Cusco, Peru
3° 16' S 72° 25' W
Sep 27, 2009 21:38
Distance 1101km

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Blog 36 - Cusco again

Coming back to the hostel where we had stayed before was like coming home and after the tent, even the room ‘through the back and down the stairs’ that they gave us seemed like luxury.


Unfortunately, we discovered that it wasn’t only through the back and down the stairs, but also directly below the dining room and internet computer. Despite our exhaustion, we were unable to get to sleep until after the herd of elephants had finished their dancing lessons upstairs. Unfortunately the same noise stared again at 5am as the first early starts (no doubt heading off on a trek) had their breakfast.


Desperately needing sleep, we asked if they had any other rooms but when we were told no, we had no option but to set out and look for alternative accommodation.


Walking barely half a mile up the road, we came across a half decent looking small hotel and after asking to see the room, booked in immediately. For less money than we had been paying, we got a fantastic, bright, airy room with a view, within easy reach of some great small restaurants.


Having been recommended in the Lonely Planet, we decided to have dinner in ‘Jack’s Café’ that night and it proved to be everything the book promised. Excellent food, reasonable prices and a wonderfully inviting atmosphere.


The following morning we reluctantly filled a bag with yet more of the clothes and souvenirs that seem to keep appearing (despite the fact that I never remember buying that many) and headed for the post office.


Without a doubt, Peru’s postal system is by far the most beurocratic and annoying of any that we have used yet. Although we had experienced its weird requirements in Lima, we still spent the best part of two and a half hours having to pack two second hand crisp boxes (which we had to pay for), reinforced with four rolls of tape, complete innumerable forms, write the ‘to’ and ‘from’ addresses on pieces of paper and tape to the box (which meant buying yet another roll of tape – since for some reason you can’t just write on the box), get a photocopy of passports and give a full inventory of the contents.


Still with a couple of days left in the town we booked ourselves onto the ‘City Tour’, thinking, as most people would, that it was a tour of the city buildings such as the cathedral, museums, etc. Perhaps we should have been warned by the relatively low price but the trip was like something out of a comedy film.


After being dragged round the one city building we had both already seen, we were led onto a small bus full of stereotypical tourist types, from the loud Americans taking pictures of everything that moved (or indeed stayed still) via the gay Argentineans with matching ‘his and his’ backpacks, to the Swedish bloke that bought (and wore) every conceivable souvenir from leather hat to alpaca cardigan.


The afternoon consisted of us being shown some Inca remains around the city which, if you hadn’t been able to visit Machu Picchu, would at least have given some insight to the history of the area but after seeing the real thing, just seemed like a tacky cop-out.


Having booked a white water rafting trip the following day through the same agency, we were slightly concerned that it would be up (or down) to the same standard and I had visions of sedately bobbing along on a slow moving stream. Fortunately, this turned out not to be the case and Mayuc rafting proved to be an excellent company.


After a two hour journey crammed into a small minibus, the group of twenty or so of us arrived at the company’s downstream base. Not too sure what to expect in the way of Peruvian rafting safety we were extremely impressed by the way the company operated.


After being fitted out with wet suit, helmet and buoyancy aid, we were given a safety briefing and introduced to the two ‘safety kayakers’ who would be accompanying the rafts.


Since the rest of the bus load had booked as groups, we  somehow ended up in a raft by ourselves (with a guide) which initially we assumed would detract from the fun but we soon discovered, thanks to the unbelievable paddling ability of our guide, that we possibly had the best deal. Since the two of us were sitting at the front with the guide at the back steering and doing all the hard work, we had a fast, light raft which allowed us to manoeuvre more quickly and position better for the exciting bits.


After being made to get out the rafts and walk past a section because ‘there have been bad consequences here’ we began to think that maybe they weren’t overdoing the safety thing after all.


This was the first time I had ever been rafting and thoroughly enjoyed it. After some trepidation when we approached the first section of white water, I couldn’t wait for bigger and faster rapids. Obviously, our enjoyment showed and our guide suggested that we could change from the raft to what was basically an inflatable kayak.


Having drawn the short straw once again, I was positioned at the front which resulted in a submarine impression every time we came down a drop. Despite two and a half hours of paddling, exhaustion of my upper body and frostbite in my feet, it was one of the most fun activities I have done on the trip so far.


Returning to the ‘base camp’ we were amazed and hugely grateful to discover a sauna which we made full use of before tucking in to a late lunch.


Back in Cusco once again, we spent most of the following day buying last minute ‘souvenirs’ and packing before we haggled over a two pound taxi fare, headed to the airport and returned to sea level.


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