Anthony on the Gringo Trail 2005 travel blog

Central square in Cusco with modern Nazca Lines behind

Jesus being taken for a walk by the mafia

The mafia's musical support

Conquistador church on layers of Inca foundations, featuring the 'famous' black curved...

Nice monastery on top of Inca temple

Earthquake proof Inca walls - note how close fitting

Typical Cusco street with layers of Inca and Spanish building

Our hostel in Cusco

Yet more Inca streets

Central square in Cusco - for balcony breakfasts

Another very unpleasant bus journey. 14 hours on winding mountain roads that had half the bus vomitting. I am rarely scared by the drops anymore, only when I can see the road is crumbling at the sides and there are piles of stuff from above on it already. I was feeling a bit peeky with it all, so only had about an hour's sleep in total. Very dramatic and amazing scenery once the sun rose, though a little less green the further the mountains are away from the equator. And here I am in Cusco, and I have never seen so many foreigners in a foreign place,it really is gringo central. I haven't been anywhere else like this except perhaps the KohSan Road in Bangkok or Bath in the Summer. Even the locals look different, heavily influenced by westerners, i.e. Peruvian babes and hippies, neither of which I have really noticed before. I can see how you could hang out here for months without realising it. So I booked into a nice little hotel in the artists area and away from the main drag a bit. I felt a bit crap, hard to seperate out whether that was altitude (back at 3,260 metres again), bus sickness or lack of sleep. A pot of coca leaf tea seemed to help though. They do that everywhere here as a cure for altitude sickness, even in the posh hotels.

So I went and explored around the place a bit. It is really rather a nice town. Temperature is manageable, absolutely hundreds of nice places to eat (had a fab antipasto lunch). The hills are hard work at this altitude, but I am coping much better than when I got into Quito, so I must have maintained some of my altitude adjustment. There are some fantastic wooden pulpits in some of the churches, highly ornate and huge, best of all in the church on the little square our hotel overlooks (with a trendy little market in it). And the Inca stonework is as impressive as everyone says it is, and there is lots of it about, as they just built the Spanish stuff on top. And interestingly, the Inca stuff survives the frequent earthquakes, while the colonial stuff falls down.

The town looks great at night, as the centre is in the bottom of a bowl of hills, and all the attractions are lit up. I was having my tea in 'gringo alley' - still couldn't bring myself to eat guinea pig, so had some lamb instead to make a change from constant chicken, but I am determined to have llama this week. There were little signs in the cafe saying where was best to stand during earthquakes. And for a change the music was OK, what we generally think of as latin, i.e. salsa. I have never heard so much music I don't like as on this trip. It is all slow, tragic and sung at full volume, guess its the spanish influence. And I again managed to get to talk to Shea on msn, who still hasn't found time to fit signing on into his busy schedule.

And tomorrow morning,I go to meet Erica at the airport, which I am very excited about!

25th Sep: Got up early, and went down to the central square, where there was much entertainment with parades, etc for much of the day. Eventually I had to leave to go and meet Erica though, who was on time, exhausted, and as she predicted, minus her luggage, which was in Atlanta. Whoops. So after some fannying around in the airport trying to increase the dim possibility that it may ever turn up again, back to our hotel, which thankfully she likes a lot. And then we had to go shopping to replace various missing things, a task which may occupy much of the next few days. It is lucky there are so many nice shops here. We also visited the monastery built on top of an important Inca Temple that there is a picture of above, and generally hung out in a succession of fine cafes while Erica drank gallons of coca leaf tea to combat her altitude sickness, which did seem to work. And for dinner to a lovely funky restaurant round the corner for some alpaca (llama) in a sweet glaze sauce with baked sweet potatoes and stir-fry veg. Gorgeous! Erica had a nice salad, which is why I am twice as big as her. And then to the funky bar that is the ground floor of our hostel and an early night.

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