We´d decided that we were too lazy to do the five day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu that we´d been considering before, especially given the miserable weather (it had been cold and rainy around Cusco and the Sacred Valley area since we´d arrived and snowing up on the trail we were considering) so we booked two nights accommodation in Aguas Calientes, the town at the foot of the ruins, and took the train.
Archive for October, 2008
Our bus from Puno to Cusco left at 8.30am and by 1pm we were sitting outside it in a place called Sicuani (two hours south of Cusco) playing cards and waiting, along with hundreds of other tourists and locals. We were stuck behind a long line of buses and motorcycles which were all prevented from moving by a blockade which consisted of about thirty young men, armed with stones in their hands, apparently ready to take aim at anyone who tried to get past them. The idea of being held up by a road block was exciting for about five minutes but as time went on, it just became very boring.
While we were in San Pedro de Atacama, we decided that we had enough of being inland and wanted to boot it on up to the coast. A big part of our motivation for this trip had been to improve our surfing somewhere nice and warm and we were both itching to get diving again. So we decided to skip Bolivia, leg it up to Cusco in Peru, see Machu Picchu and then fly on up to the beaches of North Peru, continuing slowly up to Ecuador. We had relaxed plenty in Chile and Argentina so we felt well-rested and in the mood for a bit of speed travelling again. Funny what happens to the best made plans… just when we decided to speed things up, fate intervened.
Well he had a name, but it didn´t matter, because he wouldn´t listen to it when I was shouting it at him to stop. There´s something about me and horses, they don´t ever seem to listen to me, it´s as if they know before I even get on them that I´m going to be a blowover!
Our main reason for going to Salta in the first place was because of a recommendation from Mark and Eimear who we met on the Stray bus in New Zealand. They wanted to do some horse riding in Argentina so they spent a day and a night out in the Sayta Ranch, a Gaucho station about 40km south of Sayta. The promise of horses that were easy to ride, meals of as much steak as you could eat and a never ending supply of local wine sounded perfect and a month after hearing about it, we´d arrived at the ranch hoping that we hadn´t built it up too much and wouldn´t be disappointed – we weren´t!
Argentina has been an absolute highlight of our trip so far, and Salta was a real highlight of Argentina. We spent a busy and wonderful five days here in the northwest of the country, close to the borders with Bolivia and Chile. During that time we did two excellent days trips outside of the city (in the wider Salta province and a bit of Jujuy), spent one day in the city itself and spent two fantastic days on a local ranch doing some horse riding and a lot of eating and drinking.
For about 8 quid extra each we decided to travel the 24 hours from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu in style; on a ‘cama’ bus. ‘Cama’ means bed and for all our bus journeys up to that point we had taken the ‘semi-cama’ option – basically a bus with seats that recline half way. But for this trip we went all out and what a treat it was: Spacious leather seats that turn into fully horizontal beds, personal tv screens for movies and first class food, drinks and service. When it was time for dinner, our trolly dolly drinks server began by offering us a pre-dinner aperitif and canape, which was then followed by a really good three course hot meal with wine, followed by champagne and shortbread biscuits. After watching a really good movie ´Mad Money’ (rent it!), we settled down for the night and when we awoke, a rather fancy breakfast was served. We almost didn´t want to arrive!
At the edge of Buenos Aires´most affluent neighbourhood, just beyond the Gucci and Armani shops, there´s an exclusive gated community full of Argentina´s rich and famous. Cemetaria de Recoleta is literally “uno Ciudad de los Muertos”, a city of the dead where each porch-like masoleum contains the coffins of multiple generations of well-to-do families, clearly visible through their glass panelled windows and doors. The only living residents of this place are a group of feral cats who have made Recoleta their home, often choosing the dark, dilapadated masoleums to eat, play and sleep in. In some of these crypts, the windows have no glass and the door lie ajar, you could literally touch one of the gothic, dusty caskets if the thought hijacked your mind. Even when visited on a bright, sunny day, Recoleta is a foreboding and creepy place.
I wasn’t feeling the best for much of our week in Buenos Aires (just a bad cold but it really knocked me out) but still we managed to have a great time. Buenos Aires is a wonderful city, full of history and character and really big and spread out -it takes a good few days to get around to all the different areas, but the transport is good and easy to use. There’s lots of dramatic old European-style architecture; some large old buildings had front-facing iron balconies, which reminded me of New Orleans. In many ways it’s like being in a misplaced European city but with an added edginess which makes it quite different from being in Paris or Berlin. The Argentinians have had a bad time of it in lots of ways and often take to the streets to voice their concerns. We saw four or five street protests during our week there, and we regularly saw police riot vans and barricades waiting to be deployed. Also, like the other cities we’ve visited in South America so far, there’s quite a bit of really good graffiti art & murals adorning the walls as you wander around the city.