May 2, 2012 by Amie M
After almost not catching our flight, and being extremely thankful for the kindness and persistence of strangers, we landed in Cusco. Oh Cusco, you are a breath of fresh air compared to Lima. Your crisp mountain air, how I miss you so!
We were picked up, again with the awesome sign with our names on it, and driven to our hostel. All of this was arranged by Intrepid, and included in our trip. The car this time was a much newer, and nicer crossover. Our driver was super friendly and courteous. A great first impression of where we will be for the next seven days.
We dropped our bags off at the Hostal Pascana, and began a quick wander through the streets to the very nearby Plaza de Armas.
On the way, we chanced upon a gaggle of Quechan girls dressed in traditional clothing. They were also carrying a baby llama. I oohed, and Paul asked if we could take a picture.
So Paul snapped away. Afterwards, one of the girls held out her hand and asked for 20 soles. I thought ok, we were warned about tourist traps, so I paid her a 20. Then the other two girls held out their hands and kept gesturing for more. Saying they had to pay for the baby to eat. It was 20 each, or 20 for baby llama, baby Quechan and a third 20 for them. Yikes. I paid 60 soles and we got out of there before they could ask for more. Alright, we were had once. And we learned.
So we ran around the square that was just a couple blocks away. And then ran back.
But on the way back, we happened upon a music shop. After a sideways glance into the store, Paul made and about-face and marched right in. His face was glowing. Here in Cusco he found the instrument he has been looking for since a family trip to Spain four years ago. He asked the shop-owner if he could hold one, and she said it was called a Chorango. He played around with a couple, oohed over their looks and just glowed because he had finally found the instrument that garnered his curiosity a few years ago. He didn’t buy it then, because we were leaving on the Trail the next day. But we made a note of the prices and where the shop was, and promised to return.
Back at the hostel we had a group meeting with our guide and other Inca Trail pilgrims, and we didn’t want to be late. So we struck up a conversation over where the other people will be from. I thought at least a couple crazy Australians, some more Canadians, maybe an American or two, some Swiss or Swedes.
We got back to the hostel, grabbed our passports and trip confirmations and waited in the hostal reception area. It was empty. We waited a couple minutes, then up strolled a local.
“Are you with Peak?” he asked.
“No, we’re with Intrepid,” we replied.
“Ok,” then he sat down. He pulled out a couple maps and started drawing on them and circling campsites.
“We’re with Intrepid,” we repeated.
“Peak, Intrepid, same thing.” We were confused. “Peak owns Intrepid in South America. They changed their name last year. So we call it Peak now.”
We still weren’t sold. “Maybe we should wait for the others.”
“There aren’t any others. It’s just you two, me, the cook and five porters.”
Our jaws hit the floor. “Just us? But the website said our trip was sold out.”
“This is an extension. Extensions are small. It’s just the two of you.”
“Seven people for the two of us! That seems a bit much!”
“They carry your bags, their personal packs, camps, sleeping pads, food, and more.”
“Ok, ok. That makes sense.”
He went on then to explain the trek, where we would be staying each night and stopping for lunch. He went through a list of must haves that should be in our packs, and recommended walking sticks. Then he said good night, as he would be picking us up the next morning at 5:30 a.m.
We went out to supper, but came home right away and went to bed, all a buzz about how we were suddenly getting a PRIVATE Inca Trail tour. PRIVATE. Just us. How crazy was that?