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.
Just a few nice, cheap, traditional bits of clothing, to keep me warm on my upcoming Salkantay hike. As with all the local clothes here, they're hand-made, stitched with Cusqueña patterned designs, and (ostensibly) made from Alpaca. I could have got a local beanie as well, but I figured that would be just too touristy.
Therese is one of the many seldom-sober Irish girls that are staying at Loki. Therese has been here for about a month, she's starting work at the hostel, and she has no immediate plans to leave. Tonight, when we took Therese to Uptown for a big night, she kept going until 6am. The staff had to kick us out of the club, because we were the last ones there. We ended up virtually carrying Therese back to Loki.
Tonight at Loki, we had a fancy dress party, and the theme was "nightmare". I walked into the bar this evening, and I must say, the place did look pretty hellish. Black gloves, ghostly-white dresses, and death-white faces everywhere. I wasn't planning to dress up for it; but I ended up putting on a black t-shirt (inside out), and getting my face painted white. Just so that I could fit in with tonight's freaky crowd.
I did river rafting for the first time today, and it was fun. Very fun. A big group of us went down to the lower reaches of the Urubamba River, near Cusco, and spent about 2½ hours braving the cold, fierce rapids. Tumbling along the river, mounting and crashing into churning waves, dodging scary rocks, and being so cold you can't feel your hands, is an experience like no other.
Two hairy, bearded British boys, who are cycling from one end of South America to the other. These guys are my heroes: really down-to-Earth, really crazy, and doing something really incredible. They started in Ushuaia (southernmost city in the world, in Argentina) in about December last year, and they hope to reach the Caribbean north coast of Colombia by the middle of this year. I met them here at Loki, where they're having a quick break before continuing north.
Cusco is a city where you can book anything you want; and today, I had a fair bit of stuff to book. In fact, I did so much shopping around and booking today, that it took up most of my first day in Cusco. I booked a river rafting trip for tomorrow. I booked a month of Spanish lessons and homestay. And I confirmed my booking for the Salkantay hike next week.
Just for a bit of a laugh, an Irish guy at Loki walked down to the Plaza de Armas (main square of Cusco) with me this morning, to introduce me to the insane amount of tourist-hassling that goes on in this city. However, instead of letting these people get on my nerves, I decided to turn the tables a bit, and to get on their nerves, by playing an evil little game.
Loki is a massive hostel, accommodating well over 100 people, at the top of a big hill overlooking central Cusco. Everyone stays at Loki, which is good and bad, and which makes it something of an institution. It's great value, it's real friendly, and it requires at least a week just to explore the place.