Return to Cusco

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May 15, 2012 by Amie M

After traipsing/trudging around the ruins on Carlos’ tour, we had a couple hours to further explore on our own. We wandered a little bit, Paul practiced his Japanese on some people to get them to take our photos. He likes to show off that he still remembers a little.

I took shelter in some shade as Paul ran off to take more photos from the prime angle. I met and talked with an older Spanish couple, which made me feel good about my limited Spanish when I could hold a conversation about where I’m from and what I do, how long we are there etc. And I also met a couple from Australia.

We then shuffled out of the Park, got our passports stamped (yay!), bought some postcards for the Grandparents, and boarded a bus down to Aguas Calientes to meet Carlos for lunch. We were earlier than we needed to be getting back down the mountain, but we were exhausted and very pleased with the tour Carlos gave us.

The bus ride down the mountain was harrowing. The road was barely wide enough for two buses to pass each other. So when we did encounter another coach, our bus, or the other bus, had to back up to a wider spot and let the other pass. It was a narrow switchback, bumpy road. But it was better than walking!

On our way down, we noticed a path leading up to the ruins in the jungle. Apparently some people still elect to take this route. It’s a staircase trail that goes straight up.

Once in Aguas Calientes, we wandered and found the restaurant where we were to meet Carlos for our duffel bags and lunch. We were also two hours early. So we walked up and down the main street that followed the train tracks. There were some tourist souvenir shops along the street, and we may have bought a few things.

We eventually decided to go early to lunch anyways, and Carlos was already there! The restaurant we ate at has a deal for the trekking companies: they will give the porters a free breakfast if they store their passengers duffels in their restaurant. This makes a lot of sense for them, as the tourists have to come claim them, so why not eat as well.

We had a good last lunch with Carlos. We got his email address to keep in touch. And he drew us a map of where to find a better made and less expensive chorango instrument that Paul was talking about for the whole trek. He even offered to meet up with us at our hostel that night to lead us to the little shop.

We learned a lot about Carlos and his family on the trek. His brother plays on a professional football team, another is a chef at one of the high end hotels, his youngest brother is still in high school (Carlos is the oldest), his father works for the parks and his mother is a stay at home mom. Carlos does about 20 treks a year, most of them the Inca Trail. And the next day he was leaving to do the Quarry Trek. All these adventures really explained why he was in such great shape!

Carlos had to rush off to catch his train back to Ollantaytambo, and left us with our train tickets. We took out time packing up and getting our duffels. We also tried a Pisco Sour at this point. It is Pisco, simple syrup, lemon juice and egg whites shaken over ice and strained. Paul hated it because it had an after taste similar to tequila. I didn’t mind it after I drank half of it.

We made our way to the train station. Had an interesting time finding it, too. We had to wind our way through the artisan market. Why didn’t we waste our two hour wait here? We didn’t even know it existed before lunch!

We boarded the train no problem, and settled into our cushy seats in the vista domed car. It was very interesting taking the other Inca Trail back to Ollantaytambo. The Trail we walked was a split from the Trail the train was built on. So we saw more ruins and the other side of the mountains we climbed and along.

While we were stopped at one point to switch tracks, some Peruvian music came over the intercom, and out of the washroom at the front came a masked demon!

The demon danced the Diablada (Dance of the Devils) which is a traditional dance in the Puno region. He is to represent the curiosity, mischief and sins of youth.

Then we had a fashion show. Peru Rail sells alpaca and vicuna sweaters and accessories. All well out of our price range, but it was fun to watch. The female attendant dreaded the dress up, you could see it on her face. But the male attendant was reluctant until some rowdy Aussies made cat calls at him. He loosened up and had more fun after that.

We got into Ollantaytambo and met our minibus taxi to take us back to Cusco. Once again it was just the two of us in a van that seats 12. The drive back was long and winding. After an hour we thought we should be close, but we weren’t. When we got back to Cusco it was well past dark, too late to meet up with Carlos. But we did take a quick look at his map and headed to the the guitar shop he recommended.

My shoddy Spanish got us through asking about the chorango, how much, did he make it, etc. Paul didn’t want to buy it right then, as he was still considering finding it elsewhere. So we asked if we would be open on Sunday (the next day), unfortunately he wasn’t. But he said he could open at 8 on Monday for us. We said thanks and moseyed back to the hostel to hot showers and bed.

I’m not sure what I was more excited about: a hot shower or bed. And we actually did have hot water that night! Oh, and we slept so well!

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