Cusco, Peru
3° 16' S 72° 25' W
Oct 14, 2005 19:10
Distance 1263km

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Text written in: English

its all downhill from here, for now

sometimes i cannot wait to be back at sea level.  climbing a set of stairs breathless is not exactly how imagined spending my twenty sixth year, but the weather is quite lovely otherwise...  cusco is at 3300 m and certainly a city full of steps, blue doorways and some of the most beautiful buildings in peru.  its a shame you cannot sit on the plaza and enjoy your lunch, admiring the view, without being hounded every five seconds by kids selling postcards, finger puppets of llamas, gum and shoeshines.  if eating on the plaza, make sure its on the second floor.  this is the city that peruvians visit and you will see plenty of them taking pictures.  you will also encounter more souvenir shops than places to eat, but do not be swayed by the 'baby alpaca' goods, most are complete crap.

my first few days here were spent mixing sites with logistics, something i was willing to do on my own rather than have an agency run around for me selling me on different scenarios.  sites included the santadomingo convent (skip it), pre columbian museum filled with all sorts of valuable wares (worth it for the display/building) and the sacsayhuaman ruins, which we like to refer to as sexy woman, which are located just above the plaza on a hill overlooking the city.  these ruins are thought to be a ceremonial center for the incas though nothing has been proven.  spread across different hills there are multiple terraces, pitchblack tunnels, and a set of three parallel walls, composed of rocks way taller than myself, that must weigh over a hundred tons a piece.  the view is incredible, mainly of the classic spanish tiled roofs on nearly every building.

near to where i stayed is the famous 12-angled stone.  you cannot miss it for everyone is trying to get a picture taken with the stone and the inca warrior that seems to have a 24 hour a day job posing there.  a sunday morning parade for the disabled, including a performance by a band of blind children playing drums, tambourines and trumpets, brought out the entire town in support, as well as us gringos that were in town.

about two months ago i attempted to reserve a spot for the inca trail trek, finding it already booked (recent laws only allow 500 people to be on the trail daily so its essential you reserve at least three or more months in advance for the classic trek) i decided to visit ruins in ollantaytambo and then take the train to aguas calientes, which is the town at the base of machu picchu. getting train tickets involve a trip to perurail's office, at least an hour wait in line and then you are presented with a small selection of 'backpacker' trains (for two days in advance is not enough to get the times you want) then you hand over 40 american dollars for there and return (the most expensive 4 hour journey yet), preferably paid for in us dollars where it then undergoes various tests for forgery.  thinking this was enough in prep i was then told by the guy at my hostal 'you must buy your entrance ticket to machu picchu, here, now!' so this being the night before i am supposed to leave, i run over and buy a ticket thinking they are not going to have any.  it wasn't a problem to get tickets for the ruins, only the trail is impossible.  hurdles accomplished, it is the morning i am to leave for ollantaytambo and there is word of a landslide onto the rails.