|I was not looking forward to another long overnight bus ride. Was dreading that it would be cold, and also somewhat embarrassed by the smell of garlic I was emitting... the sauce of my falafel had dripped down my top. The bus left more or less punctually, but we waited almost an hour at another bus terminal just round the corner. I was pleased by the prospect of arriving later than the expected 6am...
They showed Mr and Mrs Smith on DVD, and I tried to stay awake, so that maybe would be able to see the ending this time round (see June 10, Arequipa...The White City). It was getting late, the loud speaking Israelie girl next to me moved around alot, the graphic and audio were jumpy, and I only ended up catching a little more than what we saw at the cinema. I managed to sleep pretty well, my jacket and the blanket they supplied were sufficient fending off the cold. Despite the delay in leaving Arequipa, was roused awake by the switching on of the bus' lights and the conductor announcing we had arrived into Cusco. It was still dark, and though everyone was getting off the bus, I was convinced there was a mistake. Surely, we couldn't possibily arrive at 4:30am - i.e. one and a half hour early!
Had a slight scare that my bag hasn't accompanied the bus, but once everyone else had got their stuff, I saw the sight of my familiar house-for-the-year. Had planned to wait until sunrise at the bus terminal before catching taxi to my hotel, to save being ripped off by taxi drivers, and being charged for an extra night, not to mention calling at such an unsociable hour. But the bus terminal was so cold, so crowded with sleeping Peruvians, hassles by hotel hawkers, that I soon found myself gazing upon yet another Plaza de Armas, this time of the city of Cusco. Partygoers were sitting around the big Plaza de Armas, some by the orderly fountain in the middle, others were stumbling back to bed.
I had decided to stay at Hostel Qori, as recommended by José (guide in Pisco), and was somewhat put off that the taxi was unable to climb the last few steps of the staircase leading up to the hotel. There were a few people sitting on the bottom, and I wasn't sure exactly where the hostel was, or if it existed in the first place. Asked the driver to walk with me, but he said he couldn't leave his taxi, but would watch from the bottom. After pocketing the 5 soles taxi fare, I turned around to see him gone. Luckily the hotel wasn't far, and someone answered my ring. He confirmed the price of the room to be 15 soles, and was kind enough to leave all registration etc. until the morning. I was so glad to be in a warm bed again by 5am, and not still sitting in the cold bus terminal!
Had a very good supplementary sleep, and began to explore the city at 11am. Was greeted by the sound of music, and the sight of thousands of people congregating in the Plaza. Had stumbled into the middle of a parade! Looked like the week was full of festive celebrations leading up to the Big One on Friday - Inti Raymi, the Festival of Cusco celebrating the Winter Solstice, ancient Inca style.
It was slightly chilly in the morning, but passed an enjoyable hour watching parades of various groups - some manoverving a giant corn on the cob, some devil looking dancers on stilts, a giant mouse float with masked mice etc. The other great thing was that the audience wasn't just full of gringos, but mostly Peruvians.
Explored the city abit, and was very happy wandering and admiring the mixture of colonial and Inca buildings. There was definitely a different feel to Cusco, something rebellious against the dominating Spanish rule. Though there was a Plaza de Armas, a Cathedral etc. the city planning was not at all the typical grid like Spanish style. The Incas had town planned Cusco like a puma, and it was nice to be navigating through irregular streets and not solely relying on the standard block of streets and avenues. Had even managed to locate the vegetarian restuarant listed in the Lonely Planet, though the price was 3 times out! Oh dear, Cusco is expensive for food! Set menus appear to cost 3 times more than what I was used to paying, and even internet seemed dearer too! Luckily found a cafe with cheap calls to London to call my Dad on Father's Day (the next day)!
Bought some food at the central market, to make avocado, tomatoe cheese sandwich at my leisure over the next day to cut down the cost of food. Checked out some video bars, lots in Cusco, and found myself the subject of a battle between rivalling cinema bar promoters. They all claimed theirs were the best, and the slagged off the others' screens etc. Wasn't overly impressed, but later found myself at "Mama Africa's" waiting for the screening of "Batman - the Beginning". Though they tried a few times, the dialogue would only play in Russian, so they played "Mr and Mrs Smith". Again! Third time in a week! This time, however, I found out what the ending was, though I am almost fluent in memorising the dialogue by now!
As I was getting ready for sleep in my little cell of a room, heard the sound of fireworks, and wandered to the Plaza for the spectacle. It was absolutely jam packed with people gazing skywards - what a nice welcome to the city! They were slightly crazy with the pushing though, as they were all determined to get to what they wanted to go, regardless of big gringos or little kids on their fathers' shoulders. Also didn't enjoy the walk back to the hotel, the hawkers for restuarants all trying to get you into their place I could handle, but the turn off into a dark alley smelling of piss (frequently replenished), I didn't feel comfortable with, and I resolved to move hotel the next day.
And am I glad I changed! Though only round the corner from the previous hotel, within five minutes of checking into a nice room facing a courtyard, complete with my own telephone! - I had four new friends accompanying me for breakfast. David (USA), Leo (Israel) swapped travel stories, but Christa (Canada) and Lisa (USA) kept me company for the next few days.
Had planned to take it easy for the first few days, exploring some of the city, and the area around, and speaking to the Spanish school about my proposed project. But was so happy with all my new friends (also Hannah and Marie-Claire, freshers at Edinburgh University; Claire, Bernie and Rob, friends of Christa from Toronto), and bumping into old friends (Hugo and Pat, Quebeckers on my tour to Isla de Ballestas) ended up spending lots of time socialising and hence requiring recuperation time afterwards!