oops... quite a long one really.
it´s been awhile since i´ve written... and i guess it´s all too much for me to update here... i´ll just do a quick li´l summary.
last weekend, caught a bus to urubamba (90mins, nice scenery) and then switched to a minivan to ollantaytambo (30mins) to visit the ruins there. nice little town. ruins were real cool... huge inca steps, apparently for defensive purposes... had dinner there and then took the 8pm train to the village of macchu pichu where we spent the night in a hostel.
the buses and minivans here all work the same way... they won´t leave until the vehicle fills up... so we always travel in a packed bus/van. there were about 8 flies buzzing around in the minivan... aw man... and only 1 window was opened while we waited the 20mins for passengers to slowly pile in... 15 in total, in a minivan.
a middle aged peruvian man - victor, sat beside us and started chatting to us... i couldn´t say much to him ´cos of my atrocious spanish, so brenda ended up talking to him most of the way. he had really bad breath and i was stuck between the 2 of them.
anyway, he was real nice... turns out he was also waiting for the 8pm train to the village of macchu pichu and so decided to show us around the ollantaytambo ruins - a massive inca fortress. he explained in spanish of course and i got brenda to interpret some of them. there were humongous stones in the ruins and it really is a wonder how they cart all them stones there. and not just that... fitted them nicely into each other to form walls. most of the big stones have protusions carved on them, as in the shape of the stone was carved into, leaving the protusions jutting out, and i guess they were used as handles?
anyway, i know i don´t make sense.
we got up at 430am the next morning. had brekkie, bought tickets for entry into macchu pichu, and took a 20mins bus up to the famous ruins.
yep, i cheated.. not only did i not do the 4-day inca trail, i didn't even attempt to do the 1hour trail up to macchu pichu from the village of macchu pichu. i just don't think i can hack it. i'm still huffing and puffing when i climb up the tiny hill (5mins) to school at puquin in cusco every morning.
macchu pichu is amazingly perched atop a hill. it was discovered in 1911 by an american historian hiram bingham. the most expensive (hence luxurious) train ride to the village macchu pichu is named after him.
anyway, the ruins were covered in cloudforests then... today, we can clearly see the ruins sitting quite comfortably and magnificently on a little hill, nestled between higher mountains.
it was good to arrive early... not many tourists, and the day was much cooler.
we had about 4 hours of bliss at macchu pichu before the tourist crowds arrived and then it was hell at some parts of the ruins...
but since we didn't get a guide, we sorta stopped around a few tour groups and listened in on their explanations... but we got bored with the crowds after awhile and decided to go on the short trail to intipunku - the sun gate.
we didn´t finish the trail... it was quite a walk and we could see a storm approaching. but the trail was beautiful.... nothing to block the view of macchu pichu. of course i had my obligatory cigarette stop. sat on the trail, overlooking macchu pichu in the distance, still looking royal and grand. sat there for about 20mins and decided to trek back down. we could actually see the storm coming nearer and nearer. we got to the ticket control area just in time. the heavy rains started pouring and boy was i glad i didn´t continue on with the trail as there were absolutely no shelters.
our train back to cusco was at 355pm and so we had plenty of time. we got back into the village of macchu pichu at around 1/130pm. had lunch and played word games to pass away the time since we can´t even walk around as it was pissing down.
we were so engrossed in our game that we missed our train!!!
well, i thought our train was at 4pm and that the station was where we got off the night before. and the cafe we were sitting in was just 1 block down the road from that station.
brenda rightly assumed too that the train back to cusco departs there. (i mean where else since it´s such a tiny li´l town right?). so when we got to that station, it was 350pm. a little late but we could have still made it if it was the right station.
when we got there, we saw a little sign that said, passengers who are non-locals please proceed to station 10mins down the road.
of course there wasn´t an arrow pointing which way. but brenda started running in one direction and i naturally thought she knew where she was going and followed after her. after about 2mins running downhill, i thought it didn´t look right to have a train station around, and said to brenda that maybe we are running in the wrong direction. i told her to put her spanish to good use and ask one of the locals. true enough, the station was back up the hill. we ran all the way back up the hill... obviously we´re still at altitude and so huffing and puffing away. we got to the station at 405pm. waaaaaaaay too late.
