Letters from the Americas 2005 (part 5) - Peru

Macchu Pichu

Most johnny foreigners end up in Cusco as it's the place where you can start the trek to Macchu PichuIt's all open squares and windy lanes. There is an Irish pub (isn't there always!) that declares itself the highest Irish pub in the world (Cusco's elevation is 3,400m, that's like being half way up Everest).
The food in Peru didn't knock our socks off but the alpaca meat was nice. I did at one point eat some guinea pig (they're all at it over here) but I wasn't comfortable and it wasn't pleasant, they are pets, it's like eating a neighbours dog (barf). For cheap options in Cusco you can grab something simple in the cafes that litter the lanes while watching a movie. It's kinda like going to the cinema, kinda, you pay a couple of dollars, sit on a broken couch with a plate of popcorn and watch an old movie dubbed into Spanish. It was right up my alley to be truthful. 

Oh, and meanwhile you NEED to drink the coca tea or chew the coca leaves to avoid altitude sickness. Yes, cocaine is derived from coca leaves but in the same way wine comes from grapes, eating a grape is not going to get you drunk, eating/drinking coca leaves will not get you high (the altitude takes care of that, ba-dum-tish). The only altitude sickness I felt was a headache but I know friends who've gone through the horrors when staying in Cusco. There is a theory that based on your physical makeup (by that I mean your metabolisim/genes/heart function, etc, not body paint!) some people need a lot longer to acclimatize than others and it has nothing to do with how fit you are.  

Dom and myself agree the highlight of the trip was without doubt, the Inca Trail and Macchu Pichu. Four days, 49km, scrambling up inclines that would've had Sir Edmund Hillary weeping like an infant and begging for an end to the utter madness, plummeting down deep drops that snapped the muscles in your knees and severed the tendons in your ankles. Twelve people, one aim, 365 days in a year, 6 in one, half a dozen in the other and whatever you're havin yourself.

When we finally rounded the last corner, the mist cleared and the sun shone, the ancient Inca ruins are simply breathtaking (this is also partly to do with the thin air at the high altitude). I'm a big fan of the anthropological aspects of ancient cultures (a fancy way of saying I'm nosy about what people got up to in the past). The history, the clever architecture, the spooky feeling of Inca ghosts following you as you walked among it all, the secondary spooky feeling that you had accidentally stumbled across the set of the next Indiana Jones movie, leaves you truly awestruck. They don't call it a Wonder of the World for nothing.

It does get mighty cold though! Camping at night in the Andes during a Peruvian winter is baaaaltic. I was totally unprepared and after a few nights of slipping in and out of hypothermia, despite clinging to Dom, I had to buckle and ask the guide for help. He said we had passed the last village a day ago and it was too far to go back for blankets etc <a wee part of me died>. A teeny tiny very sweet petite girl from Japan offered me her spare clothes to wear at night over my own for extra warmth (I should point out, everyone was wearing everything they owned at night). That night, I wore my own clothes, dom's clothes, and tiny little Asian girls clothes. It did the trick but I did feel awful handing her back her now ballooned apparel. 

Feeling adventurous, Dom and myself strapped the bags to our backs, kicked our heels in the air, and headed south to Puerto Maldonado and the jungle. We tore up the Amazon in a boat that more closely resembled a thin reed. For our first nights 'activity' our guide took us deep into the forest for a 'night walk'. Sweet devine mother of Jesus, there were poisonous spiders, snakes, tarantulas, things that want to kill you, things that want to be you, an assortment of things that go bump in the night and the capper...... Vampire bats!! I tell no word of a lie, the guide said when we wake in the morning check for puncture wounds (!!!) with a trail of blood (!!!) his attempt at reassurance was to say, not to worry the bats would numb the area prior to biting!!!! See ya Pedro

I did manage to chill out and by our fourth day I was hanging with the chimps, chatting with the parrots and sunbathing with the alligators.

The Nazca lines are remarkable, it’s almost hard to believe that they have stood the test of time. We took a plane ride over them to get the best view and boy did we. As we crammed into the two-seater hair dryer with wings, I just had time to ask Dom did he smell alcohol as our jolly pilot took to the sky with a roar. He was doing loop the loops, spin the tails, walk the dog, at one point I think he broke into the jitterbug and he ended with a choc-ice. In fairness, despite my post flight airsickness we did get the most spectacular views of the Nazca peoples topographical art work.

Sheilagh and Dom in NYC
Lian, Sharon and Dom -Brooklyn Bridge
We're hot off the plane and cooling our heels in NYC, where, in a stroke of unprecedented outrageous jet setting, we've met up with Sharon who trucked it in from Canada and Lian who dashed in from the west coast, fresh from her engagement to Ronan, yay, time to celebrate.

Once the Peru equivalent of the 'revenge of Montezuma' settles down (yes that strange noise you can here really is my tummy), myself and the girls are heading on a road trip :o) and Dom heads back to work :o(

That redundancy pay out is burning a hole in my pocket!

The city calls folks

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