Sunday, December 18, 2005

El Peru and Specifically Cuzco

As mentioned before, the finite nature of time means that one has to make choices, or at least choices have to be made for you. A major such choice on this trip is to shortcut Peru a bit. This is because I have a long way to go and not a long time to do it in. Hence my experience of Lima was a a night going slightly mad at the airport (some good chess though) and 2 minutes walk outside. The madness was probably contributed to by being on a run of roughly 1 hours sleep in 50. So onward Dave and I went onto a littler plane and on to Cuzco, legendary capital of the Inca empire.

All said, I spent about 11 days in the Cuzco area and had a fantastic time.

Where to start, well clearly with meeting Arnie (Chris) at the airport and going to stay at Loki hostel. The hostel has a great and quite inspiring story behind it. Four backpackers managed to buy up a desolate old mansion looking over the beautiful centre of town and turn it into a veritable backpacker's backpackers. It is really chilled out and hence I spent a lot of my days here just chilling out. As good hostels usually are, it is also very active in terms of night life and had a general buzz that is conducive to a good time. A number of nights of varying craziness ensued in such predictable but fun establishments as Mama Africa's and Mama America's, the former being by far my favourite and the latter sketchy as. As ever nights out are hard to explain, so here I shall not endeavour to beyond saying there was not much half-hearted about a few of them.

What is worth a note is the nature of Cuzco itself. A charming town in terms of architecture and history (to see the unique Inca stone work actually incorporated into the colonial buildings is remarkable), but in some ways ruined by the tourism that its significance necessitates. When you are in a club packed full of gringos and look out the window to see scores of locals waiting outside in the cold all night just in case you might want one more free drink or a pack of chiglets, it has to make you think. The discrepancy of wealth and the way some tourists act has lead to resentment and the old cliche of just looking like a walking dollar sign is often close to the truth. This makes it harder to communicate with the locals because you can not help but look for ulterior motives and hence act more cautiously and often miss out when the people are being genuine. Perhaps my best source of info on this came from talking most of the night in my broken Spanish to a Peruvian girl. Her summation was that locals see the foreigners in a very mixed light - good and bad. This fits with the reality that the foreigners both make the place prosper and help to remove its fundamental charm.

Despite all of this I really enjoyed my time in Cuzco and, in general, found the people and the place charming. How can you not be enraptured by a night time view like the above?

(Pictures are of Cuzco in the day, at night from Loki, and Dave and Mik in the main square)
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