We spent a lovely few days in Cusco, the plan being to head to Machu Picchu through the Sacred Valley once we had finished in Cusco. Cusco is another UNESCO world heritage site and was once the capital of the Inca empire-containing many ruins and museums nearby. It is also a very beautiful city with many colonial buildings and plazas. We spent our time here exploring some of the ruins-the most impressive being Sacsaywaman, an amazing Inca construction. We also caught up with and met some more lovely people at our camp site-Quinta Lala. We reunited with Lother and Petra, 2 lovely Germans who are driving their Bremach truck from Colombia to Uraguay and Dane, Penny and Wyatt (the dog they adopted in Mexico) from Canada who are driving their Mitsubishi delica from Canada to Ushuaia. We met some new friends from Brazil-Arthur and Sophia ( a Brazilian TV presenter) who had a land rover defender and were driving around South America and Toby and Anja, a doctor and a dentist, who were from Germany and driving their VW syncro campervan around the Americas. We had a lovely night sitting around a campfire with them, sharing tales of travels, home, our old jobs etc. We also met a lovely family from New Zealand-Kim, Chris and their 2 girls-Tamsin and River (13 and 15) who had done many previous road trips.
We spent time in some of Cusco`s excellent museums and simply wandering the streets and plazas watching life go by. We discovered the obligatory Irish pub ( Paddys) in the main Square and had to order the shepherd`s pie which rendered us both speechless! This was the real deal!
The plan was to obviously visit Peru`s most famous attraction-Machu Picchu and we planned to drive to Santa Theresa, leave Ruby there, and take a collectivo (small minibus) to hydroelectrica-from where we would walk along the train track to Aguas Caliente. Here we would spend the night before taking the bus to Macchu Picchu the following day. Well that was the plan. We learned that there were strikes by local people on the day we were due to leave, blocking all the transport routes to MP. We had a decision to make. Now I am really lucky in that I have previously trekked the Inca Trail and been to Machu Picchu 10 years ago. Gavin, however, has not so it was really his call. We decided that we did not want to try and get there and break the strike, nor did we want to wait around, so we decided to continue our journey and see it another time-it has been there a long time and is not going anywhere!
After about 3 hours (the time we had been told it would take to get to the Rainbow mountain) there was still no sign of it. We put it down to being slow and carried on, although a bit more slowly as the altitude was high and we had climbed a lot. We climbed a high pass and thought we were nearly there. We got to the top of the high pass and......DAMN! We saw the rainbow mountain in the distance but at least another 5 miles or so away-down a steep hill and then up a huge climb. It dawned on us that we had come the wrong way! I stubbornly refused to give up and forced poor Gav to head down the mountain in a quest to still reach our goal. Big mistake. We got to the bottom, lost so much altitude and it still looked so far away! By this time we could also see lots of tourists at the correct viewpoint for the mountain, like ants in the distance. I conceded defeat and we both agreed we had had such a spectacular trek anyway and had seen the rainbow mountain, all be it from afar! But what a bloody trek back. We had to go back up the huge hill we had descended-and with much swearing, heavy breathing and stopping we finally made it up and then returned to Ruby at the top of the valley-7 hours after starting! As we drove out-we saw all the tourist buses at the correct start of the trail!! Oh well-another thing for next time!
We drove down the mountain track and set up camp at a lovely spot in Tinajani canyon-where an elderly farmer maintained a little museum, and asked for a voluntary contribution to stay overnight. The following morning-he cycled over to us at 8.30am. Bear in mind it was the morning after the day before and we were still drained from our trek the previous day. He insisted we went to the museum with him there and then, so we followed him in. It was actually lovely-as it documented the history of the Canyon and he was so proud of it and where he lived. Then he opened another door and suddenly we were faced with numerous stuffed animals of the region-some of them stuffed very badly and some of them literally brushing the top of our heads as we walked in. We walked around making the appropriate ooohing and ahhing noises but could not wait to get out! We joked that we fully expected the piece de resistance to be a stuffed overlander who had refused to pay a voluntary contribution!!
We then set off to drove to Puno, close to the Bolivian border. Puno is situated on Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and the highest navigable lake in the world with an elevation of 3,812 metres. The West of the Lake lies in the Puno region of Peru and the East in Bolivia. We stayed here for a few days, exploring the centre of town and taking a trip to the floating reed islands of Uros. The most common way to travel in cities is by small minivans called collectivos. Every day in Puno, we would wait at the side of the road and wave down a passing collectivo which stops and expects you to alight very quickly, so it can continue its journey. They are usually very full and also have very small aisles to squeeze through, which are certainly not made with the Western female bottom in mind! On one occasion-we jumped in the collectivo which was full with small Peruvian people and then my bum got stuck in the aisle trying to get to the back! "Gavin, my arse is stuck!" I yelled-thankful that no one else could understand me! After nearly taking out two Bolivian people, I managed to free myself and take a seat!
Next stop-the border at Yunguyo to cross into Bolivia.