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Cusco: Getting Things Organised

4 July 2006 No Comment


Days 213 to 216 – Thursday 20th to Sunday 23rd April 2006

After a rather restless night I was up pretty early trying to sort out my situation. First port of call was the Police station to file a report of theft, as nothing could be done without one. After a few rudimentary questions I was told it would be ready for collection the following day. The only other things I could do were phone my insurance company and let them know I would be making a claim, and go to the British Embassy to collect the forms for a new Passport.

lago titicaca

Doing that few amount of things took up half the day, and by the time I had achieved all that (not much!) it was about 2pm. Aaron, jon & I went to the train station to buy tickets for Macchu Piccu, one of South America’s – if not the world’s – premier archaeological sites. These Incan ruins are on the list of things to see for 99% of all visitors to Peru and the government are fully aware of this!

At US$67 for a 4-hour train ride to Machu Piccu town it is not the cheapest train in the world, and as there are no buses to the region the Government have certainly decided to cash in on their premier tourist attraction. Some would say rightly so, others would argue that they are just taking advantage.

On one hand for 20 years tourists have been pumping Western money into this third world country, and the whole town of Cusco relies heavily on the tourism industry. Without the tourist industry there would be a huge gap in the economy of Peru. Ok in the grand scheme of things it is not a lot of money, but shelling out US$67 for an 8 hour train ride when a bus journey for 9 hours from Cusco to Arequipa costs in the region of US$10 (and thats tourist price, locals probably pay half that) means that there is a lot of supernormal profit being made on the back of tourism.

However on the other hand, for 20 years or more western tourists have been coming to Peru and taking advantage of the wild differential in prices between their home country and this third world country. If Macchu Piccu wasn’t there, the railway wouldn’t either. It has only been built for tourists. Which means tourists must pay the price of its construction. Therefore the Government have made a monopoly of getting to Macchu Piccu by taking away the bus service, effectively forcing the tourists to use the train.

I personally would have rather taken a bus for $5 but I am a cheapskate. Cusco is definately not exclusively a backpacker town. don’t get me wrong there are a lot of backpackers, but I think they are far outnumbered by American (and an increasing number of British and European) tour groups that have come in and demanded air conditioned buses and comfortable carriages and are happy to pay for them.

This is perfectly reasonable, however it has had the effect of raising prices across the board and has eventually led to the building of the railway. This is quite ironic because even those tourist groups who have caused the inflationary effect have begun begrudging the cost of the train!

Anyway the long and short of it was we were not going to miss Macchu Piccu and obviously we paid up for the train ride (in actual fact I had planned to do the 5 day hike on the inca trail but as I didn’t have US$350 on me due to my unfortunate incident I decided to take the train instead).

The rest of the day was filled with wandering the immaculate streets of Cusco and taking in some of the best Spanish colonial architecture in South America, before heading out for the evening to take in some of the supposed best nightlife in all of South America.

I was a little groggy Friday morning when I wandered off to the police station to collect my report, and only a litle less groggy when I took this, my completed forms, my new passport photos and S620 (S5.50=£1) to the British Consulate to order a new Passport. I was informed I could pick it up in 10 days in Lima. Feeling pretty satisfied and relieved I could do no more except wait, it was time for a celebration. Cusco is a party town after all.

We used the day on Saturday to take a further look around Cusco and the nearby Inca ruins of Sacsayhuaman (pronounced Sexy-woman). Building on the site commenced in the 15th Century but took almost a century to complete. The stones that make up the ruins each weigh in at a colossal 300 tonnes and are intracately carved so that they fit exactly atop one another. There are no gaps between the stones and the jointwork is precision stuff, especially when you consider that no mortar holds the walls together. Even today after centuries of battles, earthquakes and constant barrage from the elements the joints are perfect. We also paid a visit to someone special who was looking out over us and the town.

Saturday night turned out to be pretty regualtion, 2 bottles of Flor de Caña Rum and two bottles of Skye Vodka between six of us before we even left our hotel room. Due to this we spent Sunday quietly, no drinking and preparing ourselves for our 4.30am wake up call for Macchu Piccu.

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