Monday, November 24, 2008

Cuzco and Ollantaytambo: On the Way to Machu Pichu - Nov 20 - 24

Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, and Machu Pichu are all about OLD stuff (totally appropriate for my South-At-Sixty tour). The history of the area ranges from pre-Inca, through the apex of Incan culture, through the Spanish colonialists.

Jeff, the owner of the Norton Rat bar (a biker hangout) had made arrangements for us to get a hotel where we could leave the bike while we went exploring outside of Cuzco... Thanks Jeff! For me it was the most expensive hotel so far on the trip. Fraser (who I rode up with... see the last post) also got a room there, but for him it was the cheapest hotel he had stayed with in his several months on the road. Just goes to show you... different perspectives!

A note from the Small World Department: At one point I walked into McDonalds on the Plaza de Armas. I went in to use the restroom... I swear I was NOT having a Big Mac Attack! Anyway, I walk out of the loo and hear a male voice calling ¨Hey, Steve¨. Now you might find this kind of hard to believe, but I´m not that well known in Peru, much less in Cuzco. Anyway, it was another biker, Mo from England, who I had had lunch with in Panama two months before. He had left Panama a month before me, but there we were in Micky D´s. Since Karen had not arrived yet, it was a good excuse to have many beers together and catch up.

Karen arrived on the 22nd, after spending a night in Lima at my friend Jim´s (the same one who got me to walk off the edge of a cliff holding onto a kite. Thanks again, Jim). We spent a few days exploring Cuzco, a facinating colonial city. As always, Karen met a facinating new friend in the marketplace!

I also got to meet up with the daughter of an old friend from high school, Jean Weiss´ daughter Samantha, who happened to be in Cuzco. Another note from the Small World Department. Sam was, I assure you, much better looking than Karen´s new friend.

Karen also decided that Cuzco was the perfect place to shop for a few new pets: One llama and one small Peruvian named John. Unfortunately, we found out that only one of them is house broken, and since they only come as a pair we decided not to bring them back to Panama.

We then took a bus to Ollantaytambo, where we would catch the train to Machu Pichu. We wanted to be in Machu Pichu in the morning, before the train full of tourists arrived about 9:30, which meant getting there (the town of Aguas Calientes) in the afternoon. There is only a train from Ollantaytambo in the afternoon, nothing from Cuzco. I had been to Machu Pichu a couple of years ago and had arrived with the hords. I highly recommend finding a way to do it in the morning.

Ollantaytambo turned out to be facinating. It´s an old Incan town, and still retains many of the original streets and buildings, only slightly modified to suit modern needs. Many of the doors are Incan originals. Some of the tourists (not US of course) also appear to be from the Incan days.

One of the highlights of Oyantaytambo was a visit to a family´s house to sample the chicha they make. This is a type of beer made from corn. Karen, of course, sampled her fair share. I, of course, had to keep up.

The family also raises cuy, a local delicacy. This is actually guinea pig, and there were about a hundred of them running around the house! I´ve never actually sampled this. There´s this whole pet thing that I can´t get over. They also leave a lot of little pellets in the living room!

The family´s method of storing food was interesting, if a bit primitive. I´m now thinking of throwing away the refrigerator... who needs it!

Karen also made a new boy friend. His name is also John, and I think he was ready to propose marriage... or something equally illicit. He made it quite clear when I tried to take a picture with him that he really prefers blondes!

At about 4:00 we got on the train (actually, it´s more like a trolley car) for Aguas Caliente. We spent the night there, then up the hill to Machu Pichu.

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