Few tourists can say that they visited Peru and that they missed Cusco. With more tour agencies, Internet cafés, and falafel joints than anywhere else in the country — and with close proximity to the world-famous Inca ruins of Machu Picchu — Cusco is the tourist Mecca of South America. I spent a few days here before my Salkantay hike, and I'm spending one month more here, to study some Spanish.
I said I'd do it, and I did it: as of 4am, Monday morning, the Hampy web site is complete! After losing all of today to our visit of the Moray ruins and of the Salinas, I knew that it would take nothing less than an all-night coding marathon to get the site finished, launched, and 100% wrapped up, in time for leaving Cusco tomorrow. But it's done. And now I'm free. And the site looks good. And I'm feeling very happy.
To say farewell and thank-you to me, for all my work on the Hampy web site, Jorge ordered in an absolutely massive pizza tonight; and myself, Jorge, Ashley, and Stephan managed to team up and devour it at the Hampy office. Half chicken, half pepperoni. And a superb bottle of Argentinean Mendoza red wine to go with it. Couldn't ask for a better way to finish up my time with Hampy, and with Cusco.
After our visit to the Inca ruins of Moray this morning, we of the Hampy crew continued on this afternoon, and walked the short distance from Moray to the Salinas (ancient salt mines) near Urubamba and the Valle Sagrado ("Sacred Valley"). I already visited the Salinas about a month ago (with Jesus); but it was definitely worth visiting them a second time. With over 4,500 man-made salt pools on the side of the mountain, it's both an ingenious and a breathtaking site to behold.
For a nice little Sunday day trip, this morning we of the Hampy crew (including the complete Pilcopata jungle crew) went on a visit to the ruins of Moray, between the villages of Chinchero and Urubamba, about 1½ hours north of Cusco. We grabbed a local bus that was headed to Urubamba, then got off just before the descent into the Valle Sagrado ("Sacred Valley"), and flagged down some taxis to take us the rest of the way to Moray. Spectacular set of ruins, as well as an intriguing and ingenious example of ancient scientific experimentation at work.
After yet another day spent madly trying to finish the Hampy web site, this evening I went once again to the village of Chocco, to help celebrate Terese's despedida (lit: "farewell party"). Terese has been teaching English in Chocco (with Hampy) for the past two months or so (as well as partying and drinking like crazy every single night in Cusco, like a good Irish girl should); but now, she's finally finishing up and going back home. She will be sorely missed.
Cusco was cold when I got here (almost 8 weeks ago!), and it's been getting progressively colder ever since; but everyone warns me that my next destinations, Puno and La Paz, are even colder. In preparation for this, I visited El Molino this afternoon, and bought myself a new jacket. Warm, waterproof, and reasonably stylish: and all for just s/40!
I learned a lot of Spanish during my time at Amigos, but I still have a huge thirst to learn more. And what better way to continue my learning, than to start reading some Spanish books? So, today I bought my five primeros libros en Español (lit: "first books in Spanish"). At s/10 for the five of them, total bargain. And they should certainly keep me busy for at least the next few weeks, whenever I have spare time to kill on my trip.
Since I last reported on the status of the new Hampy web site, there has been a lot of progress. I've been working on the site pretty much every day over the past week (apart from my three days of rafting), and the site is basically functioning, set up, and ready to go. However, more work is needed (particularly in the area of custom templating) before it's 100% good to launch. So it looks like I'll be hanging around for at least a few days after my jungle trip next week, to finish off the loose ends for the site.
Jacinta is a wild and crazy girl (in her early 30s) from the dear town of Bendigo, Australia. I met her tonight at Jesus's birthday party; she's known Jesus for about 7 years, since she first came to Cusco and got taught Spanish by him. In her time, she's worked as a ceramics maker and as an international tour guide (among other things). But now, she's having a break from all that, and she's returned to Cusco to help out with whatever she can at Amigos. Oh, and did I mention that her singing and dancing gets more out of control with each beer she consumes?
Having got back from my three-day rafting trip yesterday, I was in Cusco today, in time for Jesus's birthday. In honour of the occasion, Jesus held a grand old fiesta this evening, which began with copious amounts of beverages in his apartment (none of which I could drink, due to my still being on antibiotics), and which continued with dancing (and more beverages) out on the town. A great celebration for my friend and school principal, with many of his oldest and dearest friends coming from far and wide, to be there and to celebrate with him.