Monday, February 9, 2009

Colourful Cusco

Hello again, remember me? Give me a moment and I'll see if I can recall how this thing is supposed to work...

Yes, yes, I know its been a while since the last entry, but somehow staying in one place for 2 months has not afforded me more time to keep in touch, but rather it has left me rushed off my feet and almost permanently busy. Still, I'm back now, so make the most of it. After the last post, which was all business, I'll attempt to keep this one a bit more touristy, so you can get an idea of the town a bit more. Hopefully you'll have seen the new photos that have gone up, surprisingly not all of them being taken at school, so you may have got a pictorial idea of what its like over here, at least.

Anyhow, its been a bit crazy. Remember my last post? There's a bit near the end where I suggest it would be safe to send me money to give to Bruce Peru on your behalf, and that you could trust me as no-one could meet these kids and then rip them off. How wrong I was!

One of our little stories so far in Cusco centers around a volunteer we recruited from a seemingly safe source, and being from Ecuador (apparently) he seemed perfect. Not only could he help us out while he was in Cusco, but when he went home to Quito, he could help there too. The fact he'd been robbed at the bus station and had no money just tugged on our heart strings a bit harder, and we offered him accomodation until his dad sent him money, at which time he could pay us. A week passed, he was great with the kids, helped out round the hostel, even got a free rafting trip out us, and no-one felt bad lending him a bit of cash now and again, just til his money came, you understand. But by the end of the week, with problem after problem interferring with the arrival or collection of his money, we told him he'd have to pay up or move out until he could pay, as we couldn't afford to keep him indefinitely. This, it seems, was his cue to sneak off that evening, taking a camera, cellphone and ipod with him (they weren't his, incidentally), and leaving his bill unpaid and his loans un-repaid. The police, it turned out when we showed them a photo, knew him from his many similar cons, and we learned a lesson. Turns out I was wrong, and some people are able to rip off the kids after meeting them.

Other than that, Cusco is great. It is highly policed, so you actually feel very safe in the streets; it has a beautiful main plaza in the historical centre, and many narrow, ancient streets and local markets. If you look carefully enough, you can easily avoid the ones aimed at tourists, and find pretty much the same stuff at half the price in the local sector. If you go with a local too, you certainly won't get ripped off for price. There is plenty of night life, although at this time of year - summer, but also, strangely, the rainy season - there are fewer tourists about, making our fundraising efforts that little bit harder.

Close to town, there are many (and I mean many) ancient ruin sites, although obviously Macchu Picchu is the main one. I think its main draw is both the Inca trail trek needed to walk there in 4 days (you can do it in less without the walk if you want) and its location on the top of mountain (I won't be going until the end of March I think), but the 2 others I have visited at Tipon and Pisaq are spectacular for themselves, just not quite so remote. Hopefully you'll get some idea from the photos.

I have also spent many Saturday mornings in the local farmers market, which is probably my favourite place in Cusco, as it is the most real experience I think you can get in town. I, and the other volunteers brought along to carry the heavy shopping, are ususally the only white folk there, and no one pays us any attention. It is as genuine "local colour" as you could hope to get, and I have been encouraging our cook to make some money on the side by offering tours there to backpackers. I reckon she'd make a killing!

Other than that, we had out day out rafting, and the waterproof camera came into its own as it did for Ed in NZ in Jan '08. Unfortunately, many of the photos have the thief in them , thus rendering them effectively spoiled. Still, its where we got a shot to show the police, so it paid off in one respect, I guess.

And that, my little armchair travellers, is about it for now. The rest of my time is spent working, in one way or another. We have had a school trip to a local fun park (nothing electrical in the place, thank God - Peruvian electrics are not to be trusted. We had a 6th birthday party at Huancaro for one of the wee lads there. It seems I have a natural ability for reading pub quizzes (OK, so its not that hard, but needs someone shouty who doesn't mind drunk people), I have shut my thumb in a taxi door so now the nail looks like a chromatography experiment, and between us, Rich and I seem to be making a pretty good go of running the centre, thanks largely to the fantastic volunteers we are recruiting (and are recruiting each other), often as a result of the aforementioned quiz nights. One bad apple has certainly not ruined the barrel, and as Bruce told us, its not the first time and won't be the last. Live and learn , as they say.

I'll try not to leave it so long for the next one, but there is less exciting stuff happening on a day to day basis right now, as we are effectively back in the workforce, all be it voluntarily. That said, I'll drop in and let youknow if I have visited any other ruins, and hopefully keep a trickle of new photos coming in. And I'll try to refrain from all of them being taken at the schools.

Enjoy your winter snow, or summer BBQs, depending on which hemisphere you are living in, and remember to wash your hands. We have to over here, or we end up very ill indeed. Toodle pip.