco itself seems to be built on a slant, with criss-crossing streets housing stores and places to eat and populated with people asking to shine your shoes, sell you postcards, or change currency about every 5 feet. The fog rolls in here pretty early and there is already a slight drizzle on the ground. I´ll take some pictures tomorrow and put them up. I´m gonna meet my buddy Martin at a pub tonight to watch a soccer game and I think tomorrow we will see about hiking the Inca Trail which is about a 4 day hike and drops you off at Machu Pichu (do a search on Google for pictures if you want to see). Other than that, not much exciting going on.
Lima was pretty cool. As I already mentioned – it´s huge and very modernized, with the exception of not having railways or trams.
The city tour was nice and we got to see some religious historical stuff, the government buildings and the catacombs in the church. I don´t know how well the pictures came out because everything looks really dark on this monitor, but they were pretty cool. A long time ago, if you were really important, you got to be put in the catacombs (which entails them letting you rot, and then putting each bone in a pile of other like-bones).
Although the hostel at which I stayed was one of the better ones I’ve seen (hot water, clean bathrooms, TV and cable, PlayStation, DVD, ping pong table, laundry, internet), the backpackers there were a bunch of stuck up French and Israelis who wouldn’t even return a hello (even though they spoke English). I think a day was enough to see Lima, although, if I wanted to buy stuff, like electronics or what have you, that´s definitely the place.