Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Aguas Calientes and back to Cusco

When we got down to Aguas Calientes we still had a couple of hours before we were to assemble as a group for lunch, so we went for a drink in a cafe beforehand. Here I tried an Inca Cola, the local soft drink, which is bright yellow and not too dissimilar to Irn-Bru (or Creaming soda if you're an Australian). We soon ambled along to the restaurant where we were meeting for lunch and the beers started flowing. After lunch we got our stuff from, and tipped, our personal porters, and then teams America and Israel all left as they'd managed to secure an earlier train than our 9pm one. This left the 9 members of team Commonwealth to party it up, and things really took off and kept going! We were the only ones in the restaurant by this point and we requested some music to liven things up. All that they could supply was pan-pipes or Tracy Chapman, and Tracy is fine, but not upbeat enough, so Dayan got sent off with a porter to find a dodgy pirate CD stall to improve matters. He came back with the Rolling Stones, the Bee Gees, and, the crowning glory, "History of Rock 4". This certainly stretched the definition of rock beyond breaking point as it contained a lot of 80's cheese. What followed was a fairly Raucous singalong (it was almost 4pm by this point), though I did not accept that it was my duty as a Scotsman to stand on the table and sing and dance to "Do you think I'm sexy?". By early evening we wanted more and sent Dayan and Madison off to look for the rest of the History of Rock series, and they managed to find one of them, along with a CD of early rock'n'roll classics. They said the rest of the town was dead and that you could hear our music and singing all along the street. Around this time they had to send out for more beer as we were drinking them dry. Dancing then ensued, and we ended up with an audience standing outside, and occasional randoms making forays in to join in. The rock'n'roll went down surprisingly well, with Dayan showing his twist dancing past. In all the commotion we forgot about dinner, but the Aussies kindly got a few plates of chips to help is out. Sadly we had to leave to get our train to Ollyatambo (just Dayan, Madison, team England and myself as the Aussies were staying over). On the train they confiscated out whisky but sold us more beer (they gave the whisky back at the end too). Everyone else on the train seemed to be dead and weary, but we were all still lit up. I continued with my impressions of Andean animals and Madison revealed her plan. Once off at Ollyatambo we were onto a bus for the rest of the journey back, and what a ridiculously bumpy ride it was (maybe it was the unwise choice of the back seat, near the dead local woman. It was after midnight when we got to Cusco, but what an fantastic and "outrageous" day it was, starting at 345am, Machu Picchu, a great afternoon and evening and just kept going!

Back in Cusco showers and laundry were high on the priority list. My plan to see all of Cusco the next day came to nothing, with a very late rise and I did nothing after but sort stuff out and spend an obscene amount of time on the internet, that meant I'd see Cusco the next day instead of going to the sacred valley, but I felt I'd already seen enough ´piles of Inca rubble´ and I need ed that day to rest and recover.

So the next day I set out to 'do' Cusco. I started at Qorikancha, the main Inca site in Cusco and formerly their top temple. The Spaniards had only gone and built a monastery on top of it, leaving not much to see, but there was also a quite informative section of Colonial religious art and some modern art as well. I also finally found out about the Inca astronomy our guide had been alluding too; their constellations were actually dark patches in the milky way which looked like animals.

I then walked back into the town past various Inca walls and visited the cathedral and adjoining chapels on the Plaza de Armas. These were truly impressively decorated, with a very informative audio tour. There was a saint to whom women prayed to be married, leaving notes with the address of their intended by his image, and another, the patron saint of celibate men, to whom the men prayed to be released from these attentions! There was an statue of Jesus which had turned black with age, and another Jesus which is revered as apparently it managed to stop the earthquake that destroyed most of the city after a couple of minutes! The ticket for the cathedral also included some other places on the ¨religious circuit¨so I visited another two churches and the museum of religious art in the Archbishops old palace. This again had an informative audio tour which explained a lot of the imagery. Unique to South America are representations of the Trinity as 3 identical Christ like figures, considered blasphemous in Europe.

Anyway, after all that I had certainly had my fill of colonial religious art and I headed up the steep hill to the Saqsaywaman ruins (better known to gringos as sexywoman). These were the remains of a huge fort that had been pillaged for stones to build the cathedrals bus was still very impressive (though very expensive to visit!). It was pretty cold and windy up there, but there were decent views over the City. I also climbed the nearby hill which had a Jeebus on the top (like Rio) overlooking the city.

The next day my bus didn't go to Lima till after lunch, so I did the remaining museums in the morning. First of was the Inca museum, which was overcrowded with tourists on tour and not fully labelled in English. It did have some good exhibits, including a large number of mummies nonchalantly displayed together. Finally I went to the museum of Pre-Columbian art. This had some really top drawer exhibits and definitely went for quality not quantity. They were accompanied by the most preposterous verbose and circomlucutious labels which told you nothing about the exhibits apart from how exquisite they were and how majestic their purity of form was.

I walked to the bus station I was back in that mood, and found Latin American cities far less dodgy than people and the book would have you believe (touch wood!). From there it was 24 hours to Lima.

Madison and me in Aguas Callientes.

Sexywoman with Cusco in the background.

Main Square in Cusco.

No comments: