Leaving Huaraz, I was sent off at the bus station by Hannes, Katherine, Jim, his wife and Lucas, then settled in or a six-hour bus ride (with the amazing Cruz Del Sur) to Lima then got straight into a cab for the airport. In the cab I thought I was going to be robbed as it was 5am and the driver ask how much money I had on me. But I made it to Cusco in one piece (although my flight was delayed so I spent about eight boring hours at the airport – I did eat a Papa John’s pizza at 6am though). But my first night in Cusco I came down with something, and instead of exploring the beautiful, exciting city, I spent a solid 14 hours asleep in a freezing cold dorm. The whole next day was spent lying down on the uncomfortable wicker bench in the smelly courtyard moving around with the sun as I was so cold.
The next day was my trip to Machu Picchu. From Cusco you can get the tourist train all the way; get the bus halfway and the tourist train the second half; or do what I discovered to my dismay too late – get three buses then hike three hours through the jungle. That would have been much more fun, cheaper and I wouldn’t have had to endure a fashion show, yes a fashion show, on the train while it just sat still on the tracks. Also, every tourist was being ripped off, which no one knew until it was too late – Peru Rail, the supposed only way to get to Machu Picchu, is a scam merchant. They tell you the train you want (the relatively cheap one) is full for the next week and you have to get the expensive one. We all fell for it, plus the scam of “oh the last seat on the cheap train JUST went”. When I got the train, half the seats were empty.
Anyway I made it to Aguas Calientes, the tourist town next to the ruins, and was met at the train station by a girl from my hostel, Supertramp. The hostel was so lovely, it had feather duvets (a dealmaker for me), breakfast and hot showers. It’s only been open for two months, so the owner, Sebastian, an awesome Colombian guy, is really eager to please his guests. I also met loads of great people there, including Jon from London, who I went to the hot springs with (highly overrated and more packed than the Richmond lido on a sunny Sunday afternoon).
That evening we we splashed out on a posh dinner at the Treehouse restaurant and had an early night. The next morning Jon left and was replaced by a group of awesome Polish students. I made my way up to Machu Picchu that morning on the granny bus full of farting Japanese tourists.
It was entirely underwhelming. Disneyland is the best way I can find to describe Machu Picchu. Packed to the brim with American tourists clutching walking sticks and sporting brightly coloured clothes, prodding the llamas and causing a bottleneck up all the Inca steps. I bumped into a Colombian girl (she asked me to take her picture on two separate occassions and we soon became friends) who didn’t speak a word of English, so it was great to practise my Spanish by making jokes about the Americans. That evening we went out for dinner of street food and when she went to bed at 8.30pm I stayed out with the hostel owner and his friends.
When I got back to Cusco I had previously checked out of my hostel and into a really nice one in a feverish state ($30 a night, what was I thinking..?), so when I arrived I realised what I’d done and hotfooted it out of there. Only to discover there was not single bed available in Cusco. A young tout eventually found me a room in the worst hostel ever, which I did a runner from as soon as I was informed of a free bed in a normal hostel, which had lots of nice, normal things, such as other people, loo roll and electricity.
The next couple of days I just hung out in Cusco, went out with Jon and his hostel mates one night, and watched the Easter parades while eating 2 peso (less than a dollar) street food (I felt only a little bit ill).
Stay tuned for the next post in which we go on a crazy ride from Peru to Bolivia, including 10-hour boat rides and failed police bribes…