Peru: Cuzco; political marches, llamas and processions

On Saturday 6th October we headed back to lima airport for a Star Peru airlines flight to Cuzco. Flights were not as cheap or as available as we had expected with everyone flying to Cuzco to be based there for the treks and trains to Machu Picchu. We paid around £180 each for the return Lima/Cuzco flights and the return Vistadome train which actually descends from Cuzco to Machu Picchu. We were lucky that we booked the train a few days in advance on the internet whilst in Lima, as industrial strike action meant that no trains would run on the Tuesday and the Monday and Wednesday trains were already fully booked. On landing in Cuzco we followed advise and walked slowly once off the plane due to the massive difference in altitude from flying direct from sea level in Lima to 3,500 metres above sea level to the mountain town of Cuzco. Here the air is noticeably thinner and we did indeed suffer from dizziness and a weird loss of equilibrium on our arrival in the town. Not helped by steep cobbled streets with one man wide pavements and cars hurtling by close enough to clip your shoulders! Each time a passing car bounced down the cobbles we would have to turn to the side with our backs to the wall or shop doorway to avoid being taken out by a wing mirror. The locals seem perilously oblivious.

Our hotel room was pretty dismal, I am not even going to name and shame it…but falling asleep looking up at a massive damp stain across the ceiling in yet another 2 single beds in a very basic room with a threadbare carpet was pretty down heartening especially at $40. At least the toilet flushed; but so did the one in the room above us which seemed to have its plumbing navigated straight in to ours. At least we had eaten out and eaten well, stuffing our faces on good quality pasta in a lovely restaurant close by with a big wood burning pizza oven.

We checked out next morning and moved to a hostel slightly closer into town with rooms built facing inwards to a cobbled garden courtyard for only £15. The cheerily blue and white painted different levels are linked by stone steps which lead up to wobbly wooden walkways overlooking the courtyard. We were welcomed with cocoa leaf tea to help with altitude sickness, but I declined as it also makes you speedy and Dave wouldn’t be able to cope with me operating on any faster level than I already do. Actually the effects of the high altitude seem to have worn off for now and we just have to hope that it stays that way for our trip to Machu Picchu on Thursday.

7th Oct: Out and about on the streets of Cuzco we had a pretty eventful day. We walked out of the hostel front door and straight in to welcome sunshine and a passing religious procession for the Saint Virgen Navidad, men carrying her decoratively clothed effigy on a wooden platform above the heads of the onlookers and surrounded by traditional dancers performing a traditional Peruvian dance.

The female dancers whirled and the male dancers lunged and flapped their flowing white sleeves around their heads as musicians beat out a marching rhythm on their drums accompanied by the odd trombone and a passing trumpet.
A fantastic whirl of fleeting colour as they danced down the cobbled street and out of sight. Apparently these processions happen on a pretty regular basis; there being so many saints to celebrate in Peru.

Not far from the hostel the road leads around the corner in to a larger street and on into the Plaza de Arms, the beautiful main square in the centre of the town.

In the main square.
Llama ladies pose for money.

Upstair cafes.

Long lenses on cameras are very handy!

Political protest marches through the town which went on for hours against the ruling President, Alan Garcia Perez; Presidente de la Republica.

It was all very peaceful apart from the lobbing of firecrackers which explode very loudly. The police seemed pretty laid back about it all.

Setting fires of protest in the streets.

But then it started raining….really raining so everyone ran to take shelter including these local kids wrapped up in traditioanl knitwear….not very rainproof.

Someone was doing a roaring trade in cheap plastic throwaway rain macs.

Political slogans were being posted up everywhere, a lot of it seems to be connected with Perez selling Peru out to Bush and America.

Flying in over Cuzco – I love out of the window areoplane shots.

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