Cusco part 1 – On the way to Machu Picchu – Ollantataymbo

As they often say one needs a vacation from one’s vacation. This would ring very true for us in this case.

Aside: The adventure begins before we even leave Lima – taxi issues

Alas despite Lima being a huge city the buses stop anywhere between 10-12 p.m. It is after all all private companies so obviously there aren’t enough people wanting to take buses in the middle of the night. Side note: I just learned that the old ex-criminal president Fujimori actually liquidated the whole public bus system in 1992) So we had to use a taxi to get to the airport.

Our adventure began at 2 a.m. or really the night before.  We decided to have a few drinks at our lovely non-touristy little bar, El Principe in Miraflores (yes the upscale area where all the tourists flock to) in order to get to try to get to sleep early.  You see our flight was at 5 a.m. (super cheap flight) and we were told get there 2 hours ahead which meant catching a cab at 2:30, estimating a ½ hour ride to the airport at that time of night.  I wasn’t sure of whether we could find a cab at that time so I grudgingly joined u b e r when cabify wouldn’t accept my credit card details.

The thing was using the cell phone app, the time for pickup indicated 2:30 a.m. as requested, however an email confirmation sent to me stated the pickup would be at 12:30 a.m..  I cancelled and rebooked the taxi but still the same response.  I was like what the fuck is going on.  I tried sending an email, hitting the reply key but got no response – of course for those in the know that it is impossible to contact an actual person at u b e r.  So I guess I slept for a few hours but I was concerned that a taxi would indeed arrive at 12:30 so I got up and went downstairs to see if this would indeed happen. Well guess what a taxi did arrive.  I explained to him the problem and he seemed to understand but of course there was nothing he could do.  He advised me to cancel the booking which I did.  It then dawned on me that there must have been an issue with the fact that my credit card info is set to Eastern Canadian time but Lima is 2 hours behind.  So I decided to make a booking for 4:30 a.m. and it worked – a taxi arrived at 2:30 a.m. Effing f u b e r!!

The ride went smoothly and we were going to be charged less than the quoted amount – see how that worked out at the end.

Check in went relatively smoothly but it took forever so the 2 hours showing up ahead was good advice.  Why is it that so many things take such a long time in this country?  Rhetorical question. As Mr. C5 says the efficiency of inefficiency.  At least we got some food on the plane.


Flying into Cusco

The first thing we noticed as we flew in was the green!!  Mountains of green vegetation instead of the desert ceros as they call the desert/rock mountains that surround Lima. Contrasting this against the red clay rooftops and red clay buildings was quite lovely and reminded me of European villages.  It was a grey day and of course substantially cooler in Cusco but we were prepared.  If anything I didn’t mind feeling chilled, keeping me awake since I was absolutely exhausted by this time.  Mr. C5 & I did soon enough notice the shortness of breath with very little exertion.

As advised by my Spanish teacher, after we landed in Cusco, the highest elevation we would experience, we made our way to the community of Ollantataymbo or Ollanta for short, a couple thousand meters lower, about a 2 hour drive.  This was a small adventure in itself.  First we had to get through the throngs of guys offering taxi rides at the airport – they are ridiculously persistent not understanding why we would want to take a bus. Yes the taxi into town would have been relatively cheap but it all adds up, and this is where I am my stingy/frugal self.  Even standing at the local bus stop outside the airport the taxis were incessantly honking to get your attention, nothing new here since this happens all the friggin time in Lima.

Finally a bus came but I kinda had forgotten that we had backpacks on our backs so it was like each of us was taking up 2 spaces.  And in Cusco the buses are midsize – small enough that Ross can’t stand up in them, having to bend his head at an awkward angle.  Fortunately, it wasn’t too long before the bus emptied out a bit and we could actually sit down.  The folks were very friendly indicating when there were seats available.  Next was trying to find the street where we would pick up a taxi collectivo, usually a minivan, to head to Ollanta.  After walking a block and then asking someone we got there after 3 attempts.  We didn’t have to wait long until there were more people and we were on our way… or so we thought. We ended up simply doing a small circle, stopping close to where we began.  We were wondering what was up.  Well this is Peru so we just had to wait some more until the bus was completely full.  Okay I get it.  They want to maximize their meagre income.

Cusco is a pretty narrow valley relatively speaking, so we quickly were climbing and climbing ever winding roads.  My 1st observation was the quantity of stray dogs – oh boy, almost one sitting outside of each store or building.  The thing is they are well fed, not starving by any means, but the condition of their fur ranges, so clearly most probably have fleas, some mange, with a few limping who most would have most likely been hit by a car of course not getting any medical attention.  The next thing both of us were intrigued by was the farming.  Lots of small plots of crops, many individual tethered pigs and cows and goats.  It was a lovely relaxing ride.

Ollantataymbo – all cobble stoned streets and rock and/or clay stone houses

Soon enough we arrived in the town square of Ollanta, after a short drive off the main road, a type of not very smooth cobble stoned road.  We easily found the hostel I had booked, having to walk back a bit on the main road, but in a quieter area of town.  We checked in and then headed back to town square to get something to eat, since by this time we were starving.

view from the hostel

decorative garbage cans in the town square

decorative lamp posts – condor on top, snake on pole, jaguar lamp holders

Everyone was drinking the coca tea as was the advice in order to deal with the potential ills of altitude sickness. Fortunately for me the only problems I had were a bit of shortness of breath whenever I exerted myself which did happen frequently since it seems you are always walking up or down in every place.  I did once have for only a few minutes some sharp pains above both my cheek bones, below my temples like a rod was being put through behind my eyes.  Later I spoke with someone who experienced this for 2 days.  The altitude change must put pressure behind the eyes.  Mr. C5 on the other hand suffered shortness of breath for the whole trip, being the worst in Cusco but more on that later.

above the ruins you had to pay for – wrong light since wrong time of day but we were not about to climb again the next day

I had read about some ruins on one side of town that you didn’t have to pay to see so this was our destination for the afternoon.  Of course we couldn’t find the path up to what we could see but we followed another path that kept going up and up but in the wrong directions.  Oh well we finally stopped and just enjoyed the view of the ruins you would pay to see.  Back down we did find the right path which I walked while Mr.C5 rested on some steps.

One crazy funny thing we saw had to do with traffic.  As you can imagine/see the streets were narrow with some being one way, other two way. On some roads, cars would have to wait for other cars to pass before they could enter the two way street.  Without good visibility of the road they would be turning into, the solution was instead of traffic lights there was a guy dressed in his official black uniform directing traffic from a small stand on stilts.  He had a small hand held stop sign which he would flash.  What a job but I guess it was a job. I thought it was hilarious.

narrow road way

canals along roadway carrying river water away from town

Alas we soon realized that Ollanta as a town really only exists because of the ruin – everything about it shouts tourism.  I was wondering where do the locals get their food since they could in no way afford the restaurants. So I asked and easily enough found the local’s mercado which was surrounded by restaurants for the locals having cheap menu lunches, but it was essentially tucked away out of view… of course.

We were in bed early that night and had a good long sleep.  Next day the salt ponds and we aren’t even close to the sea!

My artistic side coming out – closeups of plant life, in this case aloe vera plants or more like trees!

just love the patterns on the leaves

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