we were lucky enough that there were 2 extra seats for the 420pm train back to ollantaytambo though. and they did´t charge us extra for it.
the view on the train was way cool. i´ve never seen such huge boulders strewn across the river - the rio urubamba.
they were H-U-G-E.
i would have loved to take a few photos but i wasn´t sitting in the window seat =o(
we then caught a bus (5 soles) back from ollantaytambo to cusco. it kinda worked out well in the end as it was actually faster this way.
back to school on monday. it´s spanish on monday, and so yet again, i feel rather useless.
in the afternoon, i went to a few museums around the city of cusco.
there are 16 places of interests in cusco which u need to have slip of paper called the turisto boleto in order to visit. there are a few variations but i bought the one which lasted 10days and i have to visit all 16 places within the 10days.
i´ve already visited chinchero and ollantaytambo. there are a few museums in the city which i did on monday, and a super touristy cultural dance which i also watched on monday evening. i felt i had to go since it was on my turisto boleto.
tuesday was english at school and we all had a lot of fun. i taught the kids to name the parts of our body in english and had really bad drawings for some of them on the board. we also did some colouring... i´d call out something on the colouring sheet in english and they´ll colour them in.
it was pouring down in the afternoon so we all stayed in the hostel and played games.
wednesday can be any subject but we did math. weird math though. can´t explain them here. have to draw. but i don´t get why they´re teaching it.
so... midweek and i´ve still got lots to visit on the turisto boleto.
seemed like a good day after school and so went to the 4 ruins closest to cusco. the first was sacsayhuaman, lovingly known by the mnemonic "sexywoman". there are of course no sexy women there. the name sacsayhuaman actually means ´satisfied falcon´. it is both a religious as well as a military inca ruin.
the incas had envisioned cusco in the shape of a puma, and sacsayhuaman is supposed to be the head of this puma, with zigzagged formations which represents the teeth of the puma. these zigzag fortications were also very effective when on the defensive.
it rained bríefly while i was there, but when it stopped, there was not only 1 rainbow, but another smaller fainter one above the big bright one! it was a beautiful sight. there´s also a white jesus on the hill, like the one in rio de janeiro??... but smaller in scale i suppose. i´m not sure. not seen the famous one in real life.
after sacsayhuaman, we went on to qenko. this ruin has 3 levels - the serpent, the puma, and the condor. qenko´s a ceremonial ruin.
i wasn´t that impressed with puca pucara and tambo machay, the next 2 ruins. but at tambo machay, there is a small fountain which is said to make u look young for the next 5 years if u wash your face in it. (don´t they all?). anyway, tambo machay is thought to be connected to an inca water cult, so just to be on the safe side, i did wash my face in the "fountain of youth (for 5 years)".
thursday was math. so we did math again at school. weird math.
then i had homework club. bruceperu and worldvision share this small project. everyone takes turns to go in the afternoons. we just sit with the children and assist them with their homework. some of the children there are bruceperu kids but many aren´t. but they´re lovely kids and so warm... as soon as i entered, they had their smiley faces on, and gave us hugs and kisses... i probably won´t see them much though... as i´m only here for a month and i don´t go there everyday.
friday was crafts day. we continued where we left off last friday, which was making belts. or rather, weaving belts. i must say mine isn´t looking all that great. but hey, it still looks like one!
went to 2 more ruins in the afternoon. they were nice. one was a pre-inca ruin from the wari culture, at pikillacta, which makes for a nice change. the walls were more haphazardly constructed but we were liking it. very different from the nicely and neatly constructed incan walls. tipon, the other ruin is an inca agricultural/irrigation ruin. very pretty with deep terraces.
saturday - today:
am taking it easy today...
walked around the city... there are many little alleyways which i´ve not visited so i´m slowly discovering them. had a yummy lunch down in an alley behind the plaza. not sure what i´ll be doing tonight yet. will see what happens when i get back to the hostel.
will be visiting the pisac markets and the pisac ruins tomorrow with the other volunteers. should be great fun. can´t wait to see the spread of the colourful handicrafts in the markets. not that there aren´t any here in cusco, too many in fact, but mostly in shops. but i think it´s a much grander affair up in pisac. and i heard the ruins are great too. am hoping for good weather tomorrow.