Adventures in South America

Chapter 2 - Cuzco: the capital city of the Incas

Sent: Tuesday 9 Sep 1997 08:19:47 +0300 (GMT+0300)

It was like in the movies, the passage between the wagons was quite scary, exposed completely to the outside. I passed wagon after wagon, each one without Tali in, increased my fears more. In the last one she was all greening at my sight. I was so happy !!! We were hugging each other for very long moments and only then started to enjoy the train ride.

Tali sat in the last wagon which was a second class, half empty (ironically, all the first class wagons were packed with tourists) and much better than the first class. All kind of people passed all the time trying to sell whatever. We bought very nice avocados, and also all kinds of nuts (פיצוחים).

The entrance to Cusco explains well why trains are so slow here - Cusco lie in a valley much lower than its surroundings, so the train needs to get down by turning around several times. As when the railway was built, there was no room for nice gentle curves, the Peruvians used the Y shape system: To understand me, lets suppose that the letter Y has two "arms" and one "leg". The train which comes from the, lets say, right arm needs to u turn to the left and it does it by entering into the leg in such a way that also the very last wagon is in the leg, and then, believe it or not, changing to reverse gear, and continuing to the left arm in reverse.

Each such turn takes at least 5 minutes. Some of you will notice that like this the train will reach the station with the locomotive in the rear- but why not "Y turn" twice ? (-*-=+ isn't it?). To be on the safe side the Peruvians made 6 of these turns, making the last 30 minutes of the train ride annoying, with an average speed of 0 km/h.

Back in Cusco, we enjoyed good life - We went to see a basketball match between two local women teams (ליגה ז') where we ate a very good steak (על האש). It seemed that the audience looked more on the BBQ sellers than on the game. By the way - the score board was manually updated by a kid running up with big digits drawn on folio paper size plates...

Also was nice to sit on the benches in the Plaza d'armas and watch things go around. For instance, shoe-cleaners in action, parades and demonstrations, people who are trying to sell things to us etc.

We decided to go for a 5 days hike around the Auzangate mountain chain. For this you should take a bus till a small town (1 hour drive) and then change for a truck. That drive lasts 5(!) more hours at least. I write at least because on our way we passed a small town (or if you want, big village) were there was (of course) a fiesta - which meant closing down all roads causing big delays. At least the fiesta was nice and real.

What was nice with the truck journey was the cold. It made people feel to piss, and since you can't hold it, you need to improvise. When the truck is on the move, pissing is too dangerous - you can fall and for boys it's difficult to aim. When the truck stops, for instance to let another truck on the opposite way go through, people get into action - the boys run to the rear of the truck and piss from high above to down under. The girls sit on chamber-pots (סיר לילה) do what they do, and then in one nonchalant move - to the ground. I recommend to you warmly - don't stand near non moving trucks in Peru. Never !!!

The trek itself was even better than the Inca trail - better views, higher mountain passes (above 5,000), and even two hot water springs during the trek (best in the mornings - when everything froze , even when inside your tent - like water, bread, and why not - the sun cream (אולטרסול) (and then till it defreezes and you can use it, it's a bit too late since you are already half burnt...). As with the Inca trail - photos will come...

Coming back to Cusco, Tali and I practiced the good old "routine after treks" which means - running to the best supermarket around in order to enjoy civilisation. A day or two later on we were on our way to Puno, on the boards of lake Titicaca. The bus tickets we bought in the morning from a nice agency where they showed to us a photo of our nice and luxury bus (with video of course). It is very important to know on what bus you will be, especially in a long journey like ours - about 10 hours from 19:00 till about 06:00.

It all started to go wrong in the very beginning. "our" bus was discovered to be a small, old and miserable bus (without video). We protested and after a while were moved to a "better" one (bigger, with video). The bus started it's way and while moving in town, stopped every now and then. We thought that it would improve when we would be out of town. It didn't, but as we where busy watching the Ninja film, and after it a US army stupid film, we didn't care much. At 23:00 the bus stood still completely, vapours going out of the engine. The reason for all of the stops was to refill the radiator with water. The driver did it till the engine was too hot to continue. As the alt looked final, and as the driver wanted to live many more years, he started to give the people their money back.

In the background, a sound of knocking was heard from the baggage compartment - since there was no more sitting nor standing places on the bus, the driver let somebody on the bus in the baggage compartment. The problem was that when he went to the river to bring some water for the radiator, the key which was in his shirts pocket, when he lent down to take the water,...., yes, you got it right, the key fell into the water.... So, like that the poor man with all of our baggage - were stuck together in the bus.

We got our money back quite easily, but couldn't take our bags. What can we do at 11 at night in the middle of nowhere ???

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Last modified: Mon Jun 10th 13:03:08 IST 1999