Cusco, day and night

Cusco, situated in the Andes, in south-eastern Perú, was the capital of the Incan Empire. It is surrounded by sites of historical and archaeological interest. The modern day wonder of the world, Machu Picchu being the most notable.

Tourism is big business in Cusco and there are some disreputable companies ready to take advantage of people easily parted from their cash. Happily, there are other companies who, while not being the cheapest, offer a good service. Also you can buy a tourist ticket which lasts up to 10 days and gives you entrance into many of the sites in and around the city. It is a good way of saving money.

Having visited a lot of the sites around the Sacred Valley and my Boleto Turistico  expired, I decided to take the tour bus and have a look at the city from a different perspective. The bus departed from the Plaza de Armas at about 5 pm, which was shortly before dusk.

As we climbed the hill, the sun began to set and the various cloud formations became more noticeable.

As the bus began its descent back toward the city, darkness fell and still marvelling at the light show that nature had provided, I decided to take some photos of the city lights. Not easy when you are on a bus, especially as it goes over speed bumps.

Chiclayo

I have rather mixed feelings about Chiclayo so far. The bus ride from Cajamarca was uneventful so we arrived in the early evening. As was expected, there were taxi drivers inside the bus depot touting for trade and trying to coax people into going to hotels different from those they had booked. This is quite common here but I had already paid 25% deposit on my hotel reservation so was not going to be tempted elsewhere.DSCN1880I also have no desire to ride in one of the very small “Tico” cabs, which are the next size up from a child’s pedal car with approximately the same leg room. Still inside the bus terminal, I asked the driver if his cab was spacious and he assured me it was and we negotiated the fare. That is normal throughout the country, fares are not regulated and there are no meters. I had, however, not asked him about the overall condition of his cab, or indeed, if he could drive it competently.

The taxi had certainly been in a few scrapes but it was only a short distance to the hotel, so I thought I would chance it. Before leaving Cajamarca, I had taken advantage of Google Earth and “walked” the journey from the bus station to my hotel. It was just as well because in spite of his assertions earlier, the driver had no idea and I had to direct him. “Have you been here before?” he asked. “No” I replied, ” you are supposed to be the one with the local knowledge”.

It was soon apparent as to how his vehicle had become so battle scarred. He was a very bad driver, as are so many people here. Thankfully the journey was short and soon over, although at one point he did say that the journey was longer than he thought and should be a different tariff. I reminded him that there are no actual tariffs and that we negotiated a price at the start of the journey. He accepted this and left to go in search of another potential victim.

On entering the hotel, I was not surprised that they were not expecting me, in spite of the advanced booking and deposit and 2 emails updating them on my estimated time of arrival. I was not expecting the red carpet treatment, just the room I had reserved. Fortunately, they had a spare room with three beds in which they assured me would be just for me and just for the one night. I was happily relocated the next day.

The hotel staff are friendly and helpful, with the receptionist even walking me to a nearby restaurant which she recommended. Also, giving advice and directions for local sites of interest. Perhaps Chiclayo was going to be as friendly as advertised.

Not quite. I went out for a run early on Sunday morning and was attacked by two dogs. One tried to bite my leg and I am sorry to say I had to give him a severe bang on the ear to deter him. That was sufficient for him to lose interest and although the other one made a lot of noise, he kept a safe distance from me.

Not long after that, a taxi jumped a red light and almost ran me over. It was right next to a police station with two officers standing outside. I commented as I passed about the idiocy of Peruvian drivers and I heard them chuckling as I turned the next corner.  I ran for a little over 6kms, which I was happy with, as I have only run a few times since arriving in Peru. I have put in a lot of walking though.DSCN1875

At lunch time I decided to visit the Plaza de Armas and have general look around. It was quite busy, as was the Mercado Modelo.

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The market is huge and just seems to go on and on.

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The owner of this fruit stall advised me to put my camera (ipod) in my pocket or keep a firm grip on it as it could well be stolen otherwise.

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I was kept amuse for a while by the antics of this taxi driver and his fare, trying to fit two big boxes of sound equipment into the cab…

DSCN1892….eventually deciding to tie it on the roof. I could not bear to watch any longer.

Ventanillas de Otuzco

On Friday, after a light lunch in El Zarco restaurant in Cajamarca, I joined a tour to visit the ventanillas de Otuzco. An ancient burial site where the graves are actually set in the cliff face and shaped like windows. Ventanilla deriving from, ventana, the Spanish word for window.

However, I did not realise that first we were going to visit a dairy and then a botanical garden. The dairy, Fundo Los Alpes, produces a great variety of products, some of which we sampled. The dairy has a Swiss owner, hence the name.

I use to eat lots of cheese but am unable to do so these days, so my attention wandered to the outdoors and the ever darkening sky.

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May till October is the dry season in the Northern Highlands of Perú but can be unpredictable.

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After the dairy, there was another stop at a botanical garden but I felt as if we may not have seen the best of it.

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Finally arriving at the ventanillas at the same time as the heavy rain commenced.

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The ventanillas have varying depths. Some single occupancy and others multiple. Much like a backpacker´s hostel.

Arriving back at the Plaza de Armas, as the rain had stopped, I decided on an early dinner.

After dinner, before going back to my hotel, I decide to try photographing some illuminated structures.

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This was about the 10 th attempt at this one but it was more than 500 metres away and up a lot of steps.I was not prepared to make the climb just after dinner.

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The cathedral, in the Plaza de Armas.

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Cajamarca

After two months, the time finally came to leave Lima.  I travelled up to Cajamarca on an overnight bus journey lasting more than fifteen hours. The journey was not unpleasant – for me anyway, as I slept fairly well. I don’t doubt that my sleeping must have annoyed the other passengers. I soon got settled into my hotel, the cheap but cheerful, Hostal Giraflores, which is more comfortable than the penthouse in Lima.

Cajamarca is famous for being the place where the Spanish conquered the Incas but it is also blessed with being surrounded by natural beauty. In the ten days that I will spend here, I hope to see as much as possible. At first look, the tour prices seem reasonable so I may rely on them rather than find my own way around. Except of course, for the city itself, which I have already been exploring on foot.

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The Plaza de Armas was a good place to start.

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The cathedral.

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The church of San Francisco.

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All of the tour operators and money changers seem to be in or close to the Plaza de Armas.

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There are some steep hills but I feel happier walking here than I did in Lima. It certainly is more tranquil.

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Looking toward the Cerro Santa Apolonia

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