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SOUTH AMERICA - THE "WAITIN' FOR THE BUS" TOUR

Cusco Postcard

CUSCO

"FINDING THE WORLD'S BEST CORN ON THE COB"

With the bus due to leave Copacabana at 1:30pm, I sat in a restaurant in town watching World Cup Football to pass the time. The young guy from Isla de la Luna, his thick-set mate and another local walked past the restaurant, saw me and walked in to say “Hello”.

To them, I was still a novelty.

To me, yesterday was just another day, something to repeated many times in the future; like breakfast. Sometimes the eggs are hard boiled, sometimes they are soft in the centre and sometimes they are just scrambled.

Yesterday was definitely scrambled.

Plaza de Armas
Cusco - Plaza de Armas

I confirmed our friendship and they wished me luck. Then it was off to the shore for my final meal of Copacabana trout and chips. It was a Sunday and the trade was brisk. I wondered if the lady who served me my meal was going to offer me luck as it appeared to be a common occurrence in Bolivia when people told me "Goodbye".

But she probably didn’t know that this would be our last meal together, the habitual customer never to return.

It meant a lot to me you know.

Ciao.

******

The bus travelled on to Puno, on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca. Puno was the launching point for a tour to some man-made islands built upon reeds, but understandably, I was full to the brim with Lake Titicaca and its various islands.

Pisac Sacred Valley
Sacred Valley - Pisac

From Puno I was told to board another bus. A luxury bus filled with tourists aged 60 years of age and above. I asked the stewardess if the bus offered a free meal for dinner. The answer was in the affirmative, and with a full belly, I was in relatively fine fettle by the time the bus reached the Cusco bus terminal at 10pm.

Past nightfall, with the tourist district some way off, it was a bad scenario. Then as I stepped off the bus the touts swarmed and surrounded. Suffocating, I could not think. I escaped and hid around a corner.

Or so I thought. Followed by a guy, aged about 18, he showed me his accredited 'tourist operator' badge, politely proffered a brochure and then offered a free ride to his accommodation located near Plaza de Armas, the centre of the tourist district.

Sounding good so far but…the other touts had sensed our trail and I was surrounded, once again.

If only to clear the senses, I followed the young guy outside. His older brother, in a small, unmarked vehicle pulled up beside us. As I was about to get into the back seat a taxi driver approached. He told me his taxi was nearby, marked (i.e. taxi signage) and that he had an accredited badge to boot.

Pisac Sacred Valley
Sacred Valley - Pisac

Yeah. But you are coming across as an arsehole.

I got into the small car and we were off, eventually cruising down some cobblestone alleys that I found out next morning were indeed just a short distance from the tourist centre of Cusco.

Everything had worked out as the young guy had said it would.

Scenario overcome and the nice guy winning.

******

Next day I got up early and caught a local bus to somewhere. Aboard the local bus, the driver and the locals asked if I was going to Pisac. I must say I don't really know. But if you say I should....

Waiting for a bus in Pisac
Waiting for a bus in Pisac

I was travelling to the Sacred Valley, which sounded suspiciously like Birthplace of the Sun or Island of the Moon. I was wary.

The plan was to climb a hill. Before I even started I was hassled by a taxi driver telling me it was “imparcial” and a warden demanding a large entrance fee. But I was determined.

Onwards and upwards, towards the ruins at the top I climbed. From on-high, it was the view of the valley and not the ruins that were the reward. Sacred or not, I felt blessed. I had dogged the suffocating taxi drivers from the night before and now I was isolated, alone.

Except for the lady at the top who sold me some corn on the cob, a local speciality, the best in the world; as where we currently stood was high above the local corn fields. I tried to pay her at Bolivian prices and such was her shock she nearly fell off the cliff. Me - I had to walk back down; downwards, downwards, down towards the next task - catching a local bus back to Cusco.

Statue of Christ

Three buses coming and going later, I realised adults had a separate queue and got priority onto the bus over school children. I told the bus driver I wanted to be dropped off at the first set of ruins above the city. I had more ruins to visit. The fee I had paid at Pisac was valid for more ruins.

Three ruins past the intended drop off point I disambarked. A detour, a detour towards some group of people gathered under a statue of Christ.

In South America Christ was everywhere.

But I had to leave. It was getting dark and praying can only get you so far.

I found some cobblestone streets that lead down to Plaza de Armas.

Thank Christ and good luck.

View of Cusco
Narrow street on way down to Cusco