Back to World Tour Page or Bolivia 2: La Paz & Lake Titicaca.

Wed 15th Mar. Copacabana, Bolivia - Cusco, Peru.

Get across the border easily enough, nobody tries to get me to pay any spurious 'tourist' fees, and arrive to Puno to wait for the night bus to Cusco.

Random South American observation: the majority - and certainly the largest and most obnoxious examples - of all grafitti is electioneering by the political parties. You could tell you had crossed the border without knowing by the complete change in the splattered paint. Here in Peru, the red and white flag of Fujimori (current president) fights it out with the blue fish of Frepap across cliff and wall.

The leg to Cusco turns out to be an uncomfortable night spent on an uncomfortable heap. The 'movie' is a 1950's black and white Mexican war film, the driver plays truly obnoxious accordion based shouty folk music all night, and to add insult to injury the man sitting behind me has the smelliest feet in the world.

Meet Ramon from Barcelona, a fervent Catalan Nationalist whose loathing of all things Spanish fortunately doesn't extend to refusing to teach me a bit more of the language.

Thur 16th Mar. Cusco, Peru.

Arrive in Cusco at dawn, and breathe the usual sigh of relief that my luggage has made it to the same destination.

Cusco has developed a fearsome reputation for eating tourists alive, and even the hostel advises us to catch a cab rather than to walk the streets after dark, but it feels a lot safer than, say, La Paz. It is crawling with tourists, but this makes for an easy life and lots of good, cheap places to eat, and being surrounded by low-grade holidaymakers not even TRYING to speak Spanish does my 'real traveller' ego lots of good.

The city is literally built on history - the streets follow the plan of the old Inca capital and keep Inca names, the majority of the population are pure Quechua Indian, and most of the buildings in the centre have massive foundations of Inca stone, which survive the regular earthquakes better than anything the Conquistadores managed to build.

Fri 17th Mar. Cusco, Peru.

Wandering round Inca ruins with Ramon. Try to take a sneaky shot of a woman, child and llama group against some gigantic stone jig-saw work, but she spots me and demands payment. At least she doesn't put on a cheesy smile for the camera.

In (a day late) celebration of one month on the road, go to the Irish bar. Yup, there is an Irish bar. It's St. Patricks night, and the bar is serving glasses of Peruvian lager with green food dye in. After the first couple, this all proves far too surreal for words.

Sat 18th Mar. Cusco, Peru.

Walk around the enormous Cusco market. An entire district of the town, including a railway line, is given over to rows of stalls, with whole streets making and selling shoes from old tyres, bags of coca leaves (perfectly legal in this form, perfectly illegal when refined into cocaine), live chicks and ducklings, dried llama foetuses, and as the coup de grace, guinea pigs. And no, boys and girls, this isn't in the pet section.

In the restaurant that evening, there is one choice of meat on the menu that is five times the price of anything else, and I just can't resist. When he arrives, the little chap still has his tiny paws and face. He has been squashed flat to fit in the pan and looks an awful lot like roadkill. But the taste? Dear friends, I'm sorry to be a cliche, but guinea pig does taste a lot like chicken...

Sun 19th Mar. Sacred Valley, Peru.

A day being a tourist, getting herded round the ruins and souvenir stalls of the Sacred Valley. Buy a friendship bracelet from a little girl who pursues me for a whole hour, looking at me with huge eyes and smiling, 'Amigo, amigo!'. She HAS to have earned it.

Manage to get Alex(andra) from London to agree to an evening drink. She turns out to have a boyfriend at home (why do so many of the nice girls I meet have boyfriends at home?) but in any case it's great to spend an evening talking to someone with a British sense of humour, vocabulary and general wavelength.

On to Peru 2: Machu Picchu

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