Cusco

Day twenty-seven/twenty-eight: Cusco and Sacred Valley

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This morning we spot children in the hotel! Actual children. Blonde haired, English speaking children the same age as ours! Hallelujah! I’m sure my reaction was something akin to the child catcher (poor kids) as I bellowed “CHILDREN!” at them.

Luckily I didn’t scare them off and they all bonded over ‘friv’ on the lobby computers, chess and entertaining each other with funny accents… and before you know it a football match is scheduled for later in the day. Hmmm, just the small issue of a flat football and the lack of a pump to overcome.

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Today we take a city tour of Cusco. We make it to about half way through before being asked “Why does this man think walls are so interesting?” We are stood looking at our fifth wall. If you’ve ever been to Peru or studied the Incas, you’ll know their walls and building methods are a very important part of their history. But to this seven year old, we have touched, looked at, walked by and climbed on enough walls to last her lifetime.

Being accompanied by a rainstorm and a child without a raincoat for most of this cement-less wall experience made it all the more enjoyable.

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Let’s just say we ‘get through’ the trip to all the local historical monuments… the Plaza de Armas, the Cathedral, the Koricancha Temple, the ruins of the Kenko Amphitheater, Tambomachay, Puca Pucara, and my personal favourite…. Sacsayhuaman (pron. sexy-woman). 

We fail to find a football pump, so the children continue with funny accents and doing impressions with their new friends, they play chess and take turns on the lobby computers. We discover that no one (in the whole country) can be served alcohol as there’s a general election tomorrow.

That’s a new phenomenon to us – what does that tell you about a country? And what uproar would that cause if implemented in the UK? I try to put my case that I am not in fact voting, but alas no one will bend the rules. Perfect. Finally, the rainy-no-wine-wall-day comes to an end. Tomorrow’s another day…

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Today we’re off to the Sacred Valley. We have the same guide as yesterday, Puma, so we hear some of the same patter and enjoy his stories as he proudly talks about “my people”.

DSC_8882Blue skies today so we can actually see out of the windows and can see Sacsayhuaman (although still being reminded of Rod Stewart each time he says it). We drive to a little farm with llamas and alpacas and of course we stop off at a couple of obligatory artisan gift shops, a market and a silver shop on the way to our final destination today… Ollantaytambo.

IMG_8923Unfortunately we are joined for the second time by a family we had the displeasure of meeting yesterday. They consist of a grown man and his two parents from Europe (not the UK) and they are rude, gruff, shout, smoke, smell, they snort, they grunt, have miserable faces and are always late. Unfortunately they have chosen to do *all that* (minus the smoking) in the seats directly in front of us.

My heart sank when I saw them again this morning. We’re at the start of a six day tour and it dawned on me that we may have to listen to their bodily functions for the duration.

We’re all wearing small wireless earphones linked to Puma’s microphone to hear him as we walk through the ruins. This also means we have the pleasure of hearing the gruff family each time they complain to him. It also means we all hear Puma when he forgets his mic is on and complains about them to another guest. From the top of a ruin I start to jump and wave at Puma to alert him to turn his mic off, but he keeps going and keeps going.

Really really fortunately, the gruff family have chosen to not wear their earphones today.

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Several stunning, albeit wall-based archaeological sites later…. including the very beautiful Ollantaytambo… plus the obligatory 30p a piece photographs with locals in traditional dress holding llamas and lambs (right before they head home to pull on a pair of jeans) and we arrive at our hotel.

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We’re staying in a kind of canyon and the scenery is stunning. A late night campfire keeps the children entertained before bed… tomorrow we catch the vista dome train (not the nine hour one) to Machu Pichu. I am beyond excited!

Lost:

  • Ethan’s coat (left on the bus back in Cusco)

Found:

  • Ethan’s coat (thankfully located and returned by the tour company 24 hours later)

Day twenty-six: Puerto Maldonado to Cusco

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It’s our eldest son’s 9th birthday today. What do you get a nine year old in the jungle, with an already full backpack? 

We chose… a baseball cap, a new crisp clean t-shirt, a packet of haribos and an Amazonian keyring. The simplest set of gifts he has ever received. He also receives handmade birthday cards and a card from grandparents that we’ve been carrying around with us since we left the UK. 

The manager of the hotel delivered a personalised birthday cake to him at dinner last night, along with a Spanish rendition of Happy Birthday and this morning one of the guides is taking him on his own personal tour of the jungle – which he has decided to invite his siblings to. Hopefully making this one of his more memorable birthdays!

His birthday jungle tour was a success; more spiders, monkeys and macaws on secret jungle trails they hadn’t been on before.

It’s our last day in the jungle as we’re travelling to Cusco and onto the Sacred Valley and Machu Pichu next. So, back in the canoe, back along the river and back to the butterfly house. EVERYONE gets out a phone at the butterfly house as soon as they hit the wifi signal and you can hear a groan when the transfer to the airport is ready, no one appears to want to disconnect.

We then enter Puerto Maldonado airport… the HOTTEST AIRPORT IN THE WORLD. An airport which has also RUN OUT OF BOTTLED WATER!

It seems the only place where the air conditioning is working is the mens toilet, don’t ask me why. So far this is our worst airport experience and it was about to get worse.

As we go through the x-ray machines, an over zealous security guard decides to put a pin in the boys’ football to deflate it. This ball has travelled, successfully, inflated, from London to Miami, on four flights all over Ecuador, two flights already in Peru, even on the same carrier as his employer – twice. Nine flights under our belt with the same exact ball tells me that it is not about to explode onboard.

But at this crappy little airport, with no water and no air conditioning, where we are about to board one of our shortest flights is where we have our first ‘scene’ of the trip.

You see… the children don’t have much to play with and our boys play with that football every day…. and we don’t have a football pump and I’m pretty sure we’re going to struggle to find one in Machu Pichu amongst all the alpaca jumpers.

The boys are absolutely devastated. There are tears, there is shouting, there is blame, there was very nearly swearing and name calling, but as they do ultimately have the power to refuse access to the plane we calm down a bit. There was finally an apology, followed by a non-acceptance of that apology and the promise to the boys of the purchase of a pump as soon as humanly possible. I know they are allowed to do it – my point is, they didn’t *need* to do it, especially on his birthday.

So… Cusco….

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Cusco is at high altitude and we’ve booked two nights instead of one to help the family acclimatise before we travel onwards to Machu Pichu. The place is lovely and warm and we’re met at the airport by Mateo. We ask his help to rectify the football situation, hoping he might know where we can buy a pump. He doesn’t.

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We’re offered coca candy and told that the hotel will give us coca leaf tea and we should all have it – including the children. On the transfer we see school children in big jumpers, woollen tights and boots. I look at what we’re wearing and four of us are in shorts, and all of us are wearing flip flops.

Mateo takes us through the itinerary for the next few days. I find out that we will be spending over nine hours on a train in about a weeks’ time. NINE HOURS. Apparently it’s a very nice train, but that had totally passed me by… I make a note to pay more attention when we book stuff.

Lost:

– air