The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Day 29-31, Taking the roads less(and often) Traveled

The following takes place between Sunday, December 26 and Tuesday, December 28, 2010.

I have become a part of the Carnegie family. In one short day I have made lifelong friends with the entire family. The kids love me, I enjoy drinking with the parents(and they are probably glad for the adult conversation), and am learning much from their experience in traveling. That is something I am finding to be quite common. Everyone is more than happy to give advice and suggestions from their own experiences.

It’s like the entire backpacking community is one, large extended family.

Boxing Day in Cuzco was somewhat similar for me as it would be back in Saskatoon. Back in Saskatoon, people would be running from store to store to find the best deals on electronics, to take back gifts that they really couldn’t stand(but still smiled and said “Thank you” when they unwrapped it Christmas morning), and to exchange gifts for something that actually fits. For me, I spent most of my day wandering through only some of the over 200 travel agencies checking out prices for their numerous tours. And also trying to not get extremely excited about seeing the rainbow flag everywhere in the city.IMG_0760 No, Cuzco is not the gay capital of South America. The rainbow flag here, with an extra band of colour, is the official flag of the Inca culture. Try not to get too confused.

On the advice of David and Corinne, I went and purchased a “Boleto turistico” which is a special ticket that gets you admission into sixteen different sites in and around Cuzco. Although, in reality, it is the only ticket that can get you into any of those sites so if I wanted to see anything, I had to buy it. It really is a clever revenue ploy for the city.

Now, five of those sites I could visit by walking to. Four are on what is called the “City Tour”, four are on the “Sacred Valley Tour”, and the final three are on separate tours on their own.

Over the course of several hours, I wandered in and out of travel agencies getting quotes on their City Tour, Sacred Valley Tour, as well as the Salcantay Trek to Machu Picchu, and the mountain bike/hiking trek to Machu Picchu.  The prices were all very similar, and the tours were pretty much identical.

City Tour -  Anywhere from S/.10 to S/.25
Sacred Valley – Anywhere from S/.20 to S/.30
Salcantay – From $175 to $195 for five days, four nights
Bike/Hike – From $180 to $190 for four days, three nights.

Once I felt I had a sufficient amount of information, I decided to call it a day. As I was walking back towards the Plaza to make my way back to the hostel, I ran into the Carnagie’s and Olivia. So, with our group all together, and with a quick stop at a market to buy some beer, we walked back to the hostel together. That night was IMG_0770a pretty good one, filled with a simple meal of Ichiban noodle soup and copius amounts of beer and some chocolate flavoured liquer.  Olivia entertained the kids with card tricks, I taught Corinne and Layla some dance moves,  and then we all gathered around the computer to watch the Christmas episode of Glee as Sean is heavy into singing(and is really really good).

The 27th became a very very busy day for me. I started the day by catching a taxi in the Plaza to head to the San Sebastian area of the city. In that side of the city, hidden away from the main tourist areas, was Rumiwasi, a set of Inca ruins and also the site of a geocache that has only been found one time.

Finding the right path from where I got dropped off turned into a bit of a challenge. Many roads led to dead ends, and others were closed due to major construction(remind me to never complain about road construction in Saskatoon again. When they fix a road here, they tear the entire thing apart leaving nothing more than a muddy stretch that is impassable on either side). Finally, I found the right road and eventually the correct path.

RumiwasiThe walk to the site was peaceful. It started through the back alley of a cute little neighborhood before turning into a rocky, uphill trail. There was not a single living soul around. Before long, I came across the site. I hadn’t even found the geocache yet and I already felt this was totally worth it. Rumiwasi - geocache

I did find the geocache by the way. And as strange as it sounds, even being only the second person to find this, it was completely overshadowed by the fact that I was at these beautiful ruins. All. By. Myself.

I spent a good couple hours just wandering the small site, admiring the stone work, and the utter peacefulness. And to think that I would never have been here had it not been for the geocache. So those of you that knock geocaching . . . well, you keep on enjoying the tourist traps. I’ll keep the empty places for myself. Rumiwasi






Eventually I had to leave the solitude behind to head back to the Plaza in order to catch a City Tour to see some of the sites. I got back just in time to sign up and catch the bus.

QoricanchaWe started with Qorikancha, a Catholic church that was built atop a large Inca ruin(well, in reality, every church in Cuzco is built on top of a Inca religious site. It was the Spaniards way of trying to destroy the Inca culture). It was only discovered after an earthquake nearly destroyed the church, but left the Inca walls and buildings standing. Kinda shows the engineering genious of the ancient Inca’s, now doesn’t it?

Next up was Saqsaywaman, a huge complex that is thought to Sacsaywamanhave been used for defensive purposes. The largest stone set in place weighs over 70 tons. Scientists estimate that it took a couple thousand people to move that one rock to that particular spot.




Unfortunately, by this time, my camera began to make noises that it was going to die soon so I had to pick and choose my shots carefully until it decided to die completely. At least I now know roughly how long the battery lasts.

Back on the bus, we headed for a site called Q’enqo, a rather small site in comparison to Saqsaywaman, but impressive nonetheless with how the rock was cut to house sacrificial chambers and the like.

My only qualm with this tour(well ok, there’s two), were how little time we actually got to spend at the site, and the fact that I was the only English speaker in the tour group so I missed a lot of what was said. I have to hand it to the tour guide though. After doing his speal about the place in Spanish, he would come up to me personally and explain it in English the best he could.

Our last two sites were right side by side, although we spent no more than five Water fountains at Inca minutes at the one as it was pouring rain out. The second, and final, site was really cool. It was called Tambomachay, and was like an Inca spa, with aquaducts supplying water into numerous fountains. 

By the time I got back to the hostel, I was completely wiped. I had a couple bowls of homemade vegetarian chili that David had made and called it a night.

The next morning, with the Carnegies off on the Sacred Valley tour, I went down to the Plaza to the tour company I found to be the most reliable and trustworthy. I walked in and the man behind the desk recognized me from my Boxing Day Blowout tour search. He immediately shook my hand, sat me down and said “I have a group leaving on the Salkantay trek tomorrow morning. No others until after new years.”

Huh. Ok. After a quick(five second) moment of decision making, I agreed, signed the papers, and handed over my money. $190 for five days including all but the first and last meals, all lodging, camping supplies, guide, cook, horses and horseman for the first three days, entrance to Machu Picchu, train ticket to Ollantaytambo, and bus back to Cuzco.

I picked up some bug spray and SPF 90 sunscreen and some ingrediants for supper that evening. As the Carnegie’s were leaving on January 2(the day I would Supper with the Carnegiesreturn), this would be the last time I see them. So, with ingredients in tow, I made homemade pizza with some white wine for the adults and coca cola for the kids. It was a good way to say goodbye, and it was nice to see how surprised they were to come back to the hostel to a full meal waiting for them. Definitely one of the first hard goodbyes I’ve had on this trip.

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