The Christmas period for me has been a haze of alcohol fuelled parties, and I've come a long way north since I last wrote. I'll do my best to summarise.
From Cusco (or Cuzco, depending on whom you ask), every man and his dog is selling a tour to the nearby Inca city of Machu Picchu. Luckily for me however, the local council or perhaps the government runs a small unbiased tourist information centre just off of Plaza de la Armas where knowledgeable and friendly people will happily give you all of your options.
I decided to do it myself. Most tours start at $130 for a two day, one night tour, which allows you a few hours to stroll around the site before having to head back towards Cusco. And that was after bartering; I saw several for over the $200 mark, and if you wanted to take the train instead of the bus, the price rose over $500. It was simple enough to pick up one way ticket to Hidro Electrico, the final of the stopping off points along the road to Aguas Calliente. There isn't actually a road into the village; only a train line that runs up the main street with a bellow every morning at 7am (good luck sleeping through that). So, the buses trundle through the countryside until they meander along the sides of the cliffs that hug the valley edge, and drop you off at the hydroelectric plant. From here, it’s walking time.
A one way ticket cost me 40 solas, or about £10. As an added bonus, the rest of the people in the bus were in a fully paid for tour, so the bus driver gave me a free lunch too without realising. After lunch, I took a wander through the tiny village that we had stopped in (I believe it was called Santa Teresa), and was enjoying the sunshine when a loud bang, coupled with a screeching of brakes erupted over my left shoulder. I whirled to see a girl, no older than 6, flying across the road and a pale taxi driver throwing open his door as the parents started screaming and running from their perch in front of their shop. I hoisted my bag onto my bag and started towards her, calling for them to not move the girl, but before I had made it three steps the father had bundled her into his arms, opened the door to the taxi and yelled at him to drive. I assume to hospital. I hope she’s ok.
Since arriving in Aguas Calliente (the name means hot water, and is the Spanish name for the town, taken for the hot springs nearby, the Inca name is Machupicchu - all one word - or Machu Picchu Pueblo. Good luck trying to book a hotel) I've been reading about how much damage the spread of the town, and the influx of tourists, is doing to Machu Picchu. I sincerely hope that more curbs are placed on it soon, as it’s a gorgeous location, and of course an almost incomparable historical wonder, and to see it vanish is a disservice to the generations to come.
Well, Machu Picchu, words can do it no justice. I just highly recommend a (soon) visit, and I'll leave these here:
And from here, it was almost Christmas, so after a brief detour back through Cuzco, and a massage to ease my aching limbs (the masseuse was nothing short of horrified with the state of my shoulders, and asked if I was a builder by trade) it was onwards to Lima for parties, sushi and exploring the city. Honestly though, while it was pleasant enough, there wasn't a huge amount to report on.
All the buses were full, so it was onto the most ancient plane I've ever been on, with physical plastic push buttons for the lights above the seats, to fly upwards to Piura, and then a pleasant enough journey to Mancora for Christmas on the beach.
And since then, I've crossed the border into Ecuador, had a mild panic attack over the state of my finances, cancelled my plans to enter central America, and am now chilling out in Quito over New Years. Soon onwards into Colombia!
Pictures are going up onto Facebook if you have it.