The Road to Cusco

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.

Scars of a demonstration

There was a constant and ever-changing trickle of information filtering down from the spanish speakers among us; we would be allowed through at 6pm; no, we would be allowed through at 7.30pm; the driver planned to turn back to Puno by 8pm; the driver said we would wait all night if necessary. Darkness fell quickly and as the hours ticked by, we were both very grateful that we had good books with us and that we had brought enough water and snacks. Occasionally I would get off the bus and go stand by the camp fire some people had built. The sky was fantastically lit up with stars and I was wishing that the French Astronomer we had waited for back in San Pedro was knocking around somewhere with his big telescopes.

After eight hours of waiting we drove through, only to be stopped for another three hours ten minutes down the road. When we were finally allowed to pass, we drove slowly around the rocks which littered the road and peeked out the window at hundreds and hundreds of campesinos (small farmers), some of whom waved and smiled at us in a friendly manner as we drove past. There was no sense of threat, they just wanted to delay us a bit. Throughout the whole day there had been no sight of any police or any media; apparently this happens so regularly in Peru it may not even make the news, so at the time it was actually very difficult to find out what the purpose of the strike was or whether it was working in any way. We arrived in Cusco eighteen hours later at 3am, tired but glad to be there at last.

A couple of days later we met up with our friend Debbie from Waterford who had a much more interesting story. When her bus was stopped, everyone was encouraged to walk through the blockade with the promise of transport on the other side, so that´s what they did, carrying all their gear and rucksacks. They ended up walking for a full twelve hours; they all had blisters by the end and one girl felt ill and was getting sick on the side of the road. At once stage they encountered the police who tried to bribe them and later they found themselves sheltering from the rain in a hay barn, wondering if they´d have to spend the night there. They eventually got a lift on the back of a lorry to a village where they could get a taxi on to Cusco, just as the sun was setting and they could walk no further.

I´m writing this a week later in Lima (which is in the other direction so we had no problems getting here). The latest news is that the strike has since worsened and spread to Tacna where apparently the police have killed one of the strikers. Peru is a quite a poor country with a huge poverty gap and from the bit of information I have been able to gather it seems the protests are about mining profits not filtering down to the general population and also against free trade agreements with the US (the farmers fear that subsidised American food will price their own produce out of the market). There´s a short video clip on the blockades here: .)

Cusco from the Loki Hostel

We spent a week in Cusco, staying in the Loki hostel, meeting lots of nice people and as usual, eating and drinking a lot! If you´re ever in Cusco, make sure you visit the Fallen Angel bar to see their cool bathtub tables where you can watch the goldfish swim around beneath you as you sip your Machu Picchu cocktails. Jacks is great for gringo food and Hierba Buena in San Blas is a great place to hang out watching Latin American films and chatting to the Argentinian barman, Santiago. Cusco has a great market, whether you’re just looking for somewhere to spend a few hours strolling about or need to get your trousers taken up!

Women Selling Greens at the Market, Cusco Miss Piggy

Bug in Cusco

Of course everyone who goes to Cusco is there to visit Machu Picchu and we spent no less than four days agonising over how to get there. To hike or not to hike? Eventually we let the daily rain showers influence us as we decided that trudging through muck might be very rewarding in the end but not much fun at the time. Along with a couple of Americans we met in the hostel, we decided to take the easy way out and we went on the train.

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One Response to “The Road to Cusco”

  1. Benjy Says:

    Edward and Rhiona
    You seem to be having a great time.Some great photos of scenery.Very similar to Bragan mountains.It was a good exercise for you to rearrange the mouths of Uncle Nicholas horses before you left .The practice came in handy!The stoning remains me of the number of times my car was stoned going through Cullaville in the early seventies-Vauxhall Viva.
    Lucky for me ,I was never was in the car at the time ,just let the car roll on with me following ten yards behind-hard on the legs though.

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