Machu Picchu, where are you? The last days of Cusco
Last time you caught up with this lone traveller she had just crossed the border from Chile to Peru in a strange 1950s car wondering whether she would ever shake the illegal immigrant feeling. I´m pleased to say that three weeks in Peru has made me much more accustomed to the strange men in cars, women with toothless dry grins trying to entice me to buy their weird concoctions (is that meant to be juice?) and long bus rides where the occasional chicken squawk from the back of the bus is customary.
So apart from soaking in the street life and eating up the menus del dia, what on earth does one to in Peru?
First, accompanied by lovely German friend Maike, I made for Arequipa. There we could have spent days wandering around the amazing churches and monasteries. Worth a mention is monasterio de Santa Catalina (named for St Catherine of Sienna woohoo!!), one of the oldest building in Peru and most definitely a city within a city. Built entirely from volcanic rock (pretty common around Peru) and home to one saint and at least two blesseds. Not bad eh?
But you can´t spend all your time in the city when the world´s second deepest canyon calls. So off we trekked, all the way down, accompanied by amazing views of ´Jurassic Park´esque vegetation and sheer cliffs. The annoying thing about exploring the bottom of a canyon, however, is the whole climbing out of it again. Not the funnest day of my life, but you can bet this slow climber sped up quite a bit when overtaken by a 90 year old woman in sandals! Rewarded myself at the top by partaking in guinea pig feast. Yep, I succombed to peer pressure and tried the ´delicacy´. ahem. if you ask me, a lot of work for something that... well... tastes like chicken!
Next, it was onto Lake Titicaca, the world`s highest navegable lake. Once we caught our breath (cocoa leaves definitely help with the altitude, I don`t care if they`re illegal outside of Peru and Bolivia!!) we spent some time on the floating islands of the Uros people, which they built hundreds of years ago to get away from the invading Incas. Clever idea - just chuck enough reeds down on the water and you can build whole villages on them!
And then I made my way to my last port of call in Peru, Cusco. This city is everything you`ve heard about it - ancient, hilly, touristy, enchanting, did I mention hilly? Went to the chapel where the first Mass in South America was celebrated in 1533. Awesome. In the cathedral I had to stare for a very long time at the massive portrait of The Last Supper which replaced the bread with guinea pig and wine with chica, before deciding that if it was in the cathedral it couldn`t be blasphemous, right? hmm.. Also saw the third most valuable monstrance in the world and Peru`s finest jewel: 1600 diamonds, 500 pearls (including the second biggest pearl in the world). Too bad it`s too valuable they don`t actually use it for Adoration anymore.
And then it was time to do that iconic rite of passage called the Inca Trail. True to form, this idiot got some sort of food poisoning two days before hand which continued well into the trek. SO I spent the first 2 days trekking without any food in my system, with a pack that weighed WAY too much and a stomach that was as unpredictable as the so called toilet ´facilities´ along the way. Nevertheless, the most awesome experience of my life. Never mind the fact that when we got to the Sun Gate on the 4th morning having practically sprinted there before sunrise, we couldn`t see a thing of Machu Picchu due to the pouring rain. But it was all good because we got there alive and got to see the Lost City of the Incas up close, (even if we couldn`t from afar).
And thus ends the somewhat haphazard writings of this traveller. I cannot believe I´m saying this, but this is my last day in a hostel for a very very long time. And I won't be too sorry for it.
To those faithful readers, thanks for tuning in! Hopefully Sopa de Claire will make some sort of entry in the future when she resumed her summarily shortened trip, and we'll all get to live the dream again.